In January’s LegislativE election the pan-blue camp won more than 75 percent of the seats. On March 22 Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidate Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) won the presidential election, taking 58 percent of the votes cast. When Ma takes office on May 20, the KMT will rule all branches of the central government and 15 cities and counties out of a total of 25.
With this new political landscape, Taiwan’s status quo as a de facto independent and democratic state faces three grave dangers.
First, the KMT’s dominance could erode the nation’s democratic institutions, since there are no longer any checks and balances. The KMT was built on the Leninist model, with the party controlling the state. The party may be tempted to revert to its old ways, where the party is indistinguishable from the state and plunders the national treasury at will. The nation’s judiciary, which has only begun to learn the merits of its independence from political interference, already shows ample signs that it is again becoming the docile tool of the KMT.
Second, Ma’s policy of opening up to China, without regulatory safeguards to protect Taiwan’s sovereignty and economic security, could result in unification by stealth. In addition to the three direct links, Ma welcomes Chinese investment in Taiwan’s real estate and thousands of Chinese tourists per day. Ma also supports recognition of Chinese university credentials.
Many Chinese tourists have disappeared soon after arriving in Taiwan. There are probably thousands of Chinese spies and special forces personnel already deployed in Taiwan. The Mainland Affairs Council once estimated that the number of People’s Republic of China (PRC) citizens living in Taiwan through marriage, immigration and smuggling would reach 1.5 million by 2013. By encouraging unlimited immigration from China, Ma could in effect create a de facto “One China.”
Finally, Ma’s proposed peace accord with China will certainly sound the death knell for Taiwanese freedom.
In a recent article (“Learning from Tibet’s experience,” March 28, Page 8) Ruan Ming (阮銘) wrote of how the PRC signed a peace accord with Tibet in 1951, promising that: “The Central Authorities will not alter the existing political system in Tibet. The Central Authorities also will not alter the established status, functions and powers of the Dalai Lama.” Within five years, there was a rebellion and tens of thousands of Tibetans were killed.
On March 22, 2006, Ma promised in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington that, if elected, he would negotiate a peace accord with Beijing right away. In his recent telephone conversation with US President George W. Bush, Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) reportedly indicated his willingness to negotiate a peace accord with Taiwan on the basis of the so-called “1992 consensus.”
The “1992 consensus” has two elements: the “one China” principle, which says there is only one China, and that Taiwan is part of China, subject to the proviso that each side is free to interpret what “China” means. The “one China” principle is the substantive core of the “1992 consensus.” The different interpretation provision in reality is just a diplomatic fig leaf to enable the KMT government to surrender Taiwan’s sovereignty to the PRC with a semblance of dignity. Once the KMT government recognizes the PRC’s claim of sovereignty over Taiwan, the nation’s fate will be sealed. Taiwanese will forfeit their hard-won freedom and fall under the repressive rule of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
The signing of a peace accord would unmistakably mean the abrogation of the US’ Taiwan Relations Act and servitude of the Taiwanese people under the CCP.
What can the Taiwanese people do to forestall this impending peril?
They should closely monitor the actions of the KMT government with the aid of opinion leaders such as the North Society, South Society and other nongovernmental organizations dedicated to the enhancement of democratic values and human rights. They should build grassroots organizations that can launch massive street demonstrations to protest government policies and actions that betray or impair Taiwan’s status as an independent democracy, free from PRC control.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) should rebuild the party with fresh, young blood and restore the vision of an independent, democratic state once again as its guiding principle. Without that vision, the DPP has no raison d’etre. With a clear, hopeful vision, the DPP could inspire the public to jointly work for a free and prosperous nation wherein the public can live in dignity.
During the election campaign, Ma promised that the future of Taiwan will be decided by Taiwanese themselves.
In order to carry out this promise, Taiwan’s Referendum Law must be amended to remove the high threshold of the majority of eligible voters and other obstacles. This would also be a way for the KMT to show its good faith.
The Taiwanese-American community in the US is nearly 1 million strong. It is still in a state of shock. But Taiwanese-Americans interested in preserving Taiwan’s freedom can do a number of things to help.
First, stress to the US establishment the connection between Taiwan’s freedom and the credibility of the US-Japan alliance and ultimately US security. Second, urge the incoming US administration to reassess US policy toward China and Taiwan based on long-range US political, economic and security interests in East Asia. The US should seriously consider what status of Taiwan would best serve US national interests and how Washington could steer all concerned parties toward that goal. Lastly, Taiwanese-American groups could lobby the US Congress to help push the sale of F-16C/Ds to Taiwan. How the Bush administration handles this matter will indicate how friendly it may act toward the new Ma government.
Can Taiwan’s freedom survive Ma’s presidency?
If Ma’s pro-Beijing agenda were implemented with nary a challenge, then the outcome would not be the 30 or 40 years of peace that Ma hopes for but the annexation of democratic Taiwan by the PRC sooner rather than later.
Li Thian-hok is a freelance commentator based in Pennsylvania.
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