Sun, Mar 27, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Freedom is Taiwan's best weapon

Yesterday's march was indeed the best response that Taiwan could make in the wake of the passage of the Chinese "Anti-Secession" Law. With a simple and easy to understand theme of "peace, democracy, save Taiwan," as well as a high turn out rate (it is estimated that around one million people joined the march) accomplished through mostly voluntary grass-roots participation, Beijing has been put in an awkward spot.

A golden rule that must never be forgotten in Taiwan's dealing with China is this: Democracy, freedom and human rights are the best weapons that Taiwan has against China. No amount of military spending -- although that is critically necessary as well -- comes even close in terms of the weight of the punch. That's because these things are universally accepted values, but also because they represent everything that China isn't. They are like a mirror that reflects the autocratic and militant nature of the Beijing regime. Even more importantly, they serve as justification for the international community to voice their support. Yesterday's march was a success precisely because it highlighted all these precious virtues.

However, one must now ask this difficult question: Now that Beijing has been given the message, what happens next? The demonstration of the popular will yesterday was critically needed, because it will probably make the Chinese government pause or even halt if they face a decision on whether to unilaterally impose unification on Taiwan. However, the enactment of the Anti-Secession Law has become a fact. As much as one hates to admit this, the likelihood of Beijing "taking it back" is next to impossible.

On Thursday, the chairman of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) made a very interesting point. Su had said that a march by around 500,000 people in Hong Kong in July 2003 forced Beijing to withdraw the introduction of an anti-subversion bill based on Article 23 of the Basic Law. The people of Taiwan came together in similar fashion to demonstrate that there is only so much they can take from Beijing.

This, then, makes one wonder. Had yesterday's march taken place before, rather than after, the enactment of the Chinese Anti-Secession Law, perhaps Taiwan might have had a shot at making Beijing halt its enactment. Surely, the chances would be much better than now.

It is true that President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) response after the enactment of the Anti-Secession Law has been praiseworthy -- resorting to sentimental and peaceful appeals in his talks in an effort to seek international support, and standing alongside marchers to highlight the grassroots nature of the march. But it is probably fair to say that he misjudged Beijing if -- as many commentators believe -- he had hoped that signing the ten-point joint statement with People's First Party (PFP) James Soong (宋楚瑜) would make Beijing back down from passing the law.

Through that joint statement, Chen essentially promised not to seek formal independence, as well as to respect a definition of the status of this country that is very close to "one China." That experience, among others, tells us that pacificism, compromises,and succumbing to Chinese demands will not make Beijing back down.

Unfortunately, while Chen may have learned his lesson, others -- namely the opposition pan-blue camp -- have not. Sadly, both Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and Soong himself -- as well as other political figures from the pan-blue camp -- were absent from the march. Our only hope is that when KMT Vice Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) visits China next week, he will tell the Chinese officials how the people of Taiwan really feels about the Anti-Secession Law.

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