Chen, Lee warn of conservative forces' return - Taipei Times
Sun, Aug 17, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Chen, Lee warn of conservative forces' return

SAFEGUARD The president and former president said Taiwan must savor its democratic gains and not be forced to live in the shadow of the `one China' principle

By Chang Yun-Ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian and former president Lee Teng-hui shake hands after addressing an international conference discussing Hong Kong's experiences under the ``one country, two systems'' formula that opened in Taipei yesterday.


President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) yesterday said Taiwan would pay a painful price if it allows conservative forces to comeback into power.

"Democracy cannot go backward and reform cannot be undone. If we stop moving forward or are forced to take a step back and revert to authoritarian rule again, we will have a painful price to pay and our vision for democracy will never be realized," Chen said at the opening ceremony of an international conference discussing Hong Kong's experiences under the "one country, two systems" formula since its return to China in 1997.

The conference was held by pro-independence think tank Taiwan Advocates (群策會), of which Lee is chairman.

Addressing the conference alongside Chen, Lee said, "If Taiwan cannot defend its hard-won democratic achievements and allows the resurrection of a conservative power, the country will be forced to live under the shadow of the "one China" principle.

"This is the most important choice Taiwan's people will be face in less than seven months time," Lee said, referring to the presidential election due to be held next March

In his speech, Chen said China's attempts to impose an anti-subversion law on Hong Kong revealed a reversal of democracy and broke Beijing's commitment to allow Hong Kong to remain free from interference for 50 years.

"I would like to use this opportunity to urge the Chinese leadership to respect and protect people's choice and embrace the universal values of democracy, peace and human rights," Chen said.

Lee also said the "one country, two systems" principle in Hong Kong had taken the territory backward both socially, economically and politically.

"Economically, the fantasy of a prosperous Hong Kong is breaking down while, politically, the anti-subversion law has undermined China's commitment to give Hong Kong 50 years of self-autonomy," Lee said.

In contrast to Hong Kong, Lee said Taiwan has been able to undertake a substantial political and economic transformation thanks to the nation "forsaking any unrealistic expectations of China and seeking an identity on the basis of its 23 million people."

However, Lee urged Taiwan not to rest on its laurels because of its democratic and economic achievements and instead strengthen the development of its national identity in the face of and Taiwan's internal pro-China forces as well as China's persistent calls to the "one China" principle, calls which undermine the will of Taiwan's people to be independent.

The two-day international conference, held in the Grand Hotel Taipei, drew more than 600 participants and saw a number of distinguished speakers, including former chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan Nat Bellocchi, Japanese expert on international relations Maneo Nakajima, Hong Kong legislative councilors Emily Lau (劉慧卿) and James To (涂謹申), Mainland Affairs Council Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and prominent academics from Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Bellocchi delivered a speech titled "Hong Kong and Taiwan -- Choice Makes the Difference," asserting that the fundamental political differences between China and Taiwan are so wide that using the "one country, two systems" principle even as a starting point for resolving that difference is simply "impractical."

"The overwhelming difference between the two is in their political history and their political system that makes the `one country, two systems' so improbable for Taiwan. Unlike Hong Kong, Taiwan has a choice and that makes a difference," Bellocchi said.

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