The answer given by a police officer for blocking a protest could not have been more obscure, if not worrying. Asked on what grounds Tibetan protesters applying for a permit to demonstrate on Sunday against a controversial Tibetan Buddhist art exhibition at the National Palace Museum would have been turned down, the officer’s response was: “Based on which law? Well, maybe I should not answer that question.”
Well, maybe he should, because there is no law in this land that can bar a group from holding a protest at the museum, political or otherwise. Such a law exists less than 200km across the Taiwan Strait, however, and there are signs that the laws over there are little by little becoming a rule of thumb here.
While we can hardly blame the police officer for doing his job (and in his defense, this was a theoretical question, as the Tibetans’ protest did not require a permit), clear answers should be asked of the authorities, as obscure references to some “laws” and their arbitrary application is exactly what underpins the reign of terror that keeps Chinese dissidents on their toes — and in jail.
In recent months, the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has provided many oblique references to “national security” and the “national interest” to justify barring peaceful individuals from entering the country, including people closely associated with World Uyghur Congress president Rebiya Kadeer, who herself has been “blacklisted” for three years. Then, as now, no clear laws were stated by the authorities and the arguments given would not have held up in court.
If, when it comes to certain issues, this country is no longer governed by law, then what are the foundations of the state’s policies?
There is reason to believe that on the question of “splittism,” the laws are now being written in Beijing, and the first victims of this de facto application of Chinese law on Taiwanese soil are the very minorities whose voices have been silenced in China: Tibetans and Uighurs. Under Ma, representatives from those ethnic groups have increasingly been treated as second-class citizens — denied entry visas, dumped by police in the mountains of Neihu after participating in a rally in Taipei, and now barred from bringing a picture of their spiritual leader to “complete” an exhibition from China at the National Palace Museum.
All of this is ostensibly meant to please Beijing. Although the suppression of Tibetans and Uighurs already warrants the strongest of condemnation, it also points to the possibility that this is merely the beginning. Legal arbitrariness is a slippery slope, one that eventually risks bringing other groups under its shadow. Next in line, we can imagine, are Falun Gong practitioners, Aborigines and supporters of Taiwanese independence.
If we are to avoid such a scenario from becoming reality, every instance of arbitrariness should be opposed at all cost. If no article of law governing this land justifies those actions, whoever is responsible should face the consequences.
Ma and others in the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) have attempted to blur the lines between Taiwan, the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China, especially when discussing notions of culture and sovereignty. Irritating though this may be, the ramifications of those pronouncements usually remained in the abstract, with no immediate impact on people’s lives. However, should aspects of China’s repressive “legal” system be imported and mixed with Taiwan’s, it won’t be long before certain groups and individuals start feeling the consequences.
The current targets of pseudo-legal arbitrariness are not merely “others” in the ethnic sense of the word; that could very well be us in the not too distant future.
“Testy,” “divisive,” “frigid,” “an exchange of insults” were some of the media descriptions of last month’s meeting in Anchorage, Alaska, between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and their Chinese counterparts. Council on Foreign Relations president Richard Haass said that, rather than the “deft handling” needed in US-China relations, this encounter was “mishandled, a terrible start [with] way too much public signaling.” Yet, contrary to conventional wisdom, the acrimonious encounter with Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) and Chinese Central Foreign Affairs Commission Director Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪) was a great success for US diplomacy
In studies of Taiwan’s demographic changes, the Institute of Sociology at Academia Sinica has found that a mere 36.5 percent of men and 19.6 percent of women think getting married is an important life event. The institute also found that the government spending money or amending laws and regulations in order to encourage families to have children is having no impact on the birthrate. Opinions differ on whether this kind of change is a matter of national security, as Japan faces a similar situation, without having a negative impact on its economic strength. Fewer women are willing to marry and the divorce
Interrupting the assimilation of Xinjiang’s Uighur population would result in an unmanageable national security threat to China. Numerous governments and civil society organizations around the world have accused China of massive human rights abuses in Xinjiang, and labeled Beijing’s inhumane and aggressive social re-engineering efforts in the region as “cultural genocide.” Extensive evidence shows that China’s forceful ethnic assimilation policies in Xinjiang are aimed at replacing Uighur ethnic and religious identity with a so-called scientific communist dogma and Han Chinese culture. The total assimilation of Uighurs into the larger “Chinese family” is also Beijing’s official, central purpose of its ethnic policies
Early last month, China’s rubber-stamp legislature, the National People’s Congress (NPC), officially approved the country’s 14th Five-Year Plan. The strategy was supposed to demonstrate that China has a long-term economic vision that would enable it to thrive, despite its geopolitical contest with the US. However, before the ink on the NPC’s stamp could dry, China had already begun sabotaging the plan’s chances of success. The new plan’s centerpiece is the “dual-circulation” strategy, according to which China would aim to foster growth based on domestic demand and technological self-sufficiency. This would not only reduce China’s reliance on external demand; it would also