The government is increasingly resembling a local Chinese government. Taipei treads lightly around anything that is likely to make Beijing unhappy, keeping itself in check and making sure it does not cross the line drawn in the sand by the Chinese Communist Party.
Chunghwa Telecom (CHT) recently decided not to renew New Tang Dynasty Asia Pacific Television’s (NTDTV) broadcasting contract, saying that there is insufficient bandwidth to carry the channel. NTDTV was founded by members of the religious group Falun Gong, which Beijing has outlawed. The decision to discontinue NTDTV’s contract certainly has more to do with politics than with technical considerations.
The issue has even prompted US Representative Dana Rohrabacher, a founder of the US House of Representatives’ Taiwan Caucus, to publish an open letter to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), in which he wrote: “If Taiwan does not support the struggle for freedom of thought within China, I see no need for America to support Taiwan.”
In Taiwan, people have the freedom to practice whatever religion they choose. Therefore, Falun Gong has the right to operate openly. Anyone who meets members of the group can see that they promote benevolence and tolerance, and that they are peace-loving people.
On the other hand, in China, where the freedom of religious expression does not exist, Falun Gong fell foul of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin (江澤民) when they petitioned the powers that be in Beijing. From that time on, China has branded the group as a cult and its members have been persecuted.
As a result, whenever Chinese officials who have been involved in the persecution of Falun Gong members visit Taiwan, Taiwanese Falun Gong practitioners petition Taipei to investigate, in accordance with the law. Of course, Taipei doesn’t have the guts to do this or the courage to confirm through its actions the claim that the Republic of China (ROC) has sovereignty over all of China.
However, Taipei’s tactics are now going beyond a lapse of courage. The government seems to have actually started working toward curtailing the influence of Falun Gong. It is difficult not to notice the political considerations surrounding the NTDTV case. This certainly isn’t the first time that the government has fawned over Beijing.
When Beijing demonized Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and Uighur human rights activist Rebiya Kadeer, the Ma administration branded them troublemakers and refused them entry into Taiwan. Since Ma has been in office, the government has even toned down its rhetoric regarding the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre. When Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) came to Taiwan, the government implemented heavy security measures, suppressing the rights of the public to protest or even to wave the ROC national flag.
Ma can only pander to what Beijing wants. He does not dare berate it for abusing democracy, freedom or human rights.
Last month Ma was interviewed by the German weekly news magazine Der Spiegel.
During the interview he said: “I also released an official statement at the beginning of October last year when the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Liu Xiaobo [劉曉波], congratulating him and calling on the mainland authorities to restore his freedom. I am one of only nine heads of state in the world to have done this.”