The challenge for Taiwan in its relations with China will be balancing its increasing economic interaction with China with a better political relationship — yet not at the expense of Taiwan’s identity, former US senator Frank Murkowski said on Saturday.
“Any overdependence on China will put at risk the eventual resolve of the cross-strait relationship,” he said.
“The Taiwanese people must have the right to make their own decisions on the future of Taiwan without interference from China,” Murkowski said.
Speaking at a 30th anniversary banquet in San Jose, California, to celebrate the founding of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA), Murkowski said that Taiwan had leverage on the conscience of world opinion.
The necessity of maintaining a calm Taiwan Strait was critical and vital to the US, Japan, South Korea and others whose resources move through the East and South China Seas, he said.
Murkowski, who is a former governor of Alaska and senator, said the US should adopt a “one Taiwan” policy stipulating that Taiwanese have a right to make their own decision about the future of their island, without outside interference from Beijing.
“We should have a policy that welcomes Taiwan as a full member of all international organizations,” he said.
Murkowski devoted much of his keynote speech to pleading the case of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), now serving a long prison sentence for corruption.
“Irrespective of any alleged misdeeds, he does not deserve the inhumane treatment he has received at the hands of the current government,” he said.
“The prison conditions are unconscionable and reminiscent of the Soviet Union more than 45 years ago,” Murkowski said.
“I strongly urge the [President] Ma [Ying-jeou (馬英九)] administration to grant him medical parole so he can receive adequate long-term treatment,” Murkowski added.
“The published picture showing Chen’s cell have captured the tragedy in its entirety, which is not limited to his family, but representative of the suffering of Taiwan as a nation,” he said.
Murkowski said that in January he headed an election observation mission to observe the presidential and legislative elections in Taiwan.
The mission found that the elections were mostly free, but partly unfair.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) benefited from “still prevalent vote buying” and from party assets that gave it a significant financial edge, he said,
In addition, vested interests such as the military, educational institutions and the media supported the KMT openly and there was “an increasing effort by the PRC [People’s Republic of China] to influence the outcome of the elections, which cast a shadow over the proceedings,” he said.
“It is difficult to find the right balance for a smoother political relationship with China when one considers that Chen’s administration was accused of being too inflammatory toward China, and Ma’s administration as being too conciliatory,” Murkowski said.
He urged FAPA to let Washington know that it was concerned about freedom, democracy and unfairness in Taiwan’s judicial system.
“Let Washington know that you are proud to be Taiwanese-Americans who still care for their homeland,” he said.