The Liberty Times Editorial: Taiwan can learn from Dalai Lama

Fri, Apr 08, 2011 - Page 8

The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) autocratic regime has long nurtured a hope that the Tibetan independence movement will wither away and die when the Tibetan political and spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, dies and leaves the movement without a leader.

However, on March 25, the Tibetan parliament-in-exile accepted the Dalai Lama’s resignation from his political duties. Based on his concern for the long-term interests of the Tibetan people, the Dalai Lama has said repeatedly in recent years that the Tibetan independence movement is mature enough to elect its political leaders.

Tibetan writer Tsering Woeser has said that when the Dalai Lama hands some of his traditional powers to a newly elected prime minister to head the Tibetan government-in-exile, that will be a matter of great significance — both to the institution of the Dalai Lama and to Tibetan tradition.

Indeed, by seeking to democratize the Tibetan independence movement, the Dalai Lama has raised a new challenge to China.

With this transformation, the movement will be able to continue even without the Dalai Lama. A democratic Tibetan government-in-exile will increase pressure on the Chinese government, which has continually persecuted Tibetans, and it will also motivate more Tibetans to support democracy and self rule.

The dynamics of the Tibetan independence movement offer a point of reflection for the people of Taiwan. Chinese writer Yuan Hongbing (袁紅冰) has criticized the Taiwanese government, saying it still has a long way to go in terms of real democracy, since the incumbent government dares not touch on the sensitive issue of political independence.

What makes a real democracy? In a real democracy, people are given opportunities to express their opinions. They elect public representatives and vote in referendums, all according to well-known and transparent democratic processes. It requires a sound system for the rule of law to operate properly, and in the case of Taiwan it is already broadly accepted that the public should have the right to determine its own future.

In the past, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government declared its belief that sovereignty lies with the people, allowing the public to participate as much as possible in the development of Taiwan. At the time, the issue was hotly debated and efforts were also made to seek UN membership.

However, this trend has been largely reversed since the election of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in 2008, hence Yuan’s criticism .

In fact, it is a gross understatement to say that the Ma administration is afraid to address the issue of independence. It is not just afraid to bring up the subject, it has even submitted to China’s will by fabricating the so-called “1992 consensus” and stating that both Taiwan and China belong to “one China.”

In terms of policy, the government spares no effort in its attempts to link Taiwan with China. Although Ma keeps saying that he will not sell anything but Taiwanese fruit, he has been complicit in helping Beijing annex Taiwan.

Compared with the Dalai Lama’s vision and foresight when it comes to the Tibetan independence movement, Ma’s pro-Chinese stance shows his disregard for democracy. Even more absurdly, pressured by China, Ma even refused to let the Dalai Lama visit Taiwan.

Meanwhile, Ma’s “diplomatic truce” has led to a new model in which Taiwan’s participation in international organizations requires approval from Beijing, as if Taiwan were a Chinese vassal state. Is it any wonder that the Philippines thought nothing of deporting suspected Taiwanese criminals to China?

Furthermore, Chinese threats deprived Taiwanese of their right to hold a referendum on the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) before it was signed by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the CCP last year.

Under the Ma administration, it has become clear that the government now requires China’s approval before it will let the Taiwanese public exercise the right to hold a referendum.

Given all the Chinese capital flowing into Taiwan and the flamboyant Chinese philanthropist Chen Guangbiao (陳光標) handing out cash, one has to wonder if such moves are not a covert way of paving the way for the China-leaning KMT to win the upcoming elections?

On the eve of the 2008 presidential election, Ma issued a statement condemning the CCP for conducting a military clampdown in Tibet and demanded that the Chinese government initiate talks with the Dalai Lama.

The Tibetan independence movement continues to grow with the Dalai Lama mapping out a visionary strategy for its future, whereas Ma, now singing the same tune as Beijing, sees the Dalai Lama as a “troublemaker.”

Ma also said that Taiwan’s future should be decided by Taiwanese and that “all 23 million Taiwanese hope to return to the UN and we will continue to work toward that goal.”

All these promises have come to naught, disappointing his supporters.

Sticking to Ma’s goal of eventual reunification, Taiwan is destined to gradually lose its sovereignty and become more and more like a provincial Chinese government, as a result of which Taiwanese democracy will regress to the same low standards we see in China.

It is tragic to see Taiwan’s hard-won democracy being so willfully destroyed by Ma. Democracy is like the air we breathe: We pay it no heed in normal times, but as soon as we don’t have it, we suffocate.

The next presidential election is a crucial moment, one when the people of Taiwan must stand up and defend democracy. If we make the same mistake as in 2008, then Taiwanese democracy will by thoroughly undermined; the White Terror era will return, perhaps followed closely by a period of Red Terror from across the Taiwan Strait.

Once that happens it is only a matter of time before the Chinese military suppression of Tibet will be replayed in Taiwan.