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Cross-Strait relations top TV debate among Taiwan candidates

TAIPEI, Dec. 27-- Three candidates running for Taiwan's leadership in next month's election engaged in a heated discussion about cross-Strait policy during their first televised debate Sunday afternoon.

Highlighting the development of cross-Strait relations since the Kuomintang (KMT) took power in 2008, Eric Chu of the KMT said he will stick to the 1992 Consensus and work for increased cooperation between the two sides.

Many ordinary Taiwanese and small businesses have benefited from improved cross-Strait relations in the past seven years, Chu said and accused the opposition of intentionally holding back negotiations on trade agreements.

James Soong of the People First Party (PFP) also endorsed the 1992 Consensus and looked forward to mutually beneficial cooperation between the two sides.

On the other hand, Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) remained ambiguous about her stance of the 1992 Consensus.

She said the DPP acknowledged the historical fact that the two sides of the Taiwan Strait held a meeting in Hong Kong in 1992 but said, "people have different interpretations of the meeting" .

She claimed that the 1992 Consensus is "not the only option but one of the options" and cross-Strait relations will remain stable if the two sides engage in sincere talks.

The debate was broadcast live on the Public Television Service (PTS), one of the nine media sponsors of debates.

The candidates began the debate with opening statements and answered five questions raised by representatives of five media groups, before challenging one another with their own questions and making a closing statement.

Three of the five questions posed by media were about the candidates' policy on cross-Strait relations while candidates themselves also posed questions on this topic to their counterparts.

They also debated the island's economic restructuring, government efficiency, corruption, food safety and leadership.

The candidates will hold another TV debate on Jan. 2.

TV debates, sponsored by four daily newspapers, a news agency and public TV station, have been a regular fixture of the elections since 2004. This year's debates were scheduled later than normal because the DPP refused to follow the previous protocol and pushed to reschedule the debates.

It was not until late last week that the three parties finally agreed on the schedule. The sponsors also increased to nine, adding one cable TV channel and two websites.

Besides the leader, Taiwan residents will also elect legislators on Jan. 16.