Tue, Oct 25, 2011 - Page 8 News List

Seeing through Ma’s gimmicks

By Chen Mei-chin 陳美津

On Oct. 17, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) discussed the idea of a peace treaty with China within the next decade. He said that Taiwan would consider moving in the direction of such an agreement if it had strong public backing, met the genuine needs of the country and could be carried out under the supervision of the legislature.

In another press conference on Thursday, Ma tried to make the idea of a peace treaty more palatable to the voting public by saying that a referendum on the issue could be considered.

Given the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) strenuous objections to a referendum on issues such as the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA), this is a curious turn of events.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) rejected Ma’s proposal by saying it was “irresponsible and impetuous” and that it would serve only to “put the nation’s future at risk.”

Citing the 17-point peace agreement Tibet signed with China in 1951, she pointed out that despite promises to ensure genuine autonomy, freedom of religion and Tibetan culture, the Chinese occupation of Tibet only brought repression of Tibetan religion and culture, forcing Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama into exile in 1959.

Chinese oppression in Tibet continues to this day. Since March, there have been nine cases of self-immolation by Tibetan monks and a nun at Kirti monastery in western Sichuan Province in China to protest Chinese occupation.

Is Ma ignorant of the lessons from Tibet? Why has he brought up the idea of a peace deal with China now?

While it is not a new idea — it was floated even before Ma came to office in 2008 — Ma has previously been reluctant to discuss it because it could be characterized as holding “political talks” with China (which he said he would not do during his first term in office) and is perceived by many as a first step on a slippery slope toward unification.

Is this another election gimmick in order to win votes?

It is no secret that Ma is in a very tight presidential race against DPP candidate Tsai.

Tsai has been on the offensive and has launched a number of new ideas and initiatives, building up momentum in her recent campaign swing through southern and central parts of the country, leaving Ma and the KMT on the defensive.

Ma could be attempting to regain the initiative by diverting attention from his broken promises on the economy, and focusing on what he sees as his strength: cross-strait relations.

However, for many, in Taiwan and elsewhere, China is not that attractive anymore: They see China’s economic bubble bursting at the seams, they see an aggressive and belligerent China that is raising tension in the South China Sea and not acting like a responsible international stakeholder.

As to what a peace agreement would actually encompass, Ma was conveniently vague.

What does “genuinely meet the needs of the country” mean?

A “peace treaty” sounds nice, but would it be an agreement between two states or would it mean absorption of Taiwan by China and thereby an end to its existence as a free and democratic nation? Would it mean that China would agree to respect freedom and democracy in Taiwan or would we see a replay of Hong Kong, where the authorities in Beijing are gradually strangling freedom and democracy?

The proposal is really an empty shell, devoid of any serious content. Beijing would still insist on its “one China” principle and that would seriously undermine the freedom of Taiwanese to determine their own future free from interference by China.

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