In response to the Dalai Lama’s suggestion that he visit Taiwan, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said last Wednesday that the timing was not appropriate.
Ma’s remarks have caused much debate. Even Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) suggested that Ma reconsider his decision. But Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) explained on Thursday that the decision was made out of concern for “overall national interests,” for which the timing was not right. It remains unclear which “nation” the president has in mind.
The Dalai Lama is not only Tibet’s spiritual leader, but also enjoys a great reputation in democratic countries. His determination to resist China’s authoritarian regime has become an asset in the fight for universal human rights. Over the past few years, he has visited the US several times and has been invited to the White House as a special guest of the US president. He has also visited Taiwan twice and both visits highlighted the values shared by Taiwan and democratic countries in the West. Undoubtedly, this was beneficial to our “overall national interests.”
Ma should be reminded of his own words. When China launched a crackdown in Tibet that coincided with Taiwan’s presidential election campaign earlier this year, Ma issued a statement in support of Tibetans and the Dalai Lama and called on the public to join him in condemning Beijing.
At the time, he urged the Chinese communists to stop their military crackdown and open a dialogue with the Dalai Lama. In an interview with the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung in July, Ma said the Dalai Lama had visited Taiwan twice in his capacity as a religious leader and that they had met twice. Ma said Taiwan would welcome the Dalai Lama if he visited again as a religious leader. Comparing Ma’s previous comments with his new stance, it is clear he has gone back on his statement to please China.
When the Dalai Lama visits democratic countries in the West, China always issues “serious protests,” including threats or retaliatory measures. However, despite Beijing’s loud objections and threats to commercial interests, Western democracies choose to stand by democracy and human rights.
Ma, by contrast, has rejected the Dalai Lama’s visit to curry favor with Beijing in the name of “overall national interests.”
His habit of belittling himself shows that the self-proclaimed “valiant steed” is cowardly when it comes to dealing with Beijing.
Ma’s unwillingness to offend China is not surprising. Immediately after taking office, he said that cross-strait relations would be his top priority.
He also stressed to foreign media that Taiwan must maintain a good relationship with China. In reality, it is Ma himself who needs China’s help. He is hoping that China will promote the nation’s economic development so that he can run the country smoothly and be re-elected.
Promoting the myth that the nation’s economy depends on China, Ma has over the past six months pushed to relax restrictions on Taiwanese investment in China, thus locking Taiwan’s economy into China’s.
But, at the same time, Ma was not alert to the looming global financial crisis, and now the nation’s economy is troubled by both internal and external difficulties. Internally, companies are closing down because of the outflow of manufacturing plants and capital, which is fueling unemployment. Externally, the global financial tsunami has swept over Taiwan and pounded its already weakened economic structure.