Taipei Times: You have just recently returned from a trip to the US. Could you share with us your observations during your visit?
Peng Ming-min (
Personally, I think the law runs counter to China's interests. The EU has in the past not taken too much interest in Taiwan, which is practically non-existent in its eyes. Despite opposition from the US, the EU has been contemplating the idea of lifting its arms embargo against China.
PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES
But as result of the Anti-Secession Law, the EU now is having second thoughts on the matter.
In addition, the law has also in some ways reminded European countries of the severity of Taiwan-China relations. Therefore, for China to enact this law was counterproductive.
Many overseas Taiwanese who are supporters of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) were disheartened by its poor performance in last year's legislative elections.
With China's introduction of the law, however, their emotions were inflamed by their abhorrence of the Chinese authority's manner and conduct.
Some people said the law gave China a legal basis to attack Taiwan, while some others noted that the law is part of China's move to challenge the US' Taiwan Relations Act (TRA).
My view on China's passage of the law is somewhat different from that of others.
Personally, I think the law is meaningless. Beijing could attack Taiwan at any time without any legal basis.
Some said the law countered the TRA, but I think in essence they are two different matters. The TRA talks about preserving and enhancing the universal values of human rights and democracy in Taiwan, and self-determination is included as part of human rights.
The Anti-Secession Law, however, talks about China's aim of deterring the conduct individuals or groups from seceding from what Beijing considers its territory.
In my view, I think the Anti-Secession Law may possibly be a response to Beijing's domestic problems.
As everyone knows, there are people within China's military who favor the immediate use of force against Taiwan.
I think maybe the law was a result of Beijing wishing to control and restrain radical voices within its military from embarking on hasty campaigns.
The law itself is a double-edged sword. It raises Taiwan's profile in the international community, and reminds the world that Taiwan is under threat.
No one can rebut Taiwan when it talks about democracy and freedom. In terms of this discourse, we are definitely on the forefront of confronting a hegemonic power like China.
TT: What would you suggest Taiwan do in light of what's happening?
Peng: This comes to the point where we say there is a tragedy of being Taiwanese -- there is no unity among the Taiwanese people. We had the mass demonstration in March 26, held against the Anti-Secession Law.
That was a big event which made clear for the international community Taiwan's opposition to the law.
But KMT Vice Chairman Chiang Pin-kun's (
TT: Some people, while urging moves to combat the Anti-Secession Law, argued that the government should take the case to the International Court of Justice. In your view, is such option feasible?
Peng: People who made this suggestion do not have a full understanding of how the International Court of Justice operates. Unlike civil or criminal suits where one party can go ahead and file a case against another party, the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice is limited only to cases where both parties agree to settle their dispute in the court.
Neither the International Court of Justice itself, nor any single state has the right to force another state into agreeing to settling disputes in court.
The option to take the case to the International Court of Justice is therefore not feasible.
Besides, the International Court is the principal judicial organ of the UN, of which we are not a member. China, on the other hand, is one of the five members in the UN Security Council.
TT: The Chen Shui-bian (
Peng: I have had similar thoughts.
The correct way for an administration to conduct itself is to draw up measures according to the interests of the people, and not merely say "yes" all the time to all their needs, regardless of whether their appeals are reasonable or not. Just because a government is democratic does not mean that it needs to accept everyone's appeals. If an appeal is unreasonable, the government should refuse.
Many people therefore like to make a comparison between Chen Shui-bian today and Chen Shui-bian when he was the mayor of Taipei.
Taipei Mayor Chen was then known for his determination in tackling issues -- a character I vividly remembered.
That leads me to wonder why his government attaches so much importance on the "small three-links" and direct charter flights across the Taiwan Strait, and the needs of China-based Taiwanese businesspeople. There are many Taiwanese businesspeople all over the world, yet they are not pressing the government for the need of direct charter flights.
I think there are many internal issues the DPP government needs to address to itself.
TT: Do you have any suggests for the Chen administration?
Peng: We [senior advisors to the president] are not the ones working on the front-line of the government, so we should not nag. One thing though I have suggested several times to the president -- and most recently just the other day, is that doesn't he regularly address the public through the medium of TV addresses. I don't mean speeches laden with slogans and meant to pump up the people, but ones that are of calm and mellow -- something like the "fireside chats" conducted by the former US president Franklin D. Roosevelt during his administration.
For instance, result of Chen's meeting with the People First Party (PFP) Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) early last month drew much criticism from his supporters. I can comprehend why he met with Soong, given that the biggest issue facing the Chen administration is the DPP's lacking of a majority in the Legislative Yuan.
Through public "fireside chats," Chen could offer his opinion to the Taiwanese people more directly and rally supporters behind his proposals, as well as let the people understand why he does the things he does and how his policies help the general public.
In the case of the his meeting with James Soong, the result of which exasperated so many, I think people would be more understanding of him if there was such outlet like the "fireside chat," where he could just sit down and honestly express to the people why he does the things he does.
I understand it is a tough job to be a national leader. When I was recently interviewed by the Japanese press, they noted that many senior presidential advisors resigned their posts in response to Chen's meeting with Soong. They asked me if when I was going to follow suit and resign, I then told them that I would not resign because I know the president is in a difficult situation.
I told the reporters that we need some hardliners -- people who detest the Chinese Communists -- to remain in the government.
The biggest challenge facing Taiwan is preserving is democracy. We often pride ourselves in saying that Taiwan has achieved a democratic system in a short period of time.
But the Taiwan people must be more committed to consolidating the nation's democracy, as well as its determination to protect itself. This is one thing that the US often complains about as well.
For instance, Taiwan's ambivalence on the issue of arms procurement. The general impression lingering in US political circles is that Taiwan does not want to defend itself, and simply expects the US to come to the rescue if it is attacked.
* Date of birth: Aug. 15, 1923.
* Place of birth: Kaohsiung.
* Education: Bachelor of Political Science from National Taiwan University; MA from McGill University's Institute of International Air Law, Canada; PhD in Law from University of Paris, France.
* Career: Senior Advisor to the president; Secretary-General of the Asia-Pacific Democracy Association; Professor of the Political Science Department at National Taiwan University (1957-1964); Presidential candidate for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the 1996 presidential election.
* Publications: Co-authored the ``The Manifesto to Save Taiwan;'' ``A Taste of Freedom;'' ``The Status of Taiwan Under International Law .''
* Notable events: Arrested in 1964 on charges of sedition by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime; escaped confinement in 1970 and was granted political asylum in Sweden. Returned to Taiwan in 1992 after spending 22 years in exile.
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