The timing couldn’t be worse — or better, depending on how one looks at it. On June 4, various organizations and exiled Chinese dissidents in Taiwan will mark the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre through exhibitions, vigils and other activities. Because he attended similar activities in previous years, it was understandable for the organizers to invite President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to this year’s events.
The problem is that on June 4 this year, Ma and his delegation will be returning from their visit to Central America. This is convenient timing for Ma, as it will spare him the difficult choice of whether to attend the events and risk upsetting Beijing or not do so and face criticism by advocates in Taiwan. (His decision not to meet Chinese democracy activist Wang Dan [王丹] this week nevertheless speaks volumes.)
Other individuals in the Ma administration won’t have the luxury of such an excuse. Still, some, including the Straits Exchange Foundation(SEF) Deputy Secretary-General Pang Chien-kuo (龐建國), have already said they will not attend. Pang said it would be “inconvenient” for him to do so, given his current position.
Not so long ago, the Ma administration was using a similar argument to shoot down the possibility of a visit by Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama: The timing was “inconvenient” as Taipei and Beijing were developing closer ties.
This is a dangerous trend, because human rights and democracy are always “inconvenient” for Beijing. And what is inconvenient for China is increasingly becoming inconvenient for Taiwan.
With Vice President Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) recovering from lung surgery, it is unlikely he will take part in the activities on June 4. But other top officials in the Ma government, including Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄), Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng (王清峰), Minister of Foreign Affairs Francisco Ou (歐鴻鍊) and MAC Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛), to name a few, have neither health problems nor overly tight schedules. There is no reason, therefore, for them not to attend a memorial to the hundreds of unarmed protesters who were killed by People’s Liberation Army troops 20 years ago, or the millions of Chinese who called for political reform and an end to corruption.
Under former presidents Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), the MAC, other branches of the central government and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) made at least some effort to call on Beijing to improve human rights.
If every other day isn’t “convenient,” the Ma administration should at least make an effort on June 4 by proclaiming that, in spite of its agenda of developing ties with China, Taiwanese will not sacrifice their values. The symbolism of the presence of top officials at some of the events would not go unnoticed, especially because, two decades later, the massacre remains a taboo subject in China.
More than ever, and at a time when it faces accusations of an erosion of democracy at home, the Ma administration must show that, despite its efforts to foster closer ties with Beijing, it remains committed to upholding human rights everywhere.
Lu Xun (魯迅) once wrote: “A true warrior dares to stare the sadness of life in the face and to see the blood that drips there.”
Whether our government officials are “true warriors” will be seen on June 4.
Despite the complicated legacy of colonialism, relations between Taipei and Tokyo continue to blossom in these troubled times. As East Asia continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic and struggles to contain an increasingly aggressive China, our democratic archipelago benefits from a new high in its security relations with Japan. Remarkably, with its generous vaccine diplomacy and the unprecedented explicit mention of the situation surrounding Taiwan in Japan’s annual defense white paper, Tokyo began to embrace a novel, two-track, comprehensive approach for engaging Taiwan. The first track deals with non-traditional security such as public health and vaccine donations. Japan has generously supported
As the incursions by China into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone intensify, the international community’s anxiety has risen over the question of whether the US military would become directly involved in the case of an attack on Taiwan. Washington’s long-held policy of “strategic ambiguity” does little to ease the trepidation. The rationale universally espoused on “strategic ambiguity” is that an announced commitment from Washington to directly defend Taiwan would encourage Taiwanese independence and consequently bring forth a Chinese military attack and a possible nuclear confrontation between two superpowers. However, this line of argument could soon lose steam if the subject is viewed from
Having deceived the world about its nuclear capabilities while preparing for an arms race, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is now using its increasing nuclear forces for virtual nuclear coercion. This new threat will continue until the United States, Japan, and Taiwan can restore the CCP’s sense of fear. This dynamic is a familiar one for Taiwan. As the CCP’s People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) capabilities have grown, its inhibitions about conducting larger and more frequent coercive military demonstrations have shrunk. The PLA now more openly practices for the destruction of Taiwan’s democracy and the murder of its citizens. In the nuclear realm,
In an unprecedented move, a group of democratic nations led by the US, UK and EU in a joint statement on Tuesday accused the Chinese Ministry of State Security of having carried out a major cyberattack earlier this year and stealing data from at least 30,000 organizations worldwide, including governments, universities and firms in key industries. Western officials were reportedly perplexed by the attack’s brazen execution and unparalleled scale. In an article on the attack, BBC security correspondent Gordon Corera wrote: “Western spies are still struggling to understand why Chinese behavior has changed.” The attack raises the fear “that they [China]