As a former governor of Alaska (2002 to 2006) and also having served for 22 years in the US Senate, I have a strong interest in US relations with East Asia. Within that context, Taiwan is a place close to my heart, because I personally got to know the two men who pushed Taiwan in the direction of democracy, former presidents Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
Since that time, Taiwan has gone through some more cycles of change of government, which is an inherent part of a democratic system.
Indeed, in January, I headed the observer mission of the International Committee for Fair Elections in Taiwan (ICFET), an international group of 19 academics from eight countries.
Our report on our findings is scheduled to come out in the next few weeks and I can already say that our conclusion is that the elections were mostly free, but only partly fair. You can read more details when the report comes out.
However, my comments here are not about the elections, but about the overall direction of the country.
It is undoubtedly clear that Taiwan lives in the shadow of an aggressive neighbor, but it should not allow that to determine its future as a free and democratic nation.
Taiwanese have worked long and hard for their democracy, and they need to continue to work hard to preserve and nurture their freedom and liberty. This work needs to be done internally, when they assess the functioning of the system of checks and balances — the legislature needs to be a stronghold of democracy where people with vision look after the longer-term interests of their constituents.
Freedom and liberty also need to be nurtured in the judicial system.
Many observers say that the judiciary is still strongly influenced by the politics of the ruling party and that there is a strong need for judicial reform. The legal community needs to champion the democratic process in Taiwan.
This brings me to a very specific issue of injustice — the way Chen is being treated. I am not discussing whether he was or was not guilty — although a number of international observers, such as Jerome Cohen, question whether he received a fair trial.
I am specifically focusing on his need for adequate medical treatment and the conditions under which he is being detained.
Most recently, on May 23, Chen was allowed to go to Cheng Kung Memorial Hospital for only six hours. Doctors said that they would need much more time to treat him adequately and that the six-hour time span had been a “political condition” imposed by the authorities.
The right thing to do would be for the authorities to release him on medical parole.
The second aspect is the conditions under which he is being detained — a small cell, with no bed, chair or desk.
If he wants to write, he has to lie down on the floor. Such treatment is unconscionable and reminiscent of the Soviet Union more than 45 years ago, not Taiwan in 2012.
The least that needs to be done is to give him an adequate cell, with a chair, desk and regular bed. Like other prisoners, he should be allowed to work outside his cell in the daytime, engaging in some physical activity. Finally, he should have full access to his lawyer and comprehensive medical care.
Dealing with controversial issues like this is not easy, but a fair and humanitarian resolution is essential if Taiwan wants to be considered a full democracy, worthy of international respect.
Frank Murkowski is a former governor of Alaska and a US senator.
Late last month, Beijing introduced changes to school curricula in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, requiring certain subjects to be taught in Mandarin rather than Mongolian. What is Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) seeking to gain from sending this message of pernicious intent? It is possible that he is attempting cultural genocide in Inner Mongolia, but does Xi also have the same plan for the democratic, independent nation of Mongolia? The controversy emerged with the announcement by the Inner Mongolia Education Bureau on Aug. 26 that first-grade elementary-school and junior-high students would in certain subjects start learning with Chinese-language textbooks, as
There are worrying signs that China is on the brink of a major food shortage, which might trigger a strategic contest over food security and push Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), already under intense pressure, toward drastic measures, potentially spelling trouble for Taiwan and the rest of the world. China has encountered a perfect storm of disasters this year. On top of disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic, torrential rains have caused catastrophic flooding in the Yangtze River basin, China’s largest agricultural region. Floodwaters are estimated to have already destroyed the crops on 6 million hectares of farmland. The situation has been
In 1955, US general Benjamin Davis Jr, then-commander of the US’ 13th Air Force, drew a maritime demarcation line in the middle of the Taiwan Strait, known as the median line. Under pressure from the US, Taiwan and China entered into a tacit agreement not to cross the line. On July 9, 1999, then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) described cross-strait relations as a “special state-to-state” relationship. In response, Beijing dispatched People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft into the Taiwan Strait, crossing the median line for the first time since 1955. The PLA has begun to regularly traverse the line. On Sept. 18 and 19, it
On Sept. 8, at the high-profile Ketagalan security forum, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) urged countries to deal with the China challenge. She said: “It is time for like-minded countries, and democratic friends in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond, to discuss a framework to generate sustained and concerted efforts to maintain a strategic order that deters unilateral aggressive actions.” The “Taiwan model” to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic provides an alternative to China’s authoritarian way of handling it. Taiwan’s response to the health crisis has made it evident that countries across the world have much to learn from Taiwan’s best practices and if