Chinese dissident Wu'er Kaixi sets sights on seat in Taiwan parliament

Former Chinese dissident leader Wu'er Kaixi.
Former Chinese dissident leader Wu'er Kaixi. PHOTO: AFP

TAICHUNG, Taiwan (REUTERS) - Twenty-six years after Wu'er Kaixi stood alongside young comrades to stare down People's Liberation Army tanks in Tiananmen Square, the Chinese democracy activist has his sights set on winning a seat in Taiwan's parliament.

Taiwan votes for a new president and legislature next January, and expectations are growing that the main pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) will win by a wide margin.

Wu'er, a Taiwan citizen of nearly 20 years, and a rival from the DPP have struck a gentlemen's agreement whereby the one with the least support will endorse the other in a bid to unseat the incumbent from the ruling pro-China Nationalist Party, also known as Kuomintang (KMT), in a district of central Taiwan.

"The KMT needs to be normalised. It is an enormous monster,"said Wu'er, an ethnic Uighur who fled China and ultimately made Taichung his adopted home in 1996.

"The biggest mission in this campaign is to deepen the democracy of Taiwan," said Wu'er, who officially launched his campaign for a legislative seat on Friday.

A clamour of voices, from Taiwanese youths to new political parties, have been critical of the KMT's vision of a shared future with China.

Police clashes with pro-democracy protesters in China-ruled Hong Kong last year have only deepened the political and military suspicions many islanders have toward Beijing.

Wu'er was 21 when he joined the 1989 democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, which were forcibly suppressed when PLA troops and tanks fired on the unarmed, mainly student protesters.

He said on Friday that if he is elected, he will call on Taiwan to amend its constitution and recognise the People's Republic of China (PRC), the Chinese Communist government that defeated the Republic of China's (ROC) forces led by the KMT's Chiang Kai-shek in a civil war in 1949. Chiang then fled to Taiwan where he set up the ROC government.

Each side does not officially recognise the other's government, while Beijing has never renounced the use of force to take back what it deems a breakaway province, particularly if the island makes moves toward independence.

Wu'er said his proposed policy is aimed to force China to recognise the current situation across the Taiwan Strait and break the standoff.

"It may not be the one solution that pleases Beijing but we also know that what pleases Beijing the most is simple: surrender, submission," he said. "China is internalising Taiwan."

Last month, Wu'er and Chang Liao Wan-chien, the DPP contender vying for the same district legislative seat in Taichung, agreed to run campaigns on policy issues and no mudslinging.

Both are up against KMT incumbent Tsai Chin-long who won the seat in 2012 with 51 percent of the vote.

"We have the same goal: to topple the KMT," said Chang Liao, a long-time city councilman in Taichung, the island's third largest city.

The men said they will decide by mid-September on who will stand when candidates officially register for the national election.