President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has hurt bilateral relations and economic ties with Japan because of his handling of the latest spat over the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台) and he should be held accountable for a “severe dereliction of duty,” Taiwan Solidarity Union caucus whip Hsu Chung-hsin (許忠信) said yesterday.
The president is guilty of a serious dereliction of duty as the head of state for his failure to issue a solemn declaration to the international community that none of the 14 pro-China activists arrested by Japan on Wednesday were Republic of China (ROC) nationals and for conveying a false impression that Taiwan is teaming up with China, Macau and Hong Kong in asserting its sovereignty over the disputed islands, Hsu said.
“This not only brought a negative impact on Taiwan-Japan ties and economic cooperation, but also prompted a nonsensical diplomatic tussle between the two countries,” he said.
Hsu was referring to 14 pro-China activists from Hong Kong, Macau and China who set sail on a China-flagged boat from Hong Kong on Sunday and landed on one of the disputed islands on Wednesday to defend China’s sovereignty of the resource-rich area.
While Taiwanese activists did not join their cross-strait colleagues because they were not able to rent a fishing boat, the government did dispatch Coast Guard Administration vessels to provide food supplies and an escort for the boat for what the government said were “humanitarian reasons.”
Seven of the pro-China activists later jumped off the boat onto one of the islands and placed the national flags of the ROC and the People’s Republic of China on the island.
“While no ROC nationals or Taiwanese fishing boats participated in the landing and none of the activists flying our national flag had ROC nationality, the international media may have a different interpretation of the situation [of ROC and PRC flags flying side-by-side on the disputed islands,]” Hsu said.
Hsu added that since none of the detainees were ROC nationals, the Ma administration’s calls for their immediate release were baseless.
“On what basis did the government demand for those activists be released when it is not even in any position to make such a call?” Hsu asked.
“Besides, Chinese media does not even recognize the existence of the ROC,” Hsu said, refering to the China-based Xiamen Business Newspaper altering the ROC flag in a front-page photograph showing the activists setting foot on the island with flags in their hands.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers agreed with the criticism of Ma’s administration.
DPP Legislator Huang Wei-cher (黃偉哲) said the illusion of collaboration between both sides of the Taiwan Strait and the two Chinese special administrative regions against Japan over the sovereignty disputes was detrimental to the country.
“Although it requires further investigation as to the role played by the Chinese authorities in the activists’ [unilateral] action to plant an ROC flag on the islands, the move did carry a political undertone that [the two sides both belong to] ‘one China,’” Huang said.
Huang said Taiwan’s National Security Bureau and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should respond and firmly reiterate Taiwan’s status as an independent nation.
Lashing out at the Ma administration’s “soft stance” over long-running territorial disputes, DPP Legislator Yeh Yi-jin (葉宜津) said the government’s handling of the matter did not conform to international standard pratices adopted by other nations in similar situations.