Referring to the US Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech, the mayor of Corvallis, Oregon, Julie Manning, recently defended constituent David Lin’s (林銘新) rights against the Chinese Consulate General’s demand that Lin’s mural depicting Tibet’s and Taiwan’s struggle against tyranny be removed.
By contrast, when Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) came to Taiwan, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), against his citizens’ wishes, removed all Republic of China flags along the route that Chen would be passing through, surrendering to China’s wishes.
Ma gets paid a president’s wages, while a small-town mayor in Oregon is paid a US$100 monthly stipend. Who is the better leader? Who defends their citizens’ rights?
The mural incident was not the first time that China has tried to interfere with local US civic affairs. In 2006, Xuhui District in Shanghai, China, lobbied heavily to become a sister city of Irvine, California, but stipulated one condition: That Irvine not honor its five-year sister city bond with Taoyuan, Taiwan. After the condition was rejected, Xuhui decided not to pursue a sister city relationship with Irvine.
The Irvine incident drove a wedge between the city’s Democrat-controlled council and the Republican minority who uncovered the Chinese plot. Then-Irvine mayor Beth Krom and the city council were in a difficult position, having to choose between a powerful Chinese city district with large lobbying resources and a long-term sister city in democratic Taiwan. After hours of demonstration by Taiwanese-Americans and four hours of public debate lasting until midnight, the city council voted to maintain and honor the sister city relationship with Taoyuan. Xuhui chose not to sign on as a sister city. A few years later, the Irvine Sister City Foundation was dissolved, effectively abolishing Irvine’s sister city activities.
It is impossible to learn all the details of the Chinese plot, but this much was revealed: When Krom and her staff went to Shanghai to sign the sister city agreement, Krom’s assistant was called to another room, without the mayor’s knowledge, to sign a separate memorandum renouncing Taoyuan’s sister cityhood. When the delegates returned to Irvine, it was too late for the mayor to change course. Although the city council correctly voted to honor Taoyuan’s sister city relationship, the fact that the subsequent mayor of Irvine ended the city’s support of the Sister City Foundation indicates that China, through its local agents, continued to pressure city leaders after the event.
China’s attempts to take over Taiwan are very extensive. Its slogan “There is only one China in the world, and both Tibet and Taiwan belong to China” means: “There is only one tyranny in the world that claims it owns both Tibet and Taiwan.” Given such adversity, can Ma defend the rights of Taiwanese?
Orange County, California