Sat, Dec 18, 2004 - Page 8 News List


Protect Taiwan's freedoms

Despite the shortcomings of the democratic system -- it can be inefficient, it gives rise to irrational partisanship and is at times driven by imprudent public opinion -- it is the political ideal most forward-thinking countries and people aspire to.

There is something morally appealing about the proposition that people should have the final say with regard to how they are to be governed. The purpose of government is to serve the people because it derives its power from the people. Democracy is, to paraphrase Winston Churchill put it, the worst system of government, except for all the others.

In Taiwan, both the pan-green and pan-blue camps at least pay lip service to democracy. But I find it incredibly ironic how the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and People First Party (PFP) could, within a democratic system, run campaigns on the very platform to abrogate democracy. Once you eliminate all the euphemisms, Taiwan is politically polarized between those who oppose unification with China (the pan-greens) and those who favor unification with China (the pan-blues).

But China is not a democratic nation, so integration with China as a single political entity would be tantamount to the elimination of democracy in Taiwan. Some argue, of course, that Taiwan would still be democratic for 50 years under a "one state, two systems" solution.

But under such a system, the Taiwanese people would still inevitably be forced to give up much of their sovereignty and democratic progress. Even a cursory look at the events in Hong Kong since 1997 reveal that unification with China under a two-systems solution would, at best, endow Taiwan with a pseudo-democracy.

This, of course, doesn't even begin to address what the ultimate result of any type of unification with China would entail. Is the pan-blue camp really saying that democracy is good, but we only want it for 50 years? Or are they saying we deserve a democracy but our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren do not?

There are some who quixotically believe that China is changing, and that it will become a democracy in the span of 50 years. This is incredibly wishful thinking. Change in China is inevitable but progress toward greater freedom is not. Many Taiwanese businessmen who have businesses in China believe the evolving Chinese economy is almost completely capitalist. That may be true, but real freedom means more than economic freedom.

I believe we must recognize the ironies reflected in the platforms of the KMT and PFP. We must face China with strength, courage and wisdom rather than weakness, panic and self-defeating campaigns.

I am inspired by the actions of the British during World War II when, while facing incredible evil and incredible odds, they stood up for freedom on their small island against the dictatorship of Hitler, who was then victorious over almost all of continental Europe.

They courageously defeated the German air force, which dashed the Nazi army's hopes of crossing the English Channel. In doing so, they were able to protect their freedoms and ideals. We should do the same.

Chris Chen

Vancouver, Canada

PFP now pivotal

Now that the heat of the tense legislative election is over, with the result that the pan-blue camp came out on top, I can't help wondering about what sort of political climate President Chen shui-bian's (陳水扁) government will face in the next few years.

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