Participants in a forum organized by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday supported the party’s efforts to promote democratization in China, but appeared to be divided on the possible outcome of those efforts and what impact they would have on Taiwan.
“While opinions toward the DPP’s support and assistance of the democratic movement in China varied, everyone agreed that Taiwan should strengthen and deepen its own democracy before trying to make a contribution to Chinese democracy,” Greater Tainan Mayor William Lai (賴清德), convener of the forum, said afterwards.
“We do have high hopes for Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平). Hopefully, he will democratize China and be the country’s Mr Democracy because a democratized China would dramatically reduce differences across the Taiwan Strait,” Lai said.
Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦), spokesperson of the DPP’s China Affairs Committee, said in a press briefing after the closed-door forum — which was attended by about 80 DPP members, academics, advocates and Chinese students — that participants had differing views on whether the DPP should engage with China’s democratic movement.
Some thought that the DPP should get engaged while others said it was better off sitting on the sidelines and acting as cheerleaders, Cheng said.
Participants were also divided on the implications of a democraticed China, with some saying that democracy does not guarantee that Beijing would try to resolve the cross-strait issue peacefully, given the strong nationalistic sentiment that is prevalent in China, he said.
Others said a democracy is less likely to resort to violence and war, he said.
However, most agreed that democratization in China would be an important factor for Taiwan’s security, as is Taiwan’s determination to deepen its democracy, which would always be an example for the Chinese who long for a free and democratic country, Cheng said.
DPP Legislator Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) advocated an “engagement and enlargement” approach, urging the party to engage in bilateral exchanges, be the voice of Taiwanese and increase its collaboration with China’s civil society, Cheng said.
The DPP should pay closer attention to human rights issues in China and to review its policy position toward Chinese students in Taiwan because easing restrictions on scholarships and working permits would be a positive way of expressing goodwill and promoting bilateral dialogues, Cheng quoted Hung Chih-kune (洪智坤), a member of the DPP’s Central Executive Committee, as saying during the forum.