Wed, Jul 10, 2002 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: The cowardly Lions are far from Oz

Shame on Lions Clubs International for unilaterally changing the name of the Taiwan chapter from "ROC Lions Clubs International" to "China Taiwan Lions Club." Bravo to the Taiwan chapter for standing up and defending the dignity of the nation.

It is outrageous enough that the chapter's name was changed after more than 50 years and all the contributions made by generations of Lions in Taiwan. The underhanded way in which the name change was done by the Lions Clubs International Board of Directors,without first informing the Taiwan chapter or asking its consent, simply rubbing salt into the wound. The board apparently lacked the backbone to stand up to Chinese pressure and was desperate to accommodate two new chapters in Guangdong and Shenzen.

The conduct of this international organization is completely at odds with its founding ideals -- to establish local business clubs that could "expand [its] horizon from purely business concerns to the betterment of their communities and the world at large." It is difficult to associate the board's conduct with such beautiful words. How does insulting the 23 million people of Taiwan by downgrading their country into a mere Chinese province accomplish these lofty goals? It is equally baffling how caving into pressure from the politically strong and trampling on the politically weak furthers these goals.

Let's not forget that the organization's conduct directly violates one of its own "Lions International Objects" -- "to provide a forum for the open discussion of all matters of public interest; provided, however, that partisan politics and sectarian religion shall not be debated by club members." By siding with China on the very politicized issue of Taiwan, the Lions could not possibly have been more partisan. They have proven to be nothing more than pussycats. At least the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz knew he lacked courage and wanted to get some. Lions Clubs International doesn't even realize how spineless it is.

The only positive aspect to this disgraceful business is the refusal of the Taiwan chapter to just roll over and die. It has done just about everything possible to rectify the situation, ranging from staging protests and protesting within the organization to filing a lawsuit. These efforts deserve a round of applause. They are proof that not all businesspeople have dollar signs in their eyes.

As a result of the protests, the chapters from Taiwan and China are banned from using membership flags that feature their respective national flags during the organization's annual convention in Osaka, Japan this week. However, the Taiwan chapter alone will be identified solely by the chapter's district number -- MD300.

It is quite obvious that, in its quest to destroy Taiwan's standing in the international arena, China is digging its claws not only into inter-governmental organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), but also into social groups. This is a trend not to be ignored, as a central pillar of Taiwan's diplomatic strategy is to seek to expand its international presence through NGOs. If Taiwan cannot defend itself within the realm of NGOs, it will be left with virtually no breathing space in the international community. That is one blow Taiwan cannot afford to take.

It is sad enough to watch foreign business interests and governments kowtow to Beijing's territorial ambitions. Can't non-profit groups that aim to serve others do any better?

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