Thu, May 22, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: It's time to stand up to Beijing

As SARS continues to wreak havoc in this nation, China has not only failed to express any regret, but has mobilized countries to shoot down Taiwan's bid to become an observer at the World Health Organization (WHO).

China is indeed at the center of the world. Not only does the Earth revolve around China, but WHO members take their cues from Beijing. The British envy Lord Macartney refused to kowtow to the Manchu Emperor Qian Long -- now everyone scrambles to kowtow to Beijing in order to win business opportunities in China. Hopefully such limitless business opportunities will materialize -- otherwise all the deaths from SARS in this country and elsewhere will have been a waste.

But every defeat is also a revelation. At least two things are clear. One, never believe the chatter about justice and morality coming from the mouths of international political leaders. Two, China will not soften its suppression of Taiwan no matter how hard Taipei tries to appease it.

It is time for President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) government to drop any plans to take a conciliatory approach to China and for it to clearly define cross-strait relations as state-to-state in nature. It must also stop dithering over imposing travel restrictions on China.

Since SARS first appeared in Hong Kong, the Department of Health has twice suggested that the Chen government temporary stop all passenger traffic between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait. But the government was under pressure from business interests and was also worried about obstruction by the opposition parties. As a result, it not only ignored the department's suggestion but also tried to curry favor with the pro-unification forces, thereby missing the opportunity to readjust cross-strait relations.

Only after Kinman County, led by the New Party's Lee Chu-feng (李炷烽), twice asked for permission to temporarily halt the "small three links" between Kinmen and Xiamen City, did the Mainland Affairs Council oblige. After finally giving in, the council did not forget to emphasize that the measure was temporary. It appears the government is not only unclear about who its leader is -- Chen, KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) or PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) -- but it also may be confused as to whether is it running a special administrative region of China.

Many other countries have imposed restrictions on travellers from China, but this government has adamantly defended cross-strait exchanges. If the Chen government attaches such great importance to business opportunities in China, how can it blame those countries which kowtowed to China at the World Health Assembly meeting? What reason do we have to accuse others of injustice?

Chen should remember that a leader is not a people-pleaser, much less someone led by the nose by the pro-unification camp. After three years in office, he no longer has any excuse for being soft in the face of opposition arm-twisting. At a time when the country is in the grip of the SARS epidemic and its efforts to join the WHO has been frustrated once again, what is needed is a leader who can lead the entire citizenry, not a politician held hostage by business and pro-unification voters.

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