There was a time not so long ago when Taiwan’s government could be counted on to support oppressed minorities and dissidents in China, a time when Taipei would speak in their name and request that their rights be respected.
Doing so came at a cost, as it could sour already poor relations with Beijing, but at least Taipei could stand by its principles and be called a bastion of democracy in the region.
A mere month has elapsed and already that image is being threatened. Fearing that rattling the cage would complicate ongoing cross-strait negotiations, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) avoided referring to the Tiananmen Square Massacre or calling for the release of protesters from that era in his June 4 speech — a sad departure from previous years. The rest of his government has fared no better.
Since then, reports have emerged that a handful of Chinese activists have been arrested for scratching beneath the surface in the quake-hit areas and exposing circumstances that Beijing would prefer stay unknown. Huang Qi (黃琦) was detained for seeking to provide assistance to families who lost children in the catastrophe, writers Huang Xiaomin (黃曉敏) and Zhang Qi (張起) were detained on May 16 for seeking to join relief efforts, while Zeng Hongling (曾宏玲), a retired worker who published several accounts of his visits to quake-hit areas, was detained on June 9 on suspicion of “illegally providing information overseas.”
Then, with the Olympic torch heading for Xinjiang, reports revealed that thousands of Uighur Muslims in the region had been “preventively” rounded up, passports had been seized and a number of people forced into “political education” on “protecting” the Olympics — preparations for the Games that are sure not to appear in any International Olympic Committee manual.
Add to this the continuing limits on foreign reporters in China and daily acts of repression in general, and we see that despite the Games — and despite the Sichuan earthquake — Chinese President Hu Jintao’s (胡錦濤) grip on political freedoms remains as tight as ever. In other words, China hasn’t changed.
But there is a real chance that Taiwan is changing, too, and not for the better.
Its new envoys now fail to speak against injustice. Worse, as Taiwanese negotiators are feted in restaurants and palaces in Beijing, they could become complicit in the crimes that are perpetrated against China’s minorities and dissidents. This would make Taiwan no better than other countries that, for their own reasons, choose to look the other way when Beijing fails to meet the most basic standards of responsible and competent government.
Taiwanese, recognized the world over for achievements in democratization, should not be willing to sacrifice this reputation so that ideologically driven officials can cross the Strait and compromise standards of decency and accountable governance.
To sully Taiwan’s accomplishments over a distant promise of better political relations with Beijing — assuming Beijing would keep any of its promises, which is naive — is an act of shamelessness that will become increasingly difficult to rationalize when the the consequences of selective cross-strait opening become clear to the average voter.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has created a dilemma that could soon cause him to be hoisted with his own petard, bringing his leadership of China to an end. His threatening rhetoric over the unification of Taiwan with China, in which he has said, “we are willing to draw blood if necessary,” has placed Xi in a corner. Xi is portrayed as a strong world leader, yet he has created a scenario for himself that most likely would have an unfavorable outcome. With the 20th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) scheduled to convene this month, Xi cannot
I was privileged to meet with many of Taiwan’s leaders and leading thinkers during a study tour visit in August. One theme I heard several times during that trip was that bad relations between the United States and China benefit Taiwan. At first thought, I empathize with the argument. After all, there is a troubling record of America’s leaders negotiating with Beijing over the heads of Taiwan’s leaders. For example, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt returned Taiwan to China after World War II. President Richard Nixon surprised Taiwan leaders with his 1972 trip to China. President Jimmy Carter unilaterally chose to normalize
Washington’s “one China” policy has not changed and the US does not take a position on Taiwan’s sovereignty issue, a US Department of State spokesperson has said. He said that this has been the principle of US policy toward Taiwan since 1979, and the policy has remained in effect. He also said that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has privately made this clear to Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅). The US’ “one China” policy and China’s “one China” principle recognize China as the “representative of China.” The two diverge on the issue of Taiwan: Beijing asserts sovereignty
I live in Taiwan because, like many foreigners, I fell in love with and chose to align my life with a Taiwanese. In an era where personal freedoms are mandatorily ceded to government decree, I am thankful to the Taiwanese government for the spousal visa, as well as the lack of demeaning bureaucratic hoops and hurdles needed to get a work permit, residency permit and healthcare. However, if I then choose to attempt citizenship, this enlightened attitude spasms to seizure, culminating in what appears to be blatant xenophobia. In contrast to Western countries, the path to citizenship mandates a protracted period