Sun, Nov 23, 2003 - Page 8 News List


Threats won't silence voters

I concur with the sentiments expressed in your editorial on human rights in Taiwan and China ("China-Taiwan rights gap tells tale," Nov 20, Page 8).

Once again, the Chinese government is playing their favorite (but naive) game of making verbal threats and seeking to instill fear in voters in Taiwan. With the presidential election less than four months away, Beijing surely has to feel fearful, for the chances of President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) being re-elected look good. To constantly use words or phrases such as "war is inevitable" and "bloodshed" speaks poorly of the Chinese government.

Since May 2000, Chen has repeatedly sought dialogue with the Chinese government, who in turn have either refused flatly or made the condition that Chen's administration has to satisfy the prerequisite of recognizing only one China before talks could even be considered. Talks should be held under warm, cordial and open conditions, with no preconditions made by either party.

China's actions remind me of Malaysia's actions last year regarding talks over the price that Singapore would pay for water from Malaysia. Despite having signed two water agreements to supply water to Singapore for a fixed price, Malaysia decided that it wanted to charge a higher price. Singapore was willing to review the price, although, legally speaking, it was not obligated to do so. Malaysia demanded several conditions for talks on the matter.

The Chinese government has been obstinate in its refusal to recognise the fact that China and Taiwan formally split in 1949, since which time both countries have pursued their own destinies and paths of development. It is not wrong for China to harbor a desire to reunite with its "brothers," but this is akin to the case of a divorced husband wishing to reconcile with his ex-wife, something that both parties have to agree to. Force and threats are indications of desperation, bad faith and poor taste, and can only speak negatively of the aggressor whose behaviour resembles that of a barbarian.

Only the Taiwanese can express their preference on how to chart the destiny of their country. It seems to me, a foreign observer, that the choice in the election next March is clear: a president who has consistently worked for the best interests of Taiwan versus a candidate whose ideology seems to be based on convenience -- someone who is always ready to modify his views and perhaps his character to further his goal of getting elected president.

Perhaps to many Taiwanese, the choice is blurred by the fact that, prior to 2000, they experienced five decades of KMT rule. But with former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), the father of Taiwanese democracy, having advocated for Chen -- and considering the actions of China in recent months -- isn't the choice clear?

Then again, perhaps there is really no choice: only a Chen victory would safeguard the interests of 23 million Taiwanese. I plan to be in Taiwan on March 20 to see firsthand the choice that the Taiwanese make.

A resounding victory for Chen is necessary to drive home the message to China that in a democratic country, the voters' voices will never be silenced by threats.

Jason Lee Boon Hong


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