Wed, Mar 09, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: The world that can say `no'

Infamous for its impotence and self-importance, China's National People's Congress (NPC) seems to exist in an imperial haze. Ignoring protests from the rest of the world, it will do as it is told and pass the "anti-secession" law treating Taiwan as part of China's territory and the Taiwanese people as a mob to be intimidated or killed if need be. But Beijing has yet to learn the lesson from the failure of verbal attacks and military threats in the past.

The reasoning behind the bill mentions "non-peaceful" means to resolve the Taiwan question -- a frightening phrase that points to an intensifying threat to invade as well as the use of any number of other obnoxious strategies.

But the most unacceptable part of the proposed law is this: The right of interpretation rests solely with the Chinese government. This means that Chinese officials are both the players and the referee in this ugly political game, increasing insecurity both in military terms and in terms more relevant to Taiwanese businesspeople in China.

In 1997, Beijing promised the international community that the Basic Law in Hong Kong would be unchanged for 50 years. But since the right to interpret the law lies with the NPC, the Hong Kong courts' power was effectively stolen away, causing growing public distrust in the judicial system.

China also promised that Hong Kong would be ruled by Hong Kong people, but it is now clear that it will be ruled by Beijing's puppets -- and barely competent puppets at that. The people of Hong Kong have neither the right to elect their chief executive in direct elections nor the right to elect the Legislative Council as a whole. Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa (董建華) is about to step down, proving that Beijing decides who stays and who goes. In other words, Hong Kong has changed from a British colony into a Chinese colony.

The Hong Kong people still live the lives of a colonized people, without any of the respect or pride that was supposed to come with the return to China. The 500,000-strong demonstration against national security legislation in July 2003 was a reflection of the public's lack of trust in Beijing's promises.

The "anti-secession" law is to a large extent modeled on the US Taiwan Relations Act. One of the goals is to rely on unilateral legislation and domestic laws to define the relationship between China and Taiwan in order to intimidate the Taiwanese public, so that they will ape their more compliant "compatriots" in Hong Kong and Macau. At the same time, Beijing is trying to challenge Washington and test its resolve.

If Washington does nothing and other countries refrain from strong reaction to Chinese aggression, then China may escalate its threats of military action to frighten Taiwan away from adopting any domestic reforms and create the impression that Taiwan is already in the bag.

A recent commentary in the Wall Street Journal pointed out that China's rhetoric is similar to North Korea's. North Korean provocations against Asian neighbors have caused no end of problems for the US and Japan.

Unless the world wants a smarter and more self-righteous version of North Korea creating havoc in the region, the international community needs to start saying "no" to China.

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