The founder of the New Citizens’ Movement (新公民運動), Xu Zhiyong (許志永) — a legal academic based in Beijing who was detained by the authorities in July last year — was sentenced to four years in prison last month, two weeks after his child was born.
Four key members of the movement are still on trial and the movement is facing total defeat at the hands of the Chinese authorities.
Although the group was only calling for a peaceful transformation to constitutional government and the development of civic society, its members were all arrested soon after demanding that top Chinese officials declare their personal assets.
At the same time, democratically elected President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is flirting with Xi Jinping (習近平), president of authoritarian China, while Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) is set to meet with his Chinese counterpart, Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) Minister Zhang Zhijun (張志軍), in China on Tuesday.
Ma’s strong desire to hold a meeting with Xi means he is ready to do anything Beijing asks, and this is worrying many Taiwanese — will Taiwan eventually be locked up in a Chinese-built cage just like Xu?
As Ma attempts to evade legislative oversight of cross-strait affairs, Wang and Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) have repeatedly stressed that the council minister’s China visit will abide by the principles of equality and dignity, but have Ma’s Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Xi’s Chinese Communist Party (CCP) already reached a secret agreement?
According to media reports, the Chinese side has requested that Wang not mention three things during his trip: democracy and human rights; political issues; and the title and president of the Republic of China.
Yet why is he visiting China if he cannot talk about any of these issues?
Is he going there to eat glutinous rice balls as he celebrates the country’s Lantern Festival and realizes the happy reunion of the KMT and the CCP?
If so, he will fall prey to a trap set by the CCP’s united-front work.
Ironically, the CCP’s three taboos for the Wang-Zhang summit are also its Achilles’ heel.
The title and office of president of the Republic of China highlights Taiwan’s sovereignty, while democracy and human rights are universal values that extend beyond sovereignty.
As for political issues, perhaps Beijing is worried that talk on such matters could be extended to sovereignty or human rights, but if Wang only talks about unification, that would certainly be a welcome political issue.
In the face of Chinese pressure, sovereignty and human rights are Taiwan’s best weapons in cross-strait talks.
In Zhang’s new year’s greeting published in the TAO’s Cross-strait Relations (兩岸關係) magazine last month, he first expressed hope that the two sides would further consolidate political mutual trust.
However, in the face of China’s Internet censorship and Xu’s imprisonment, how could Taiwan — if it really is a democracy — come to trust Beijing even more?
If Ma does not show support for Xu now and if Wang does not mention the case in Beijing, they will be betraying democracy and the Chinese people.
Late last month, Democratic Progressive Party Chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said that Taiwan is an independent and sovereign state while on a visit to Europe. He was stating the objective truth and there was nothing wrong with what he said. Despite this, TAO spokesman Ma Xiaoguang (馬曉光) accused Su of going against the historical trend of peaceful development across the Taiwan Strait on the basis of the “one China” policy.
However, it is Ma Xiaoguang’s criticism that goes against reality and history.
After Xu was imprisoned for calling for a non-violent political transformation, who is going to believe in China’s peaceful development?
The CCP claims that it respects Confucianism, but the opening sentence of the Chinese classic Romance of the Three Kingdoms (三國演義) clearly states: “Domains under heaven, after a long period of division, tend to unite; after a long period of union, to divide (話說天下大勢，分久必合，合久必分).”
In other words, both union and division are historical trends. About 100 countries around the world declared independence after World War II, did they go against the historical trend?
Among historical trends, the trend toward democratization is the strongest.
Whether in unity or divided, walking toward democracy is always the right choice and whoever goes against the trend is a dictator who should be condemned by all.
Which trend will Ma and Xi choose to follow?
Paul Lin is a political commentator.
Translated by Eddy Chang