To begin with, I want to make it clear that I am a proponent of unification -- I support unification idealistically at the current stage and think that Taiwan and China should unify when conditions are ripe.
Although I am a strong proponent of unification and believe that Taiwanese will benefit more from unification than from independence, I must say that no one has the right to assert that Taiwanese independence is not an option. It is unbelievable that some Taiwanese politicians, after two decades of democracy in Taiwan, are still unable to grasp such a simple and clear idea.
When reading Chinese novels of chivalry, we often come across scenes in which the hero allows his or her opponent to choose the weapons they want to employ in a fight. These heroes know that their skills are outstanding, and so they fear no challenge.
My pro-unification friends, what are you afraid of? Taiwanese are not stupid. If the idea of Taiwanese independence is such a terrible option, they will not select that option just because we acknowledge it. Someone who is confident of his beliefs does not deny others the right to voice their convictions, just as a martial-arts hero shows confidence in his own skills by allowing his enemy to choose whatever weapon he wants.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) statement that "Taiwanese independence is one of the options for Taiwan's future, but the KMT will not regard it as an option for the party" is an expression of confidence in his opposition to Taiwanese independence.
Only by expressing this confidence can unification proponents free themselves of their shackles and meet independence proponents in fair debate. This is a great leap forward for the unification discourse, and there's no reason to worry.
To gain recognition of one's own opinion in a democracy, one has to rely on persuasion, not on blocking other ideas. It is like a market -- we have the option to decide whether we want to sell apples or pears, but consumers have the option to decide what they want to buy. We can't tell them to buy apples just because that is what we are selling.
Opposing Taiwanese indepen-dence and championing Taiwanese independence are merely two options espoused by the KMT and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). A political party is not the people. It can provide different options for the people to choose from, but has no right to say that the people must choose unification or independence because that is that the party wants. No matter whether we espouse the cause of independence or unification, in a democratic society me must win public support by persuasion, not by blocking out opposing ideas.
Why has the unification discourse been weak in recent years? Because many proponents of unification only know how to demonize independence proponents and have failed to back up their opposition with well-founded arguments. Thus, those who advocate independence have been able to make an easy reply to such opposition, saying that "no political party has the right to deprive the Taiwanese of their choice."
When I see pan-blue politicians vexed and in panic over Ma's remark -- instead of seeing that it is beneficial to the anti-independence position -- I can only say that there are reasons for the pan-blues' repeated defeat by the DPP. In the past, some have dubbed me a unification die-hard. If I do not fear the inclusion of independence as an option for the nation's future, shouldn't others who champion unification be more confident in themselves?
C.V. Chen is a lawyer and former secretary-general of the Straits Exchange Foundation.
Translated by Daniel Cheng
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