Local media headlined yesterday that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was irate over the Philippines’ refusal to offer an official apology for its deportation of 14 Taiwanese fraud suspects to China, with footage released from the Presidential Office showing Ma, in his meeting with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III’s special envoy, Philippine Senator Manuel Roxas, solemnly chiding Manila for committing mistakes in its extradition process that were deemed inappropriate behavior for a democratic country.
Okay, so the president was angry. Now what?
Indeed, without spelling out specific stringent measures on the spot to substantiate Ma’s degree of fury over the Philippines’ apparent lack of respect for Taiwan’s sovereignty, it is no wonder that some have come to dismiss Ma’s display of ire on Tuesday as mere show, lacking any real teeth in upholding Taiwan’s sovereignty and dignity.
We previously heard Premier Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) say that an apology by Roxas was a necessary condition for his visit. Yet, following Roxas’ arrival, the envoy has clearly stated that he was not authorized to make any apologies during his visit.
This blatant lapse is unnerving and deeply disturbing. Was the Ministry of Foreign Affairs aware beforehand that Manila’s envoy was not going to apologize? If the ministry did not obtain such information ahead of time, it would indicate the degree of seriousness in the communication breakdown between Taipei and Manila. If the ministry did know, why then, was Roxas in Taiwan? Why did the ministry proceed to arrange for Roxas to meet with the president? While both the ministry and Presidential Office cited diplomatic courtesy as the reason for the Ma-Roxas meeting, the real impression left with the general public, however, was how the Ma administration had degraded the nation’s dignity and that its self-belittling action showed signs of cowardice toward another country that had displayed a complete lack of respect for Taiwan’s sovereignty to begin with.
The ministry noted that points of consensus reached between Minister of Foreign Affairs Timothy Yang (楊進添) and Roxas on Monday included Manila’s plan to take punitive action against officials involved in wrongdoing during the deportation process. According to Yang, Taipei would interpret that as “a kind of apology.”
Pathetic and truly wretched. Not only did the Ma administration fail to stand firm on a non-negotiable demand for Taiwan’s sovereignty and respect, it appeared instead to be helping Manila look for an exit amidst the whole brouhaha.
If this is the way Ma and his officials work in concluding diplomatic spats pertaining to Taiwanese sovereignty and national dignity, one can’t really blame Manila for not respecting Taiwan when it appears Taipei seems to take its own sovereignty and dignity just as lightly.
Just as in the case of Taiwanese taekwondo athlete Yang Shu-chun’s (楊淑君) controversial disqualification from the Asian Games in China in November, in which South Korea without rhyme or reason became the target of many Taiwanese’s anger, the Philippines should not be the party at which Ma directs his anger. Political watchers could easily note China’s invisible hand in the affair no matter how Beijing may have schemed to make it appear as if the spat was only a matter between Taipei and Manila.
Sure enough, we have yet to hear Ma or his government officials utter a word of protest or strong words demanding Beijing return the 14 Taiwanese suspects.
Taiwanese do have a right to be livid from this situation, for they have witnessed their government dare to only admonish the Philippines yet remain silent in the face of the Chinese elephant in the room — all because of a president who continues to base his China policy on a fictitious “1992 consensus” that undermines Taiwan’s dignity and international standing.
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