Sat, Mar 20, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan's date with destiny is today

By Li Thian-hok 李天福

The vernal equinox, the first day of spring, falls on March 20 this year. The vernal equinox of this year will be the day of Taiwan's destiny. Today's election will decide not just who will be the president, or whether the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) or the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-People First Party (PFP) alliance will rule the next four years, the outcome will also determine Taiwan's destiny.

After enduring nearly four decades of White Terror under martial law, Taiwan finally evolved into a democracy in the late 1980s. Many factors contributed to this development. The US recognized the PRC and cut off diplomatic relations with the Republic of China (ROC) on Taiwan in 1979. Taiwan became increasingly isolated from the international community. With industrialization, native Taiwanese began to gain wealth and leverage over the government. The lower ranks of the military and bureaucracy and even the KMT itself were increasingly filled with native Taiwanese. The US government, particularly the Congress, became critical of the authoritarian practices of the KMT government, such as the violation of civil rights as exhibited in the persecution of the "Kaohsiung Eight."

When the tang wai (outside the party) movement of political dissidents, which demanded a right to participate in the political process, became irresistible, then-president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) reluctantly acquiesced in the emergence of the DPP political opposition.

Taiwan's democratization took place not because the autocratic government suddenly became enlightened, but in spite of the KMT's long years of resistance to democratic reform. The ascendancy of Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) to the presidency and his reform efforts during his 12 years in office were instrumental in advancing the pro-cess of democratization. However, many KMT politicians and officials who were born in China have never been able to shed their anti-democratic instincts or their basic allegiance to the dream of a unified China.

This is why KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) oppose the referendum, even though it represents a legitimate deepening of Taiwan's democracy and it will enable the people to declare to the whole world their desire to protect Taiwan's sovereignty and to peacefully coexist with the PRC.

The pan-blue alliance has never gracefully accepted defeat in the 2000 election. Instead of acting as a loyal opposition of a normal democracy, the opposition parties have obstructed every substantive reform proposal the government has presented, thus paralyzing the government time and again. The KMT-PFP alliance then used the pro-China electronic and print media to blame the stalemate on the government's ineptitude.

The pan-blue alliance is adept in making use of the freedom of speech to scuttle democratic institutions but it has no respect for the freedom of speech. When the Special Report series of VCDs criticizing certain KMT-PFP politicians was released several months ago, Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) ordered them confiscated in his city, in clear violation of the Constitution.

If Lien wins the presidency, anti-democratic repression is likely to raise its ugly head and Taiwan's hard-won freedom will begin to erode.

Even more worrisome is what a Lien-Soong victory will do to Taiwan's future status. Both men have professed their goal of eventual unification with China. Lien, the self-proclaimed 100 percent pure Chinese, has pledged to travel to Beijing on a mission of peace as soon as he is elected. The PRC will not permit his pilgrimage to Beijing as the president of the ROC. Lien must go there as the governor of the Taiwan Province of the PRC. The trip will be tantamount to surrender of sovereignty and Taiwan's acceptance of Bei-jing's claim that it is part of the PRC.

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