Taiwan may have first female president

Taiwan's vice president launched her bid Tuesday to be the island's first female president, promising to seek peaceful relations with China - which has dismissed her as being a crazy separatist.

Annette Lu's chances of a victory in next year's vote are slim, and many doubt she will even win her party's primary - which already includes three other solid candidates. But the unpredictable, outspoken Lu will likely spice up the race.

She has repeatedly angered Beijing with her support for Taiwanese independence, and China's state-run media have called her "insane" for favoring a formal split from the mainland, and the "scum of the nation." Tensions with China would likely rise if she were elected.

While announcing her candidacy Tuesday, she again challenged Beijing's sacred view that Taiwan is an inseparable part of China. "Taiwan is a Pacific country, not an affiliate of China," said Lu, whose campaign slogan is, "Rebuild a beautiful island, Taiwan go go go."

Taiwan has been ruled separately from China since the Communists won a civil war and took over the mainland in 1949. Beijing insists Taiwan must unify eventually or face a devastating war.

Lu, 62, proposed a China policy of "constructive engagement" that promotes "coexistence, co-operation, co-prosperity."

She said, "Taiwan and China are distant relatives and neighbors. There isn't any hatred between them. There shouldn't be a war."

But she added that she would continue the work of President Chen Shui-bian, who is also reviled by Beijing for his refusal to endorse eventual unification, the AP says.

When Lu and Chen were elected in 2000, she pledged that she would be an activist vice president - not a silent political partner who stood in the corner like a flower vase.

The Harvard-educated Lu has organized international conferences and has floated her own ideas, such as creating an Asian version of NATO. She's also a big believer in "soft power" and says Taiwan's diplomacy should use "democracy, peace, love and high technology."

She's fond of metaphors and sometimes likens Taiwan to an "adorable Hello Kitty," refering to the hugely popular Japanese cartoon cat, that's in danger of being eaten by a Chinese lion.

The unmarried Lu has served as a lawmaker and a county leader. She was a pioneer in Taiwan's feminist movement, and she headed the campaign for Taiwan to get its own seat in the United Nations. As a rights activist, Lu was jailed in 1979 and served five and a half years when Taiwan was under martial law.

On the eve of the last presidential vote in 2004, Lu was shot in the knee and the president's stomach was grazed by a bullet that police said was fired by a disgruntled citizen, who committed suicide before he could be arrested. The opposition alleged the shooting was staged to win sympathy votes, the AP reports.

Lu has been a maverick who spent more time pushing for her own causes rather than building a strong power base.

Political analyst Chiang Min-chin of Taipei University said Lu would likely lose her ruling Democratic Progressive Party's primary because most party members dislike her because she isn't a team player.

"Lu has good vision and a blueprint for ruling the country," Chiang said. "But many people have misunderstood her because of her uncompromising character. As a highly conceited person, she has never bothered to clarify her stance."

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