After a week of waffling comments, it came as a relief to hear President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) voice stronger support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters during his Double Ten National Day address. However, Ma quickly undercut that support with his tone-deaf, revisionist comments about events in Taiwan and China, and his continuing eagerness to make nice with Beijing.
Ma said that democratic development in China and Hong Kong will be determined by the “wisdom and character” that Beijing’s leadership shows in its “attitude toward reform,” citing former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) comment three decades ago about letting some people get rich first as part of the move toward economic reform. Why not let some Chinese, ie, those in Hong Kong, experience democracy first, Ma said, adding that he hoped Hong Kong, Macau and China will gradually forge ahead toward democracy.
Yet Zhongnanhai has shown little wisdom and character when it comes to democracy, only a paranoia and panic that demonstrate a profound lack of confidence within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) about its ability to confront challengers. Its backtracking on promises made about elections in Hong Kong and the life sentence given to moderate Uighur academic Ilham Tohtic on Sept. 23 were simply the latest proof of Beijing’s intractability.
Ma’s suggestion lacks credibility, not just because of the CCP’s actions, but because he represents the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which had to be dragged, kicking and screaming, toward democracy in Taiwan. His inability as chairman of the KMT to enact democratic reforms within the party also makes it difficult to respect him as a champion of democracy.
The president’s pleas for rational debate at home struck another false note when he said that there was a threat that Taiwan’s democracy could regress, for which he blamed protesters who ignore the “lawful interests of people with different opinions.”
Ma talked about the “pure obstructionism that has made progress impossible,” saying that those who refuse to engage in discussion “are not acting in the spirit of democracy.” He urged “everyone in the opposition” to return to the system of democratic constitutionalism and said that he and all government agencies were “willing to uphold democracy by talking with people from all walks of life in a spirit of complete candor.”
It is irritating to listen to such sanctimoniousness from a man who heads the party that dragged pure obstructionism to new depths during the eight years that the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was in power, blocking almost every legislative measure put forward by then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and the DPP, including suspending the operations of the Control Yuan — one of the five branches of government — by refusing to vote on Chen’s nominees.
The complete lack of candor on the part of Ma and the KMT in their handling of cross-strait negotiations is what has led to the protests that have marked each session of talks held in Taiwan, as well as the demonstrations against every cross-strait pact that has been signed.
Ma said the 21 agreements signed with China have been submitted to the Legislative Yuan — either for public reference or to undergo review — which “means they are subject to legislative supervision.” However, Ma and the KMT have tried to prevent true legislative supervision of the pacts, especially the service trade agreement, which triggered the Sunflower movement protests that led to the occupation of the Legislative Yuan’s main chamber in March and early April.
Ma’s hubristic speech was intended to hail the nation’s achievements and offer advice to Taiwanese and other “descendants of emperors Yan and Huang.” Unfortunately, it did neither.
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