TAOYUAN (Taiwan): Hundreds of Taiwan businessmen flew home from China yesterday to vote for a new president in weekend elections, hoping to swing a victory for opposition candidate Lien Chan who promises to improve fraught ties with the mainland.
Some 100,000 China-based businessmen are expected to return to cast their ballot in Saturday's polls and the bulk are likely to vote against incumbent Chen Shui-bian amid disappointment that ties with arch-foe Beijing have not improved in his four years in office.
Chen Shui-bian doesn't care about the difficulties we face in the mainland. He says we're causing capital outflow, said Sherman Tang, who operates a chemical plant in Dongguan in southern China.
But we actually earn money there and spend it in Taiwan, his wife added.
Scores of Lien supporters waving Nationalist party flags and chanting campaign slogans met the returning businessmen, highlighting the importance of their votes in the closely-fought election.
Only an estimated 15,000 businessmen returned to vote in 2000 because many were deterred by a decades-old ban on direct transport links with China, which views Taiwan as a rebel province that must be recovered, by force if necessary.
Many returning this year flew via Hong Kong an expensive inconvenience that has come to represent Chen's failure to follow through on promises to improve the business climate.
Lien Chan can get us direct flights, said Samuel Lee, who works at a semiconductor plant in the eastern port city of Ningbo. I have to come back every two or three months and it's really troublesome to fly through Hong Kong, he said.
An estimated one million Taiwan citizens work, study or live in China, including more than 500,000 businessmen. Reuters
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