Fri, Jul 08, 2011 - Page 8 News List

New government, new neutrality

By Lo Chih-cheng 羅致政

With less than seven months to go until January’s presidential election, the government and opposition campaign teams are taking shape, but the civil service should not allow itself to get involved in electoral affairs and civil servants should uphold the values of neutrality and professionalism.

However, this is not what is happening. Managers at government agencies, hungry for power and prestige, are making their political preferences known. The result is that Taiwan’s democratization process is being severely compromised.

The absurd measures that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has taken in connection to several recent diplomatic issues is enough to make one shake one’s head in disbelief: The lack of professionalism is something one cannot help but marvel over.

It is quite apparent that the individuals involved are solely concerned with the effects of their actions on the domestic political situation.

Liberal International president Hans van Baalen’s admission that he supported Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has been handled by the officials at the foreign ministry as if it were a major diplomatic crisis.

Top officials are falling over one other to deal with the situation, and the public has even heard such strongly worded statements as: “Foreigners should not interfere in the politics of other countries. Any kind of interference is a serious violation of international practice.”

However, when Japanese writer Kenichi Ohmae visited Taiwan last month, he heaped praise on President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).

Among the things he said was: “I would really like to import Ma to Japan and have him replace the Japanese prime minister.”

So, why did we not hear the foreign ministry complain when Ohmae “interfere[d] in the politics of other countries”?

The foreign ministry seems to be excellent at flattering Ma, while it does not seem to be very good at handling foreign affairs. However, it does appear to be extremely conscientious when it comes to electioneering.

Even worse, foreign ministry officials, who should be representing Taiwan and focusing on external matters, maintain silence in the face of China’s diplomatic suppression of Taiwan.

However, when dealing with criticism from citizens of the Republic of China and even opposition politicians, officials often resort to raising their voices.

When opposition legislators tried to warn the government that its self-satisfied attitude about the countries that now offer Taiwanese visa-exempt entry might lead Taiwan to fall into the same trap as Hong Kong or Macau, the foreign minister chose not to review his policies. Instead he implied that certain people seemed to be obsessed with the sovereignty issue, demonstrating a kind of “masochistic bent” on the subject.

Had he looked into the matter, he would have noticed that Canada has transferred its visa services from Taiwan to its visa office in Hong Kong and Croatia and Slovenia allow Taiwanese visa-exempt entry, but list Taiwan as a part of China.

Surely these are exactly the kind of issues to which the foreign ministry should be paying attention?

China’s pressure on Taiwan in the international arena has never relented. The biggest difference between the situation at the moment and the situation in the past is that the Ma administration actually allows itself to be pushed around by a bunch of bullies.

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