Mon, Jul 14, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: None dare call it treason

We have, if we are to fulfill our role properly, to fulminate against the preposterous new legislation proposed by the PFP in which the notion of betraying the country should be strictly defined and anybody penalized who accuses others of such a betrayal without the necessary proof.

To attack this proposal is easy enough. We could point out that what constitutes the idea of betrayal comes from one's ideas of what behavior is honorable and what is contemptible. It is a moral judgement and, as such, is not reducible to precise definition.

It is obviously justified to question the loyalty of politicians such as PFP Legislator Kao Ming-chien (高明見), who, after a history of providing China with material to back up its claim to be taking care of Taiwan's health during the SARS crisis, participated in the World Health Organization's (WHO) global SARS conference in Kuala Lumpur last month as part of China's delegation. Any law that prevented us from calling Kao the traitor his behavior has shown him to be would be an intolerable restriction of the constitutional right of free speech. Since Kao's acting on behalf of Beijing was endorsed by his party and its leader James Soong (宋楚瑜) -- until protests in Taiwan forced a withdrawal of this support -- it is quite legitimate to question Soong's loyalty and, by extension, that of the party he leads.

Suppression of free speech comes as nothing new to the pan-blue camp, of course, and we might say that, with this latest proposal they are simply returning to past form. It is barely more than a decade since a person could be jailed here for suggesting that Taiwan might be better off as an independent country. And of course we remember that one of the most ardent supporters of the restriction on voicing such sympathies was one James Soong.

What this proposed legislation amounts to is the pan-blue camp trying to stifle free speech in an attempt to dodge awkward questions about its loyalties. To put the PFP's proposed law into perspective, it wants to make it OK to sell out your country, but illegal for anyone else to accuse you of doing this.

So there is much to question, in fact deplore, about the PFP's proposal. No party that was committed to free speech and democratic politics would even contemplate such a law. And this tells us a lot about the PFP's commitment to those notions.

But although we think the proposed law is incontrovertibly a bad thing, we cannot help smiling. Why? Because criticism of the pan-blues has finally started to hit home.

For a long time the pan-blue's tete-a-tetes with their friends in Beijing were widely known among foreign experts on China affairs but taken very little notice of here in Taiwan. The Kao affair has been a huge catalyst for Taiwanese to sit up and ask questions about just where the blue camp's loyalties lie, why their politicians are so intimate with Beijing, why their legislative agenda concentrates on China's favorite issues. In this respect the new law is the obverse of the pan-blues' "support" for referendum legislation. By supporting something Beijing detests -- though not enough to actually pass the bill -- the blue camp wants to prove its innocence of allegations of betrayal, while also, for good measure, making it an offense to make such allegations.

What this suggests is that loyalty might well become the driving issue of next year's election. We hope it does. The secondary reason is that the DPP doesn't have much of a record of achievement to run on. But the major reason is that nothing is more important. Do you want a free Taiwan or a Taiwan Special Administrative Region of China? That is exactly what the election must be about.

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