Mon, Feb 27, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Politicians mum on events in China

By Hsu Szu-chien 徐斯儉

The nation's political parties have been busying themselves with a war between unification and independence proponents lately. As usual when local political forces are busy repositioning themselves and staking out territory in the local political arena, they often ignore the role that Taiwan should play in the international community. As a result, none of the nation's political parties have made a single statement regarding China's recent moves to restrict freedom of information and debate on the Internet, and the very negative impact this has on global Internet culture.

Regardless of their stance on the unification/independence issue or their individual political interests and ideology, none of the parties have any reason to remain absent from the debate on this issue.

Over the past few years, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has become increasingly active in restricting freedom of expression and information gathering. The closure of the China Daily's supplement, Freezing Point, is only one controversy in a series of events.

This incident prompted an open reaction from 13 senior CCP members that forced the party to reinstate the publication -- although it reassigned the editors to other positions. This shows how President Hu Jintao's (胡錦濤) and Premier Wen Jiabao's (溫家寶) efforts to move closer to and serve the people are encountering internal problems. Ultimately, the CCP has to deal with independent voices from the public or the media by suppressing them.

As for Taiwan, one must ask if it is in its best interest that the local political parties do not react just as more progressive voices among the Chinese public and within the CCP are beginning to speak up. Is standing idly by really the best way for Taiwan to perpetuate its own existence?

The significance of the regression of freedom of expression in China is not restricted to China's domestic politics. It also has international implications, as seen in the way major Western Internet companies kowtow to CCP demands on restrictions to freedom of speech.

Yahoo has provided Chinese authorities with IP addresses that led to the arrest of intellectual Shi Tao (師濤), and a subsequent 10-year prison term, while Google met CCP demands that the company filter out vocabulary that the party does not want to appear in the company's search services.

When these firms submit to the CCP's suppression of freedom of expression and information, they not only harm Chinese society and the freedoms of Chinese citizens, but they also set an extremely negative precedent for Internet freedoms on an international level. They set a negative example to other dictatorships and so do serious damage to global democratic values.

The US Congress held a hearing with Yahoo, Microsoft, Cisco and Google, and US senators have submitted legislation to restrict these companies from helping tyrants to victimize their subjects in this way again.

With the pan-blue and pan-green camps busy shaping a new unification-independence discourse, maybe they can stay aloof of the debate over freedom of expression that has emerged as a result of the conflict between the Muslim and the Western world in the wake of the "cartoon war." It is unthinkable, however, that Taiwan's political parties would not have any opinions about all that has transpired lately in China, which sits on our doorstep.

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