Human rights in cross-strait ties

By Hong Chi-chang 洪奇昌  / 

Wed, Jul 01, 2009 - Page 8

Last Dec. 10 was the 60th anniversary of the UN General Assembly’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It also marked the day that Charter 08 was co-signed and released in China by Chinese dissident and Tiananmen pro-democracy movement veteran Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波) and more than 300 lawyers, authors, academics and artists.

The signatories also established a Web site that provided people around the world with a chance to sign the document online.

The Chinese government’s power is based in direct social control and oppression.

From the suppression of the Tibetan independence and the Falun Gong (法輪功) movements to the recent announcement that all personal computers sold in China must have the Green Dam Youth Escort software installed, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rule is based on this thinking.

This is why the online co-signing of Charter 08 was disrupted from the start and why it was eventually brought to a sudden end.

Charter 08 calls for a modern political framework that includes adopting democracy, a federated republic and constitutional government, along with recognition of the universal values of freedom, equality and human rights.

In Taiwan, the dangwai movement two decades ago and its demands for democratization and the end of martial law have rendered these concepts natural and unsurprising.

However, a few days ago, the Chinese government arrested Liu “in accordance with the law” on the grounds that he had incited the overthrow of the government.

Coincidentally, on almost the same day, Wang Yi (王毅), the director of China’s Taiwan Affairs Office, was visiting the US and openly and rudely stated in a meeting with US think tank members that Taiwan was an internal matter for China.

A week earlier, on June 19, Wang told a Taiwanese reporter that cross-strait relations had started with simpler issues but would move on to more complex matters, which suggested that political issues will come up in future cross-strait talks.

During an interview with Singaporean media early last month, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) also said that if he were reelected in 2012, he would “not rule out cross-strait talks touching on political issues” in those cases “where there is an urgent need for talks.”

It is frightening to compare what Chinese officials have said about the situation in the Taiwan Strait and the Chinese government’s suppression of Charter 08 with what Taiwan’s government has said and done on cross-strait issues following talks with the CCP.

Cross-strait talks can and should be held. However, a consensus between the ruling and opposition parties and public opinion cannot be downplayed.

Now that Wang is claiming that Taiwan is China’s internal concern, Ma’s preference for realism and “mutual non-denial” at the second meeting between Chinese and Taiwanese representatives in November last year has become wishful thinking

Prior to the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre last month, US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi met 10 activists from the Chinese democracy movement because of her concern for human rights.

In recent years, human rights groups and influential individuals from around the world have urged China to pay more attention to human rights and release political dissidents.

The Chinese authorities, however, are exploiting the nation’s growing economic power to have others ignore these issues.

Taiwan has a Constitution that guarantees human rights, freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

We also have many culturally creative people, and people with brave and daring ideas. In engaging China, we should be confident and proud of these things, and the government should draw a line it is not willing to go beyond.

The Chinese who drafted and co-signed Charter 08 include non-governmental elites and prominent spiritual leaders who represent a rational and passionate voice for freedom, democracy and human rights and the hope that the government of China, not just its infrastructure, can modernize.

Hsu Szu-chien (徐斯儉), an assistant research fellow at the Preparatory Office of the Institute of Political Science at Academia Sinica, recently said that if the ideals of the pan-green camp can one day be embraced by the more advanced and forward-looking members of Chinese society, the pan-green camp would then be able to directly influence every aspect of cross-strait relations.

Everything must be taken step by step. I do not just hope that the 23 million Taiwanese will continue to progress, but also that one day the 1.3 billion Chinese will be able to enjoy democracy, freedom and human rights.

Hong Chi-chang is a former chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation and a former DPP legislator.