An open letter to Taiwan’s president

Fri, Nov 13, 2009 - Page 8

Dear President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九),

During the past year, we, the undersigned — scholars and writers from the US, Canada, Asia, Europe and Australia — have publicly expressed to your government our concerns about a number of trends and developments in Taiwan. On Nov. 6, 2008, and again on Dec. 2 in letters to Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng (王清峰), we focused on the issues of erosion of justice, significant flaws in the judicial system and judicial abuses against members of the democratic opposition.

On Jan. 21, 2009, and again on May 21, we addressed two open letters to you, Mr. President, expressing concern about the fairness of the judicial system, as well as erosion of press freedom and democratic checks and balances.

We regret to say that the responses received from Government Information Office (GIO) Minister Su Jun-pin (蘇俊賓) did not adequately address the issues raised, nor have we seen any substantive ameliorative steps taken to correct the problems.

Since then, a number of developments have taken place — some positive and some negative — which prompted us to write to you again to express our views on these issues. We wish to reiterate that we raise these points as strong international supporters of Taiwan’s democracy who care deeply about the country and its future as a free and democratic nation.

We also emphasize that we do not take sides in internal political debates, but do have Taiwan’s international image and credibility as an international partner in mind. Because of the hard work and perseverance of the Taiwanese people, Taiwan was able to make the transition to democracy two decades ago.

We applaud this achievement and strongly believe that this basic fact, democracy, is the strongest card Taiwan can play in building and strengthening its relations with other countries around the world and the strongest protection against outside interference in Taiwan’s internal affairs.

We are sure that you would agree with us that Taiwan’s young democracy can only grow and prosper if it is nurtured through good governance, accountability and transparency based on the fundamental principles of freedom, democracy, justice and human rights. This would also adhere to both the letter and spirit of the two UN human rights covenants signed by you and ratified by the Legislative Yuan, and be enhanced by the implementation of these covenants into national law in accordance with the advice of the International Commission of Jurists.

During the past two decades, Taiwan has made major progress in each of these areas. It thus has been a disappointment for us to see an erosion of justice, a weakening of checks and balances in the democratic system and a decline in press freedom in Taiwan.

These trends are reflected in the significantly downward ratings Taiwan received in the annual reports of international organizations such as Freedom House and Reporters without Borders.

They are also reflected in the expressions of concern by international scholars and friends of Taiwan related to the flaws in the judicial proceedings against former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and the apparent lack of neutrality in the continuing “investigations” and indictments of other prominent members of the former DPP government. We thus appeal to you again to ensure that measures are taken to ensure the impartiality and fairness of the judiciary.

Good governance, accountability and transparency based on the fundamental principles of freedom, democracy, justice and human rights are all the more essential now that your government is moving Taiwan on a path of closer economic ties with China. We believe that a decrease of tension across the Taiwan Strait would indeed be welcome, but emphasize that this should not be done at the expense of the hard-won democracy and human rights in Taiwan itself.

Thus, the process of improving relations with your large neighbor across the Taiwan Strait needs to be an open, deliberative and democratic process, in full consultation with both the Legislative Yuan and the democratic opposition, and fully transparent to the general public.

We are thus pleased to hear that officials of your government have stated that any agreement with China would need to have both a domestic consensus, including approval by the Legislative Yuan, and acceptance by the international community.

We trust this process will be open and consultative in ways that respect the democratic traditions begun so promisingly two decades ago. Indeed, we emphasize that a country can only grow and prosper if it has diversified ties — economically and politically — to other countries.

Too close an embrace with one neighbor will expose that country to the risks of volatility in the neighboring country, in particular if that neighbor remains authoritarian and openly disrespectful of Taiwan’s democratic achievements.

Mr. President, we wish to emphasize again that, as international scholars and writers who have followed, supported and applauded Taiwan’s impressive transition to democracy, we feel strongly that Taiwan should be more fully accepted by the international community as a full and equal partner.

This can only be achieved if Taiwan ensures that its democratic achievements are safeguarded, that its sovereignty, human rights and fundamental freedoms are protected, and that the democratic fabric of society is strengthened so the country is ready to meet the challenges ahead.

Respectfully yours,

NAT BELLOCCHI

Former chairman, American Institute in Taiwan

COEN BLAAUW

Formosan Association for Public Affairs, Washington

GORDON CHANG

Author, “The Coming ­Collapse of China”

EDWARD FRIEDMAN

Professor of political ­science and East Asian ­studies, ­University of Wisconsin

PETER CHOW

Professor of economics, City College of New York

STEPHANE CORCUFF

Associate professor of ­political science, China and Taiwan studies,

University of Lyon

MICHAEL DANIELSEN

Chairman, Taiwan Corner, Copenhagen


JUNE TEUFEL DREYER

Professor of political science, University of Miami

JOHN TKACIK

Former senior research fellow at The Heritage ­Foundation and former officer at the Taiwan Coordination Desk, Department of State, Washington

TERRI GILES

Executive director, Formosa Foundation, Los Angeles

MICHAEL RAND HOARE

Emeritus reader at the University of London

CHRISTOPHER HUGHES

Professor of international relations, London School of Economics and Political Science

THOMAS HUGHES

Former chief of staff to the late senator Claiborne Pell, Washington

BRUCE JACOBS

Professor of Asian languages and studies, Monash ­University

RICHARD KAGAN

Professor emeritus of ­history, Hamline University

JEROME KEATING

Associate professor, National Taipei University (retired). David Kilgour

Former member of ­parliament and secretary of state for Asia-Pacific

(2002-2003), Canada

ANDRE LALIBERTE

Associate professor, School of Political Studies,

University of Ottawa

DANIEL LYNCH

Associate professor, School of International Relations,

­University of Southern ­California

LIU SHIH-CHUNG

Visiting fellow, The ­Brookings Institution, Washington

VICTOR MAIR

Professor of Chinese ­language and literature, ­University of Pennsylvania

DONALD RODGERS

Associate professor of political science, Austin College

CHRISTIAN SCHAFFERER

Associate professor, ­Department of International Trade, Overseas Chinese Institute of Technology, chair of Austrian Association

of East Asian Studies

SCOTT SIMON

Associate professor, ­University of Ottawa, Canada

MICHAEL STAINTON

York Center for Asia Research, Toronto

PERRY LINK

Professor emeritus of

East Asian Studies,

Princeton University

PETER TAGUE

Professor of law,

Georgetown University

ARTHUR WALDRON

Lauder professor of ­international relations, ­University of Pennsylvania

VINCENT WEI-CHENG WANG

Professor of political ­science, University of Richmond

GERRIT VAN DER WEES

Editor of “Taiwan ­Communique,” Washington

STEPHEN YATES

President of DC Asia ­Advisory and former deputy assistant to the US vice ­president for national

security affairs.