Editorial: Fools rush in on cross-strait links

Tue, May 16, 2006 - Page 8

Today will see another review of the pan-blue camp's proposed amendments to the Statute Governing the Relations Between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (兩岸人民關係條例) on the legislative floor, after Friday's bid ended up being blocked by the pan-greens.

The proposed amendments will see all restrictions on cross-strait transport lifted just three months after the amendments become law. Both academics and government officials have warned that such an action is risky as three months is nowhere near enough time to solve all the technical issues involved in establishing direct links, not to mention dealing with the increased threat to national security the simplified regulations present.

But in its haste to please its benefactors in Beijing, the pan-blue camp, under the pretext that the relaxations will be good for the economy, is determined to hastily push through the amendments.

The pan-blues' rationale for taking the initiative and forcing through the bill is that the Democratic Progressive Party government, with its "anti-China bias," is purposely dragging its feet when it comes to negotiating the issue with the Chinese government. In reality it is the Chinese government's refusal to deal directly with any government-level institution, or anything that gives Taiwan a semblance of sovereignty, that is causing the delay. The government is rightfully unwilling to downgrade Taiwan's sovereign status. But still, the pan-blues are willing to play along with Beijing's demands, and laughably deny that the issue has anything to do with sovereignty.

This is the same pan-blue camp that constantly urges the president to uphold the institutions of the Republic of China while at home and abroad, but the very next minute attempts to downgrade it to the status of a local Chinese government in compliance with Beijing's humiliating demands.

The pan-blue camp would do well to step back and consider two important issues. If it decides to bypass the government on this issue, the pan-blue camp will set a dangerous precedent that will affect it if it is returned to power. Usurping the power of a democratically elected government will damage government institutions, such as the Mainland Affairs Council, beyond repair and goes against the spirit of the Constitution.

Another important consideration for the pan-blues is the reaction of the Taiwanese public, because whether they like it or not, Taiwan is a democracy. The Taiwanese are a pragmatic bunch, and they are probably willing to trade some of the trappings of sovereignty for lasting security and prosperity, but they will also defend their democracy to the last, and fight against anything that threatens it.

And as the People First Party discovered with its "cross-strait peace advancement" bill, which was quietly sidelined before last December's local government elections when it became clear how unpopular it was, not everything that Beijing would like to impose upon Taiwan in the name of prosperity goes down well with the Taiwanese public.

The government is in a no-win situation on this issue: It is vilified by the pan-blues if it refuses to speed up the process, but if it goes ahead with relaxing the regulations and national security is compromised then it will receive equal amounts of scorn from the public.

One solution would be for the government and the pan-blues to negotiate an agreement that satisfies the immediate needs of Taiwanese businesspeople for direct flights and sea links, yet at the same time safeguards the nation's sovereignty and national security; a compromise that unfortunately, in the current political climate, seems unlikely.