Sun, Mar 12, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: The irony of Beijing's `protection'

Some members of the Chinese National People's Congress have reportedly proposed naming March 14 "Protect Taiwan Day" as a way to commemorate the passage of the "Anti-Secession" Law a year ago. It would be most ironic should Beijing adopt this preposterous proposal.

The irony, of course, lies in the diametrically opposite view and interpretation of the Anti-Secession Law by Taiwanese people.

It cannot be disputed that if Taiwan were ever to officially declare independence from China (despite the fact that many people rightfully argue that Taiwan has no need to do so since it has already attained statehood status), it would require the consent of Taiwanese, which would probably be expressed through a referendum. The state of democratic development in Taiwan has reached the point where it would be hard to imagine any elected government or president unilaterally declaring independence or secession and continuing to rule thereafter without public support.

Against whom, exactly, is the Anti-Secession Law supposed to protect Taiwanese? Themselves? Is it supposed to keep them from exercising their right to self-determination? If so, then March 14 should not be called "Protect Taiwan Day" but "Oppress Taiwan Day." It would be a day to scorn.

On the other hand, could Taiwan ever unify with China without Taiwanese consent? Sadly, that is a possibility that cannot be ruled out. The passage of the Anti-Secession Law is a clear declaration of Beijing's violent intentions and preparedness to act on them when the time comes. Other facts point to Beijing's undisputed ambition -- from missiles targeting Taiwan to the refusal to rule out an invasion and repeated warnings by the US on the military threat posed by China.

One shouldn't rule out the possibility that some politicians may trick voters into electing them to office before making a pact with Beijing to accept unification without the endorsement of the popular will. The support of the people would no longer be needed from that point, because once China gained control of Taiwan, its army would rush to crush any dissent.

This year is not only the first anniversary of the passage of the Anti-Secession Law, but also the 10th anniversary of the 1996 missile crisis. Ten years ago, on the eve of Taiwan's first popular presidential election, Beijing conducted military exercises in the Taiwan Strait in an attempt to intimidate voters and influence the election's outcome. The threat against Taiwan was so real and imminent that Washington had to dispatch the USS Independence to keep the peace in the area.

Ten years ago, the Taiwanese -- prompted by a sense of nationalism and pride in their democratic accomplishments -- were more unified than ever in the face of Beijing's threats. This was clearly shown in the high voter turnout and the landslide victory of former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), who had already expressed strong pro-Taiwan sentiment.

But what has happened since then? Taiwan has seemingly become more polarized. Such internal rivalry and hostility are much more dangerous than any Chinese missile.

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