Regarding the recommendations and opinions expressed in a recent open letter concerning Taiwan’s freedom and democracy, its judicial system and Taiwan-China relations (“An open letter to Taiwan’s president,” Nov. 13, page 8), on behalf of the Republic of China (ROC) government, I have already responded in detail in the pages of this newspaper to similar statements in earlier open letters signed by many of the same people.
Rather than repeat myself, therefore, I would like to direct the attention of the signatories to examples of the international community’s assessments and public opinion on these matters.
Freedom House: Taiwan a model among new Asian democracies.
Following two decades of governmental and judicial reform, Taiwan has created the most flourishing democratic system and freest press environment among Chinese societies in East Asia. According to the Freedom in the World 2009 survey released by Freedom House, we not only continue to rank among the world’s “free” countries but count as a model of success among new Asian democracies.
Further, our ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and our enactment of legislation requiring all domestic laws to conform with these covenants, have won the praise of international human rights groups. Undeniably, the Republic of China has evolved into a genuinely free and democratic nation respected as such in the international community — not one in which, as claimed in the open letter, freedom and democracy have eroded.
Transparency International: Taiwan progressing in honesty of government.
The several cases of suspected corruption on the part of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and officials in his administrative team that have erupted since 2008 have seriously damaged the nation’s international image and destroyed citizens’ trust in and respect for the government.
Since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office in May 2008, his administration has drawn up a new blueprint for cultivating governmental integrity and has energetically promoted reform aimed at enhancing cleanliness of government. According to the Corruption Perceptions Index 2009 released by Transparency International on Nov. 17, 2009, our ranking among the 180 countries surveyed rose to 37th place, illustrating international analysts’ affirmation of our reform efforts.
In the future, enjoying the firm support of our citizenry, this government will join forces with other sectors of society to press forward with anti-corruption reform measures to realize the ideal of clean government and a society founded on trust.
Political and Economic Risk Consultancy: Taiwan’s judicial system fair, independent.
Regarding the handling of court cases involving the former president, under President Ma’s leadership, this government has put great importance on maintaining the fairness and independence of our prosecutorial and judicial systems and has in no way interfered in their operations in pursuit of any political agenda.
On Sept. 11 this year, the Taipei District Court found former president Chen, as well as his wife, son and daughter-in-law, guilty of several crimes, including money laundering and embezzling money from the presidential state affairs fund, for which they were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment. The latter three had confessed to a number of charges. At a Taiwan High Court hearing on Nov. 24, Chen’s wife, son, daughter and son-in-law pled guilty to charges of perjury. And before the same court on the previous day, a former chairperson of the state-controlled Taipei Financial Center Corp admitted having committed perjury and having given the former first lady a bribe of NT$10 million (US$309,000) in exchange for help in securing the “Taipei 101” chairperson position.
According to the latest Asian Intelligence report issued on Nov. 4 by the widely respected Hong Kong firm Political and Economic Risk Consultancy, Ltd (PERC), it is generally believed that in the Chen Shui-bian case, the court proceedings have been transparent, the evidence against him is convincing and the judiciary has operated independently — not as a political tool of the Kuomintang (KMT).
This illustrates the fairness and independence of our judicial system as appraised by international investigative organizations.
Cross-strait detente: Supported by the people, in line with international expectations.
This government’s policies concerning Taiwan-mainland China relations have always upheld the Republic of China’s national sovereignty and have insisted on the principle of putting Taiwan first for the benefit of its people. These stances have not changed, nor will they change. Over the past year, based on the “1992 consensus,” the two sides’ inking of nine agreements related to people’s livelihood has steadily expanded the scope of cooperation across the Taiwan Strait and gradually built up goodwill and mutual trust.
As the representative of a democratic society, in dealing with cross-strait issues, the ROC government will surely take protection of the nation’s sovereignty and promotion of our people’s prosperity as its highest guiding principles. At the same time, it is open to the public’s and the Legislature’s scrutiny. The two sides signed three Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) on Financial Supervisory Cooperation on Nov. 16, and a public opinion poll conducted by TVBS between Oct. 16 and Oct. 18 indicated that 60 percent of respondents believed that such MOUs would enhance the soundness of cross-strait financial interchange, while 53 percent believed that they would have a positive influence on Taiwan’s financial industry. This shows that the signing of the MOUs is supported by the public.
As for the cross-strait economic cooperation framework agreement currently under consideration, this government is quite willing to work for a nationwide consensus on this and other cross-strait policies through channels of dialogue and communication such as the Legislative Yuan and party-to-party discussion.
This government’s efforts to improve cross-strait relations have won the support of the majority of our people and created new vistas for Taiwan’s development. During his recent visit to mainland China, US President Barack Obama also expressed support for improvements in cross-strait relations. In addition, we have seen breakthrough developments with respect to our participation in the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting, our accession to the Government Procurement Agreement of the World Trade Organization and our participation as an observer at the World Health Assembly.
In September of this year, we also declared it imperative that Taiwan participate in activities of the UN International Civil Aviation Organization, and that talks be held under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. As such efforts are intimately related to the welfare of Taiwan’s people, our government will continue to pursue these as well as other initiatives to advance the well-being of our nation and people.
Since his inauguration, President Ma has focused on promoting a “second wave” of democratic reform, in the hope that, within his term of office, we can significantly enhance the quality of our democracy — that we can make strides toward democratic excellence through which human rights are more firmly secured, the spirit of rule of law is more solidly embodied, judicial independence and fairness are more deeply rooted, and civil society flourishes with greater vitality. Such aims are shared throughout our society, and we hope that those who, like the signatories of the open letter, care about Taiwan will lend us their support. Let us work together to ensure that Taiwan always stands on the side of freedom, democracy and peace.
Su Jun-pin is the minister of the Government Information Office.
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