Amid criticism from lawmakers over the government’s rebuttal of concerns over the political turmoil in Taiwan voiced by a group of foreign observers, Minister of Foreign Affairs David Lin (林永樂) yesterday defended the move, saying it was made to “maintain a [positive] public image of the country.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday night sent a rebuttal to the media in response to the statement, which was co-signed by 30 international academics and writers, and published on the op-ed page in the Taipei Times on Monday.
At a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee yesterday where Lin was present, several Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers panned the ministry for its refuting of the international critics.
Getting involved in the case was “way outside the purview of the foreign ministry,” DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said. “Was it an act toadying to [President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九)]?”
The points the foreign observers made were “poignant” suggestions for reform to democracy in Taiwan because that is what they have been constantly concerned about, Tsai said.
“The foreign ministry has missed their points,” he said.
In light of Ma’s “political use” of the Special Investigation Division of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office and his “interference in the judicial system over the past years, as well as his most recent attempt to remove Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) from office over an alleged undue influence case,” the critics said they are deeply concerned about the “backsliding of freedom, democracy, and human rights” under the Ma administration.
“While an erosion of democracy and justice has been ongoing since this administration assumed office in 2008, recent events constitute a fundamental breach of the basic principles of separation of powers and checks and balances in a democracy,” the foreign observers said.
The ministry said it “highly regretted” that the foreign observers made the allegations against the Ma administration based on their “lack of sufficient understanding” about the situation in Taiwan and their “prejudice.”
While the ministry has always held international friends who have long cared for the development of constitutional democracy in Taiwan in high regard, the criticism leveled under the circumstances was both “unnecessary” and “unfair,” the ministry said in the statement.
“As a country under democratic rules, the nation embraces diversity of opinions. [However,] the Ministry of Foreign Affairs hopes that the few international friends can show respect for our country’s democratic process and legal procedures … Just like what they have said in the statement that ‘it is up to the people and political system of Taiwan to resolve the crisis,’” the ministry said.
At this moment in time when the recent cases are being dealt with according to the law in Taiwan, the “dissent” expressed by people who are “something of an outsider” not only affected international perceptions of Taiwan, but also unilaterally negated the achievements the government and people of Taiwan have made in pursuing democracy and human rights, the ministry said.
“It did enhancing democracy and the rule of law in our country no good,” it said.
In response to questions from DPP Legislator Chiu Yi-ying (邱議瑩), Lin said he signed off on the ministry’s statement before it was released to the press.
The ministry issued the rebuttal because the statement sponsored by the foreign observers “has tarnished the image of the country,” Lin said, adding that the ministry did not aim to interpret the controversies surrounding the recent events, but to “maintain a [positive] public image of the country.”