Fri, Feb 11, 2011 - Page 8 News List

A country must stand up for all its citizens

By Su Tseng-chang 蘇貞昌

Government exists to bring peace and stability to people’s lives. Politics is a vocation, a calling to safeguard a nation’s sovereignty and protect the life, property and security of its citizens. The extradition of Taiwanese to China by the Philippines flouts international convention, highlights the government’s slow, prevaricating, delusional response and exposes an uncomfortable truth. It reveals for all to see the government’s disregard and disdain for the issue of national sovereignty and the legal rights of its citizens. It also shines a harsh light on its ineptitude and dereliction of duty.

International convention dictates that judicial jurisdiction over criminal activity resides first and foremost with the territory in which it occurs. In this case, given that the Philippines chose to forgo its jurisdictional rights based on territory, it should have respected Taiwan’s rights of jurisdiction based on nationality. Any extradition of suspected felons who are Taiwanese should have been to Taiwan. Instead the Philippines chose to ignore this right of jurisdiction, and extradited Taiwanese to China.

With this precedent in place, if at any time in the future Taiwanese become involved in disputes overseas with Chinese nationals, any country can use this instance as a basis on which to send Taiwanese to China. Over time, individual cases have a habit of becoming standard procedure. This will not only seriously damage our sovereignty, it will wreak havoc on the legal rights of our citizens.

The government seems content to say that the Philippines has already expressed its goodwill, and leave the situation at that. That is simply unacceptable. We have to demand that the government take more robust action to address this grave diplomatic dereliction.

There is a proverb to the effect that he who constantly denigrates himself will come to be denigrated by others. Over the last two years the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has consistently kowtowed on issues of national sovereignty, misguidedly believing that if it shows a willingness to deal with China that Beijing will reciprocate. That position is no longer tenable. Recent events have shown it to be a resounding folly.

China is not going to give an inch on issues of sovereignty when it comes to international exchanges and that leaves little if any room for “goodwill.” That much is crystal clear.

Beijing has been pretty consistent about its position in international matters, expressed in three phrases: There is only one China in the world, the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is the sole legitimate government representing that China and Taiwan is a part of China. The PRC is not going to move even a little on these issues.

All the more reason for Taiwan, which is quite distinct from the China represented by the PRC government, to highlight the differences between itself and the PRC in every way that it can on the international scene, to shake itself free of the “one China” framework. What we should not be doing is dancing on the international stage to the tune of China’s unification PR machine.

China and the Philippines have ganged up on Taiwan and given our ears quite a boxing. Our national identity has taken quite a bruising and the legal rights of 23 million people have been trampled on. What has the government done? Very little.

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