Cohen was ‘bang-on’
Jerome Cohen’s recent comments about the weakness of Taiwan’s legal academics and the inaction of members of a supposedly independent judiciary come at a time of growing evidence of the return of the party-state and a rise in police harassment of those who would choose to visibly protest against President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his administration (“NYU professor criticizes legal profession’s silence,” June 13, page 1).
The biggest threats currently facing Taiwan are not the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), nor their post-2005 shared unification agenda, but rather public apathy and indifference, which have caused substantial damage to Taiwan’s ability to conduct its own affairs.
When even a small minority of Taiwanese put their personal profit, fatalism or fear of reprisal before a collective requirement to defend the nation’s economic and political sovereignty, democracy and the rule of law, it makes it far easier for external forces to harm Taiwan’s development and restrict the freedom of its people. The fact that the president and the legislature are in the hands of a party that panders primarily to the China-centric aspirations of between 6 percent and 12 percent of the population, speaks constitutionally but fails to act so and which cannot accept public consensus on identification with Taiwan as a country, portends great and unsettling changes, the full severity and impact of which may not become apparent to Taiwanese until it is too late.
It will take more than 600,000 people protesting on one weekend to make this government respect Taiwan as a country and its people. If Ma is able to ignore four major protests against him in just one year and revise history at will, if police can break the law with impunity and get promoted and if the judiciary and prosecutors are just tools for political vendettas, then what is the future of this democracy, its de facto independence and the right of the Taiwanese to manage their own affairs?
The tragedy of the early years of the Republic of China (ROC) is that Chinese were not united behind the new country and many used this lack of consensus to enrich or protect their own familial and financial interests. Thus the nation ultimately collapsed into civil war, which came at a tremendous cost to Chinese.
Let us hope that Taiwanese will learn from history and prevent this from happening in their country, but I am not optimistic. Perhaps this is, after all, just the “tragedy of the commons.”
Cohen was spot on with his analysis of Taiwan’s precarious state. If Taiwanese keep putting “pragmatism” and “win-win” before the very principles of democracy and rule of law that serve as the foundation of a sovereign constitutional order and cohesive society, they will lose every gain in self-determination that so many have fought and died for in the last 400 years of colonial occupation.
Only when the KMT accepts Taiwan as its only territory, or when the ROC finally goes home, will Taiwanese be safe from the forces — internal and external — that seek to subjugate them politically, economically and culturally.
Tackling alcohol abuse
The frightening statistics on domestic violence recently reported on by your paper (“Domestic violence continues behind closed doors,” June 7, page 3) call for adequate government measures to address the problem.