Thu, May 21, 2009 - Page 8 News List

Open letter to Taiwan’s president

Mr President, as international scholars and writers who have followed Taiwan’s impressive transition to democracy during the past two decades, we know the sensitivity in Taiwan of the issue of relations with China. Rapprochement needs to be carried out in a way that ensures that the achievements of the democratic movement are safeguarded, that the political divide within Taiwan is reduced and that Taiwan’s sovereignty, human rights and democracy are protected and strengthened.

However, during the past year we have seen that the policies of your administration are being implemented in a way that is causing deep anxiety, particularly among many who fought for Taiwan’s democracy two decades ago. This was evident in the large-scale rallies held in Taipei and Kaohsiung on Sunday.

We have also seen a further polarization in society due to the lack of transparency and democratic checks and balances. Many observers believe that the rapprochement with China has occurred at the expense of Taiwan’s sovereignty, democracy and freedoms. To some, the judicial practices and police behavior toward those who criticize your policies are even reminiscent of the dark days of martial law.

In this respect, symbols are important. It does not help that your administration has renamed National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall in Taipei back to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. It doesn’t bolster your case that the funding for the Chingmei Human Rights Memorial in Sindian (新店) has been cut drastically and that the location is being turned into a “cultural” park. It doesn’t help that changes are being made to the Assembly and Parade Act (集會遊行法) that infringe on freedoms of protesters instead of enhancing freedom of speech.

Mr President, we appeal to you to take measures that alleviate these concerns. A first step would be to initiate and implement reforms in the judicial system that safeguard the human rights of the accused and ensure a fair trial. A second step would be to guarantee complete press freedom, and instill in those engaged in the media the determination to live up to the highest standards.

Thirdly, rapprochement with China needs to be brought about in such a way that the people of Taiwan have a full say in determining their future as a free and democratic nation. Closed-door deals that bring Taiwan increasingly into China’s sphere of influence are detrimental to Taiwan’s future and undermine the democratic fabric of society.

Due to its complex history, Taiwan has not had the opportunity to be accepted as a full and equal member of the international family of nations. We believe the people of Taiwan have worked hard for their democracy, and that the international community should accept Taiwan in its midst. Your actions and policies can help the island and its people move in the right direction. We urge you to do so.

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