Ma’s overkill response akin to CCP

By Jerome Keating  / 

Thu, Apr 28, 2011 - Page 8

On April 11 an open letter by 34 academics and writers was sent to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九). It was not the first by this group of experts on Taiwan. The letter questioned the timing and validity of the Presidential Office’s announcement — three years after the fact — that about 36,000 files went missing after the transfer of power from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration in 2008.

The Presidential Office had turned the matter over to the Control Yuan to launch a full investigation into former top officials of the DPP government. Barely was the letter published, when minions of the Ma government responded in exactly the same way that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) responds when any of its abuses of human rights and the right of law are questioned.

So close in wording and method were the responses of the two regimes that they seem to have been taken from the same handbook on authoritarianism. First, of course, there was the questioning of the legitimacy of foreigners commenting on the Republic of China’s (ROC) or the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) internal affairs. Next followed the procedure of questioning the authenticity of the letter and suspicions that a nefarious plot was afoot.

Finally there was disbelief that the government’s care for its people could be questioned, whether it was by dissident Tibetans, Uighurs or Falun Gong practitioners. Or, as in the case of Taiwan, that Ma’s government was above political motivation for its actions.

In the past week and a half, the various Taipei Economic and Cultural Offices (TECO) around the world have been ordered to track down the signers of the letter and question them on the authenticity of their signatures.

Think for a moment, what president of any democratic country has ever done the same when his rule of law might be questioned? What democratic president would immediately respond by ordering his minions to challenge the authenticity of the signatures of a letter?

Yet this is what has happened with the Ma government. TECO officials asked those involved if their signature was real and/or if they had been pressured or deceived in any way into signing the letter. Finally the TECO officers — as if they were police officers with the ability to call each of the signers in — “explained” (shall we say “indoctrinated”) to those involved exactly what the government’s position was. Surely if they knew that the government was pure as the driven snow in its motivation, such scholars and writers would never have signed the letter.

Why would anyone in the DPP, like the falsely accused Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), be so naive and/or stupid as to put forth such an open letter with bogus or made up signatures? Academics who consistently follow Taiwan’s politics would immediately protest such manipulation of their names. Is not such questioning a projection of paranoia and/or guilt on the part of Ma’s government?

Yet this is what happened. The resources and time of the TECO officials and their offices were used in spending Taiwanese tax dollars to try and prove that somehow the Ma government was being misunderstood. The signatories could not help but wonder at such paranoia and feel somewhat embarrassed for the career officials that had to carry out such orders.

Jerome Keating is a writer based in Taipei. He was a co-signatory to the recent open letter.