During their joint press conference in Washington on Jan. 19, Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) and US President Barack Obama faced questions from four reporters — two of them from US agencies — the Associated Press (AP) and Bloomberg, and two from Chinese media — China Central Television and Xinhua news agency. The two Chinese media are mouthpieces of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), so they are hardly worthy of discussion, but the two US reporters posed some incisive questions.
First, AP’s Ben Feller asked Obama: “Can you explain to the American people how the United States can be so allied with a country that is known for treating its people so poorly, for using censorship and force to repress its people?”
Feller’s next question was addressed to Hu: “I’d like to give you a chance to respond to this issue of human rights. How do you justify China’s record, and do you think that’s any of the business of the American people?”
Then Hans Nichols from Bloomberg asked Hu to comment on the conspicuous absence of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker John Boehner from the state dinner, and he asked Obama, who had just commented that the Chinese yuan was undervalued, what effect he thought that was having on employment in the US.
President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) government has clearly leaned toward China ever since it came to power, and government officials are always ready to defend this policy when people raise doubts about it.
For example, when Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) criticized Ma’s pro-China cross-strait policy, saying that it was causing a lot of unease in Taiwan, Presidential Office Spokesman Lo Chih-chiang (羅智強) responded by saying that Tsai was putting a “red label” on Ma.
When former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) made a similar criticism, Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) said that the government was “putting Taiwan first for the benefit of the people.”
However, when a Taiwanese basketball fan displayed a national flag during a game between Taiwanese and Chinese teams, Wu criticized the fan for using the flag to provoke a dispute. Is that what Wu calls “putting Taiwan first?”
While our officials never stop boasting, perhaps we can learn from the AP journalist by asking them some difficult questions. China is a country without a free press and free speech, and Chinese dissidents who tell the truth are imprisoned for leaking national secrets.
If Chinese people want to acquire genuine news, they can only do so from foreign media, and to do that they have to use special software to “climb over” the electronic barrier known as “the Great Firewall of China.” So how can people in Taiwan possibly believe that our government, in league as it is with Beijing, will “put Taiwan first for the benefit of the people?”
The record of Ma’s administration shows that he wants to avoid the Chinese human rights issue. In the past, Ma used to criticize the CCP every year on June 4, the anniversary of the suppression of the 1989 -democracy movement in Beijing. Since becoming president, however, he has stopped doing so.
Some academics suggested that a “human rights clause” be added to the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement that was signed by Taiwan and China last year, but that idea was not taken on board. While international media are boldly questioning China’s human rights record, our government, concerned only with its own interests, shamefully stays silent.