President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has on several occasions pledged to safeguard the sovereignty of the Republic of China (ROC), the security of Taiwan and public dignity.
However, when Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) visited Taiwan recently, Taiwanese were banned from expressing national pride using the national flag, while the Chinese flag was frequently seen fluttering in the air. How can that be acceptable? The national flag is the symbol of a nation’s sovereignty. Other countries can refuse to recognize it, but how can we ourselves abandon it? After all, displaying the national flag to express one’s opinion is an important component of the freedom of expression.
Furthermore, when Taiwanese boats carrying the Chinese flag traveled to the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) last month, the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) even provided an escort of five coast guard vessels to protect them, giving people the impression that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are fighting Japan together again.
Before activists from Hong Kong, Macau and Mainland China landed on the Diaoyutais recently, a CGA vessel provided them with supplies, defending the action by saying it was an emergency aid situation. After the Chinese and ROC flags had been planted on one of the islands, the CGA told Japanese authorities that Hong Kong activists had brought the ROC flag and that the government was unaware of the action and was not involved in the matter. They could just as well admit their complicity.
On the other hand, Taiwan’s deputy minister of foreign affairs told the public that having the ROC flag on the Diaoyutais — an ROC territory that is illegitimately occupied by the Japanese — is consistent with Taiwan’s sovereignty claims. Does this government have any sense of dignity?
Remember former KMT chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄), who visited Beijing on March 22 and talked about Taiwan and China being two areas of the same country — and Ma said that the “one country” mentioned was the ROC? The two were doing different dances to the same tune, one of them for domestic consumption, deceiving the public, the other for international consumption, pleasing others.
Recently, Ma unilaterally proposed an East China Sea peace initiative, which is just another empty slogan. Does he have the prestige and skills for such an endeavor?
Consider, for example, the many negotiations and concessions that were involved when King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, crown prince at the time, proposed the Arab Peace Initiative at the Beirut summit of the Arab League in 2002 as a sign that the Arab world was willing to coexist peacefully with Israel in exchange for Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied territories.
Does Taiwan have the leverage to direct negotiations for an East China Sea peace initiative? Were there any prior consultations? Were Ma’s suggestions agreed on and supported by the other countries concerned? Such wishful action is just another example of an obscurantist slogan for domestic consumption. With Ma’s proposal still ringing in our ears, the Diaoyutais controversy escalates and the government brings more shame upon itself.
Ma has backtracked on several other pledges. In the public realm, this includes his promise to settle the dispute over the KMT’s party assets. These promises will likely never be fulfilled, eventually granting Ma his proper place in history as a national leader full of empty promises.
Chen Rong-jye is a legal scholar.
Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat
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