Wed, Jan 09, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Open letter to democratic Taiwan

We the undersigned scholars, former government and military officials, and other friends of Taiwan who have witnessed and admired Taiwan’s transition to democracy for many decades wish to express to the people of Taiwan our sense of urgency to maintain unity and continuity at this critical moment in Taiwan’s history.

It is obvious that during the past two years, the People’s Republic of China has left no stone unturned in its attempts to squeeze Taiwan’s international space, threaten it with a buildup of military power and make it appear as if Taiwan’s only future lies in integration with an authoritarian China.

This pressure culminated on Wednesday last week with a speech by Chinese President and Chinese Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping (習近平), telling the Taiwanese people that “the Taiwan question” was a Chinese internal affair, that unification under China’s “one country, two systems” principle was the only option for the future and Taiwan independence was a “dead end.”

In her response the same day, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) emphasized that the vast majority of the Taiwanese people strongly rejected “one country, two systems” and that her government had never accepted the so-called “1992 consensus.”

She then reiterated her “Taiwan consensus” based on the “four musts,” elaborated in her New Year’s address the day before. These include that China must accept the reality of the existence of the Republic of China (Taiwan), and respect the commitment of the 23 million people of Taiwan to freedom and democracy.

As international scholars, writers and former officials we believe this is the right response. It is also illustrative of the stable and responsible leadership Tsai has displayed in the face of the mounting threat from communist China.

We applaud the courageous stance of the Taiwanese people in resisting Chinese pressures and protecting their own democratic system.

However, we express our concerns that Beijing’s latest subversive techniques of deception and disinformation could sow division and confusion in Taiwan’s body politic and create the kind of civil unrest that Beijing lists as one of the pretexts for using force against Taiwan — which would nevertheless constitute aggression in violation of the UN Charter.

In our view, Tsai is a most effective and knowledgeable statesperson. With her quiet demeanor and careful balancing she has not only significantly advanced Taiwan’s place in the international community, and elevated Taiwan’s profile on the international radar screen, but also stood firm in defending Taiwan’s hard-won freedom and democracy.

Just as Taiwan has made itself a democratic model for the region, Tsai has earned the respect of other nations for her courageous and composed response to the aggressive bullying of Taiwan’s powerful neighbor. We urge our own governments to make clear to Beijing that Taiwan does not stand alone.

Taiwan is at a crossroads as never before. It is under an existential threat by the People’s Republic of China. While we respect the reality that Taiwan, like all democratic polities, has a range of domestic issues that must be resolved, that democratic process should proceed in a manner that does not detract from the overall national unity in the face of the larger threat to Taiwan’s existence as a free and democratic nation.

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