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President to boost popularity through reform

President to boost popularity through reform

Taipei, April 6 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou, who has been troubled by low popularity ratings, said he believes he can bolster his level of support by pushing through reforms.
During the question-and-answer portion of his video conference with faculty and students at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Ma was quizzed about his dipping popularity and said he took it seriously.
The president said his administration had made considerable efforts in economic, diplomatic and social welfare arenas, but he suggested his approval ratings may have suffered because the initiatives could have adversely affected some people's interests.
As the head of state, however, he has had to concentrate all of his energy on the job, regardless of how he is faring in opinion polls or whether he will be re-elected or not, the president added.
Ma's popularity has declined from about 60 percent when he took office in May 2008 to about 27 percent in March 2010.
Contending that people chose him as president because they hoped for change and reform, Ma said he believes his popularity will rebound if he meets people's expectations by reviving the economy, carrying out reforms and exhibiting strong leadership.
In response to another question about the controversy in Taiwan over whether to scrap the death penalty, the president said his administration will sort through differences between the opponents and proponents of capital punishment through public discussion.
"What the government should do is to provide the opportunity, the platform for rational discussion and debate and try to find out the solution," Ma said.
Ma, who served as justice minister between 1993 and 1996, said he was the first minister of justice to stay the executions of death row inmates and the first who ever sounded out public opinion on the issue by conducting an opinion poll.
Though the poll showed that 72 percent of respondents were opposed to abolishing the death penalty, the country has worked since then to reduce the use of capital punishment in practice.
"We have been able to change compulsory death penalty to not so compulsory. It's optional. In other words, for some crimes, either death penalty of life imprisonment," Ma said.
He also indicated Taiwan is considering changing the procedures for arriving at a death sentence.
"For instance, we need a unanimous consent? Or we need to have oral debate in the last instance...? Usually there is no debate, " Ma said.
In order to prevent dangerous inmates from harming society after being released from jail, Ma said the country has extended the time convicts sentenced to life imprisonment must serve before being eligible for parole from 20 years to 25 years.
Before capital punishment is abolished, however, the government must still fulfill its duty to carry out the court's sentence, the president said.
Ma's administration was embroiled in controversy in early March after then-Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng triggered a public outcry by refusing to sign off on the execution of death row inmates.
The president did not support her publicly, declaring that officials should do their jobs as required by the law, and Wang then stepped down based on her conviction that capital punishment should be abolished.
Noting that it took other states decades to get rid of the death penalty, the president said accomplishing that in Taiwan could not be done overnight, especially in an oriental society where people believe criminals should be made to pay for their offenses.
At the conclusion of the teleconference, the Harvard-educated president sought international support for his country's bid to enhance its international profile and its efforts to reconcile with China.
Ma said that detente between Taiwan and China is good for the international community and that Taiwan wants to be a dignified member of the international community and wants to contribute to it.
Ma has tried to ease ties with China, which considers his country a renegade province waiting to be reunified, by force if necessary.
The 90-minute video conference, began at 7: 30 p.m EST Monday (23:30 GMT, Monday). It attracted a good crowd at the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University.
Before William C. Kirby, a history professor at Harvard, gave an introduction to the teleconference, a pre-taped welcoming address by Harvard President Drew Faust was played.
Ma took 16 questions from the audience after giving a briefing on his policies from his Taipei office.
(By Alex Jiang and Maubo Chang)




Updated : 2021-02-25 15:57 GMT+08:00