Thu, May 15, 2008 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: Taiwan gives with an open heart

Our prayers are with the victims and families hit by the powerful earthquake in China's Sichuan Province, where the death toll continues to rise and thousands remain buried under the rubble, awaiting rescue.

In the spirit of humanitarianism, the government has expressed its condolences and offered assistance, with Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) on Tuesday announcing that Taipei would “provide all necessary resources” to help the Chinese government with relief work, which could include rescue teams, medical assistance and donations for reconstruction.

The same day, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) called on the public to give generously and contribute to relief and reconstruction efforts.

The government announced yesterday a cash donation of NT$700 million (US$22.6 million) and NT$100 million in rice, adding it would seek to collect NT$1.2 billion in donations from the private sector.

Taipei’s generosity should be acknowledged as it appears to be free of the politicization that characterized Beijing’s “help” when it sent token aid to Taiwan after the catastrophic 921 Earthquake nine years ago.

For many Taiwanese, the earthquake — with its more than 2,400 fatalities and tens of thousands of people left homeless — is still a vivid nightmare and one that is sure to be brought to the surface as images of the devastation in China begin to reach us via newspapers, TV and the Internet.

As humanitarian aid and rescue teams started arriving in Taiwan, Beijing exploited the disaster to score a few political points, requiring that all international relief including donations, food and rescue teams be channeled through China.

As the result of Beijing’s interference, timely rescue efforts were delayed, such as when a Russian rescue team could not land and refuel in China and had to take a longer route through Japan.

Not only did Beijing’s actions belie a lack of compassion for Taiwanese, it also created a number of logistical and quite unnecessary problems during the critical rescue window following the catastrophe.

Some could argue that Taiwanese should not bother sending aid to China because of Beijing’s incessant bullying and threats directed at Taiwan.

But harboring an eye-for-an-eye mentality and failing to meet obligations as human beings would lower this administration to the level of China — or perhaps even Myanmar — which is not what Taiwan is all about.

Of course, there is no guarantee that all of the generous aid and donations will reach those who really need help rather than end up in the bank accounts of corrupt officials.

For this reason, every effort should be made in the days and weeks ahead to ensure that the donations reach their intended recipients.

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