Tue, Dec 16, 2008 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: The pandas are Kings of the Hill

The more one looks at it, the clearer it becomes that the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration’s “peace” bid with Beijing is all about The Process.

Participants in this endeavor are so fixed on the goal, so enthralled by the historic possibilities, that anything that departs from The Process or threatens to throw it off course is met with the swift blade of the state apparatus. What we are presented with, therefore, is a classic case of the end justifying the means.

When a state embraces such an ideology, the little man inevitably gets trampled on, as we saw in the former Soviet Union, Mao Zedong’s (毛澤東) China and under other undemocratic systems. Under such conditions, the state, believing it knows what is best for the citizenry, will not hesitate to abrogate people’s rights or, at the extreme, to use the tool of terror, which leads to untold abuse. There’s a word for this: authoritarianism.

There are indications — police brutality, infringements on people’s rights and the ostensible politicization of the judiciary — that the Ma administration is veering toward authoritarianism in its quest to achieve “peace” in the Taiwan Strait.

Another telltale sign that Taiwan has been hypnotized by dreams of the goal is its warped perception of reality. The clearest indication that this is happening came from the mouth of Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), who on Sunday said that the rights of the two giant pandas China has offered as a gift to Taiwan should be respected. Hau was referring to the pandas’ names, which he said could not be changed without violating the animals’ rights.

By no means does this newspaper advocate undermining the rights of animals. But the poor Tuan Tuan (團團) and Yuan Yuan (圓圓), political tools if ever there was one, certainly shouldn’t rank higher than human beings when it comes to respecting rights — unless, of course, they are part of The Process.

Under this regime, the rights of Taiwanese to not be detained without charge, to display symbols of nationhood or to demonstrate against a controversial visit by a Chinese envoy — and to do so without suffering police brutality — can apparently be broken, all in the name of The Process. A request by a venerable spiritual leader like the Dalai Lama to visit Taiwan, or for his supporters to welcome him, can be denied if it endangers The Process.

Worse, the right of Wo Weihan (伍維漢) — accused of spying for Taiwan and executed by Beijing last month — to a fair trial, or of the dozens of activists jailed and drugged by Chinese authorities on Human Rights Day, to express their opinion, can be curtailed as long as doing so ensures a smooth process.

In this political burlesque, government officials harp on the rights of pandas and request a police motorcade to ensure a smooth drive from the airport to Taipei Zoo. Limbs of Taiwanese can be broken, blood of Taiwanese can be spilled, Tibetans can be spirited to the hills of Neihu (內湖) in the dead of night, but the pandas must be comfortable. Men can be jailed, beaten, drugged or executed without a word of condemnation, but we should respect the names the pandas have grown accustomed to in order not to confuse them.

As it focuses on the goal, the Ma government has made a pair of pandas and The Process they symbolize a top priority, while relegating the millions of Taiwanese it supposedly represents to a lower rung.

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