In proposing the “one country, two areas (一國兩區)” formula for cross-strait relations less than three months after his re-election, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has officially politicized relations with China far faster than anyone had anticipated.
From this point on, the government’s vaunted cross-strait trade activity and cultural exchanges should be viewed within the context of a political framework: No longer will it be able to dress negotiations with China up in phrases such as their being of a “purely economic” nature, having “nothing to do with politics.” The question is, what exactly is the nature of this “one country, two areas” political framework? And for this, the government seems to have two completely different sets of answers, depending on who it is talking to.
To the Taiwanese public, the government is insisting that the “one country, two areas” formula is based upon the Republic of China (ROC) Constitution. For the world outside of Taiwan, in former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Wu Poh-hsiung’s (吳伯雄) version voiced in Beijing recently, there was absolutely no mention of the ROC Constitution. Wu’s version of events is that he had conveyed the government’s message exactly as it was given him, “with not a single word added or omitted.” Evidently, the version he gave in Beijing, minus any mention of the ROC Constitution, had been carefully vetted prior to his delivery of it.
The ROC Constitution is the basic law of a democratic republic, concerned not so much with the size of the territory to which it applies as with the core values of democracy and human rights to be applied here. To have a “one country, two areas” framework absent, the Constitution strongly indicates that neither democracy nor human rights have any binding power within cross-strait relations. Does the government imagine that excluding democracy and human rights as requirements would benefit talks on the idea of a single country with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) authorities, who themselves will have no truck with either? If this is really the case, then Ma, who likes to style himself as an honest, trustworthy man, has a responsibility to come clean with Taiwanese about what kind of sacrifices we are to make in taking this big step forward in cross-strait relations, rather than trying to use the ROC Constitution as some kind of smokescreen.
After living through at least two decades of democratization, Taiwanese broadly accept the principles of democracy and human rights as core to the national ethos. The authorities in China restrict freedom of speech, control the press and censor the Internet; they deprive their people of the freedom to form political parties or the right to assembly; they permit the arrest and detention or house arrest of dissidents and deprive detainees of visitation rights or the right to a lawyer as they see fit, in a judicial system in which the courts are subservient to public procurators who are, in turn, subservient to public security; they deprive their citizens of the right to vote and the right to participate in the political process; they restrict freedom of religion and persecute specific religious groups; and they have occupied Tibet and are cracking down on the local populace with the military. Given this, Ma should tell us how he plans to discuss the possibility of being one country with such a regime within a “one country, two areas” framework that omits any mention of democracy and human rights.