Thu, Mar 25, 2010 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL : KMT proposal reeks of censorship

This nation has a long history of legislators either failing in or overstepping their duties in serving as a check on the authorities.

But when three Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators — Alex Tsai (蔡正元), Luo Ming-tsai (羅明才) and Alex Fai (費鴻泰) — proposed a resolution at Monday’s legislative Finance Committee meeting requesting that the Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC) assess whether domestic financial institutions wishing to branch into China endorsed the planned economic cooperation framework agreement (ECFA) with China, they went too far.

Without providing details, the trio requested that the FSC take applicant banks’ endorsement of an ECFA into consideration when reviewing their applications for approval to enter the Chinese market.

This not only caused confusion, but also triggered concern about the possibility of business censorship similar to that imposed by Chinese authorities on US Internet giant Google.

FSC officials are, in the first place, lost as to where to begin to act on the legislative resolution, since it is almost impossible to measure or quantify such a political endorsement, let alone whether it is lawful for the financial regulator to single out businesses (and it most certainly is not).

The private banking sector is also appalled, since such a political endorsement has nothing to do with its business scope. It also makes no sense for the government to place the burden of communicating with the public about an ECFA on the financial sector.

Furthermore, almost nobody from the financial sector has opposed a trade pact that would liberalize their China-bound investments.

The legislative “political correctness” proposal, in particular, comes at a sensitive time when the global business community is keeping an eye on the future of Google in China after the search engine said it would no longer yield to pressure from Beijing to censor search results on its platform.

Should the legislative resolution be woven into financial regulations, Taiwan — with Beijing’s backing — would be telling the world that any businesses that are against the government’s ECFA policies would not be welcome and that any China-based Taiwanese businesses that oppose the trade pact would be discriminated against and should stay outside the Chinese market, just as Google was forced to withdraw to Hong Kong.

How different, then, would the Taiwanese government look from its Chinese counterpart? Could a case even be made that the Taiwanese market is more liberal than that in China?

Taiwan will have a hard time justifying itself if these three legislators’ recommendations are followed.

It may be too much to ask KMT legislators not to defend their government’s policies, but for legislators to blindly stand behind any policies proposed by their party without prioritizing voters’ interests is delinquency. It is equally unacceptable for them to support motions that would institutionalize — by signing into law — discriminatory policies.

No legislator, regardless of his or her political affiliation, should support policies that impose limits on people’s liberty to choose.

The government has often emphasized that an ECFA would be purely an economic matter; punishing businesses that, for one reason or another, did not support the policy would be politicization sans pareil.

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