Tamding Tso, a 23-year-old woman, self-immolated and died in Amdo region, eastern Tibet, on Wednesday, raising the number of Tibetans who have set themselves ablaze in protest against the repressive Chinese regime since February 2009 to almost 70.
Maybe people read these kinds of stories too often to think that they are significant, or maybe they do not read them at all. Either way, Taiwanese, and in particular the administration of Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), have not been paying enough attention.
Worse still, the government appears to have intentionally ignored the whole issue of human rights, which has attracted worldwide concern and condemnation of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regime.
Ma loves to boast about his emphasis on human rights and his achievement of making Taiwan a beacon of democracy in East Asia and the Chinese world. The president has also reiterated that Taiwanese democracy could be a good example for the Chinese to follow.
Which makes one wonder why his administration stays silent on the developments in Tibet, where Tibetans still hope for the religious freedom, preservation of their culture and self autonomy that Beijing promised them in a 1951 peace treaty, but did not deliver.
Perhaps this is not so surprising after seeing the administration stop criticizing human rights developments in China, sidestep issues related to Chinese dissidents and remove information regarding Beijing’s suppression of Taiwan’s participation in international affairs from the Web site of the Mainland Affairs Council.
These efforts were made in the name of promoting cross-strait harmony and defusing tension, and were seen as olive branches extended to Beijing so that differences of opinion could be shelved and 18 agreements could be signed in four years.
Not forgetting the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission — strange as it may seem as Mongolia has been independent since 1921 — which sits under the Executive Yuan. The agency has not commented on the current situation in Tibet, which the Republic of China still considers as part of its territory.
The other party in the pan-blue camp, the People First Party, has also ignored the Tibetan issue.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) claims to uphold universal values of democracy and human rights and has been a constant critic of China over human rights. It began its push for more cross-strait dialogue after losing January’s presidential election, saying that it would be “the last mile” the party needs to cover to assure voters that it is capable of handling cross-strait affairs. Former premier Frank Hsieh’s (謝長廷) recent high-profile visit to China became the DPP’s first step toward building such a relationship. The trip earned mixed reviews as Hsieh failed to say anything that might offend Beijing.
That may be understandable from the first DPP politician to “break the ice,” and who is trying to reduce hostility between the two sides. However, if the DPP is able to “normalize the bilateral engagement”, the party, which has regularly lambasted the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) for its “kowtowing to China,” will also be put under the same microscope regarding its interactions with China.
Most would not oppose the DPP’s efforts to promote bilateral understanding and communication. An improved relationship between the party and Beijing could help stabilize cross-strait relations, especially as the CCP appears to sense that placing all its bets on the KMT is risky, making understanding the DPP vital.
However, if the DPP is serious about understanding “every aspect of China” as DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) has said, it should pay attention to the suffering that exists there as well as to China’s prosperity.
Promoting bilateral engagement is commendable, but the true barometer for assessing normalized cross-strait engagement is whether the ruling and opposition parties in Taiwan consistently voice their concerns over human rights and democratic progress in China.