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Beijing-friendly candidate says elections a 'battle' for Taiwan


AFP New Taipei City
Taiwan's upcoming elections will be a "heart-pounding, soul-stirring battle" for the island's future, Beijing-friendly candidate Han Kuo-yu said Sunday in his first speech since becoming the opposition party's presidential candidate.
Han described January's vote as a choice between "peace or crisis" with China in a speech to a packed stadium at the Kuomintang (KMT) party's national congress.
Taiwan has been a de facto sovereign nation since the end of a civil war in 1949 but China still views the island as its territory and has vowed to seize it, by force if necessary.
Han is looking to unseat President Tsai Ing-wen of the Beijing-sceptic Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in a contest that will be dominated by relations with China.
"This won't be a polite gentleman's race, it will be a heart-pounding, soul-stirring battle for the survival of the Republic of China (ROC) and

Taiwan's next generations," he told the crowd, using Taiwan's formal name.
"The people will make a sacred choice for the fate of our country in the next four years. We will choose whether to defend the ROC or destroy the ROC... we will choose cross-strait peace or Taiwan Strait crisis."

Relations with Beijing have soured since Tsai came to power in 2016 because her party refuses to recognise the idea that Taiwan is part of "one China".
Han also criticised the Tsai administration's domestic policies and vowed to create "an economic miracle".
The 62-year-old has enjoyed a stunning rise in the last two years, journeying from relative obscurity to become his party's presidential candidate in a phenomenon that has been dubbed the "Han tide".
Some have likened him to US President Donald Trump and other populist leaders who hail from outside establishment circles and command a fervent voter base buoyed by lofty promises of resurrecting their fortunes.
Billing himself as a "president of the people," Han has been able to muster huge, enthusiastic crowds during campaigning, where he has vowed to restore warm ties with Beijing and kickstart the economy.
He was a relative unknown until he seized the Kaohsiung mayoralty in local elections last year, a shock win in the southern city that has long been a DPP heartland.
To become the KMT's candidate, he saw off a challenge from Taiwan's richest man, billionaire Foxconn founder Terry Gou.
But speculation is rife that Gou could run independently -- a move that would likely split the KMT vote.

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First Published: Jul 28 2019 | 12:15 PM IST

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