A few days ago, the Chinese government ordered the use of tanks and machine guns in a bloody suppression of members of the Uighur ethnic group who were requesting equal treatment.
By China’s account, 156 people died, 1,088 were injured and more than 1,400 people were arrested.
The streets of Xinjiang are filled with a chilling sense of fear, and with the truth yet to be revealed, the situation remains unstable.
Uproar has resulted within the international community, rebuking China for ignoring basic human rights and using violent, bloody methods to suppress the protests.
Apart from expressing grave concern at the suppression of human rights in Xinjiang, foreign governments and rights groups are asking China to exercise restraint, make the truth known, conduct a transparent investigation and stop violent incidents from recurring.
Amid the global outcry, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has been silent, even more silent than normal, and has acted as if the whole thing never happened.
When it comes to the Ma administration, many things never happen.
When people around the globe expressed support for the Chinese who demanded democratic reforms by signing Charter 08 (零八憲章) — and were suppressed, imprisoned and charged — only Ma remained silent.
While people around the globe supported Tibetans who were resisting Chinese oppression, only Ma refused to allow a visit to Taiwan by the Dalai Lama.
With people around the globe calling on the Chinese government to rehabilitate the victims of the Tiananmen Square Massacre and to allow exiled students to return to China, Ma was the only person to release an open statement commending the Chinese government for making improvements in human rights.
Freedom, democracy and human rights are universal values and precious assets — and Taiwan has all of them. The way in which Taiwanese have upheld democracy and human rights has been recognized and praised by the international community.
However, after becoming president, Ma has not dared to discuss democracy and human rights with China; indeed, he is fearful of insulting China and thus no longer mentions the Tiananmen Square Massacre, refuses to allow the Dalai Lama into Taiwan and will not even meet with Chinese democracy activists.
With the whole world rebuking China over the recent death toll and bloody suppression of the Xinjiang protests, Ma is yet to say a single thing on the matter.
If Ma doesn’t dare speak out, Taiwanese should speak up. Otherwise, Ma’s silence will be viewed as the silence of every Taiwanese.
To protect human rights, to allow the world to hear the real voice of the Taiwanese people and to make sure that the universal values of freedom, democracy and human rights are not compromised during cross-strait exchanges, we should support the Uighurs and their humble hopes for equal treatment, and demand that the Chinese government cease its racist treatment of ethnic minorities.
We should also demand that Taiwan’s government make its stance on the matter crystal clear.
Taiwan is a free and democratic nation, so we should not exclude ourselves from the company of those nations expressing their support for the Uighurs.
Su Tseng-chang is a former premier.
TRANSLATED BY DREW CAMERON