Sat, Mar 05, 2011 - Page 8 News List


Deportation dispute

The deportation dispute between Taiwan and the Philippines seems to go nowhere and to benefit no one.

I fully understand Taiwan’s anger and concern about the issue, mainly because of its possible bearing on sovereignty, and I also understand the reluctance of Manila to issue a formal apology. In both cases, it seems national dignity is at stake, but is it really so?

Manila’s actions can be interpreted as merely an extradition of foreigners to the country where they have “virtually” (though telecommunications) committed the crimes. This does not necessarily send any statement about “sovereignty,” but about judicial jurisdiction.

Recently, the UK decided to extradite Julian Assange, an Australian national and editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, to Sweden for questioning over allegations of sexual assault. The extradition of the 14 Taiwanese to China does not necessarily mean that the Philippines is denying Taiwan’s jurisdiction over its citizens or have any bearing on Taiwan’s sovereignty, just as the UK by extraditing Assange does not put into question the sovereignty of Australia or its jurisdiction over its citizens.

The problem comes from some statements by -Philippine officials invoking the “one China” policy as a reason for the extradition and the dispute about the Taiwanese suspects being “undocumented.” In this regard, Manila should clarify that those statements do not represent its official position on the matter and state that the extradition does not have any bearing on the topic of sovereignty or on its “one China” policy. Manila should make the matter a merely judicial one. Regarding the “documentation” issue, the Philippine government can order a further investigation and punish any officials found to have committed errors.

Taiwan may loudly protest Manila’s decision on the matter and reassert its sovereignty, but it should not unconditionally demand a formal apology for the extradition, because a country has the right to extradite suspects to a country where they have committed crimes and telecommunication crimes affecting only Chinese can be considered a crime committed in China. Taipei can retaliate against the actions taken by the Philippines, but it should not turn this issue into a mortal combat.

I think that the Philippines’ handling of the case leaves much to be desired and that it has been a diplomatic fiasco. Manila should have also considered that in China, there is the possibility of extremely harsh punishments, which are not considered acceptable in many parts of the world. Some countries refuse extradition on grounds that the person, if extradited, might receive capital punishment or face torture.

In summary, I hope Manila will do its best to clarify that this issue is strictly judicial, without bearing on sovereignty, and that Taipei does not turn this into a fight to the death.



Confusion abounds

Many misleading terms are commonly used when describing Taiwan-China relations. This should be rectified.

It is normal for Chinese on Hainan Island to call the rest of China the mainland or for Hawaiians to call the US’ 48 lower states as the mainland. It is abnormal for Taiwanese to call China the “mainland” unless Taiwan and China are the same country.

The terms “the other party” (對方) and “cross-strait” (兩岸) are ambiguous since there are so many parties and straits or shores in the world. “The other party” in Chinese can also mean that China is “the right party” and imply Taiwan is “the wrong party” (錯方).

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