Mon, Jan 10, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: The Chinese gulag beckons

In the wake of Mainland Affairs Council Chairman Joseph Wu's (吳釗燮) revelations concerning the so-called anti-secession law on Friday, it is surprising there hasn't been more of a reaction. After all, some of the implications of the legislation, if Wu's intelligence is correct, are far worse for cross-strait rapprochement than the most pessimistic forecast.

Beijing's intention is to create special courts in which anyone can be prosecuted for "separatist activity," to be interpreted as the court sees fit. We have always known that the Chinese judiciary is little more than a series of kangaroo courts in which people are punished for having run foul of authority. There is no question of evidence and no question of innocence. We are also aware of the undistinguished but lamentably large role the courts have played in the suppression of political dissent and "thought crime" of any kind.

The function of these special courts will be to try any officials from either side of the Strait who are deemed to have "not acted appropriately in opposing Taiwanese independence." As to what Taiwanese independence is, China appears to not want to stipulate this in the law but leave it to the court and its political masters to decide on an ad hoc basis. It is not clear who might be covered by the law other than officials but the guiding principles for the law's drafting obtained by Wu suggest that it will cover as wide a base as possible. "Anything other than unification is going to be defined as independence and therefore anybody who speaks out in support of Taiwan's government might be charged with this kind of crime," Wu said.

The implications need to be seriously considered in Taiwan and elsewhere.

Basically, no member of the government will be able to go to China for fear of being arrested under the law. The same goes for any Democratic Progressive Party legislator or local government official, and could also be applied to almost anybody who is appointed to speak on the government's behalf.

Given that the maintenance of Taiwan's independence is the wish of the majority of Taiwanese and is supported by their government, nobody who speaks for that government or represents the real views of Taiwanese people will be able to go to China without risking arrest.

Foreign academics might be at risk, or members of think tanks which support self-determination for Taiwan, of which the US has a considerable number.

Finally, we might consider the large number of Taiwanese now living in China. As soon as the law passes, they will be targets for shakedown artists with official connections -- and given the wealth of the China-based Taiwanese community, there will be many. You can easily imagine the kind of scenario -- "give us a stake in your enterprise or we will denounce you and you'll end up in a labor camp in Qinghai."

If what we have been led to believe is true, then after the law passes, almost no Taiwanese will be safe in China, nor will any foreigner who has ever associated with a pro-independence organization -- such as this newspaper for example.

If just stepping on Chinese soil means running the risk of a stint of "reform through labor" in the Chinese gulag, then forget about cross-strait negotiations: The cross-strait Cold War is about to enter a real ice age.

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