Open letter to US President Obama

Sun, Feb 12, 2012 - Page 8

February 10, 2012

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW

Washington DC, 20500

Dear Mr President:

As the presidents of organizations representing US citizens deeply concerned about the state of democracy in Taiwan, we write to you to express our collective disappointment with recent statements and actions by your administration that we feel represented lapses in the political neutrality of the US government with regard to the recently concluded national elections in Taiwan.

On Jan. 14, 2012, Taiwanese went to the polls in only the fifth presidential election in that country’s history. Despite multiple assurances from the US Department of State that Washington would work with whoever is elected through a fair and open democratic process, the actions of your administration in the weeks and months leading up to the election imparted a decidedly different impression.

In the middle of September last year, only hours after Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson and then-presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) met with US officials in Washington, a senior member of your administration saw fit to publicly pass judgement on her policy platform, anonymously telling the Financial Times: “She left us with distinct doubts about whether she is both willing and able to continue the stability in cross-strait relations the region has enjoyed in recent years.”

Though the Department of State quickly disavowed the statement, this unusual breach of confidence left lingering suspicions that the sentiments expressed by the unnamed source indeed represented the views of the White House.

Then, in a span of three short months, we saw a quick succession of more visits by high-level US officials to Taipei than during any calendar year in recent memory. In September, Assistant Secretary of Commerce Suresh Kumar visited Taiwan. In December, Rajiv Shah, the administrator of the US Agency for International Development, also made an official visit to Taiwan. This was followed closely by the visit, also in December, by US Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman, who became the highest-ranking US official to go to Taiwan in almost a decade.

The atypical pace and high profile of these visits, in the midst of an intensely competitive election campaign in Taiwan, only engendered further doubts about the US’ professed neutrality. Finally, on Dec. 21 last year, less than one month before the Taiwanese elections, the Department of State announced Taiwan’s candidacy for participation in the visa-waiver program.

This series of statements and actions by your administration during a politically sensitive time led virtually all observers, American and Taiwanese alike, to reach the unavoidable conclusion that the US government preferred the re-election of the incumbent administration in Taipei.

As Taiwan-born US citizens who learned to cherish liberty and civil rights after we immigrated, our community has long looked up to the US as a model for democratic self-governance. It therefore pains us to see the country act contrary to its own founding principles by choosing sides in another nation’s democratic elections. It is even more distressing that the apparent rationale behind Washington’s preference seems so neatly aligned with the “instability” discourse that has been central to the rhetoric of fear deployed by the People’s Republic of China to undermine genuine open political competition in Taiwan.

While it will be impossible to know whether these signals of US partiality exerted decisive influence on the electoral outcome, they nevertheless constitute an external distortion of the political playing field in a still-young democracy that frustrated the opportunity of Taiwanese voters to exercise their democratic choice free from outside interference.

In your address at the Department of State on May 19 last year, you said: “There must be no doubt that the US welcomes change that advances self-determination.” We therefore strongly appeal to you to protect the right to self-determination for the 23 million people of Taiwan, and to work toward a Taiwan policy that supports the right of Taiwanese to decide their own political future.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely yours,

Dr Wang Kang-Lu Memorial Foundation

Formosan Association for Human Rights

Formosan Association for Public Affairs

North America Taiwanese Professors’ Association

North America Taiwanese Women’s Association

North America Taiwanese Engineers’ Association

Professor Chen Wen-Chen Memorial Foundation

Taiwan Hakka Association of Public Affairs in N. America

Taiwanese Association of America

World Federation of Taiwanese Associations

World Taiwanese Congress

World United Formosans for Independence — USA