After US-based Freedom House published a report earlier this month that questioned the impact closer ties with China was having on Taiwan’s sovereignty, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lo Shu-lei (羅淑蕾) described the conclusions as “unfair.”
Addressing concerns over freedom of speech in Taiwan, Government Information Office Minister Johnny Chiang (江啟臣) said the government would assess the findings and make improvements to ensure a better ranking in next year’s Freedom House report.
Despite this olive branch, it took just two weeks for President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration to provide more ammunition for those who, like this newspaper, are deeply troubled by the increasing number of signs that rights and freedoms have been undermined since Ma took office.
In the most recent instance, the rationale behind the administration’s behavior was once again fear of aggravating Beijing, following recently improved relations.
In its latest salvo against freedom of expression, the Ma government effectively denied World Uyghur Congress vice president Omer Kanat permission to attend a screening of The 10 Conditions of Love, a documentary about his boss, Rebiya Kadeer.
Rather than deny him a visa outright — as it did with Kadeer by “blacklisting” her for three years — the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, likely acting on instructions from above, used the nation’s representative office in Washington to stall Kanat’s application until his day of departure came and went.
Little by little, individuals who are seen as a threat to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), from Kadeer to the Dalai Lama, are less welcomed by the Ma administration and certain pro-Beijing elements in the KMT — not to mention media conglomerates that are increasingly subservient to Beijing.
Not only do bans, direct or otherwise, as in Kanat’s case, signal that Taipei sides with Beijing on matters of ethnic identity, state repression and human rights, it also denies Taiwanese the right to learn from individuals whose history of dealing with the Chinese authorities could benefit everyone, as Ma pushes us ever closer to China — economically, culturally and politically.
While peaceful opponents of a repressive regime waste their time applying for visas that never materialize, the Ma government welcomes with open arms CCP officials who for decades have threatened this nation with war and blocked it on the international stage.
What is it that the Ma administration fears will happen if it allows enemies of the CCP to come to Taiwan? If it is indeed Beijing’s reaction, this would confirm that closer ties, as some have warned, invariably lead to Chinese leverage and opportunities for blackmail. Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順), the KMT candidate for the Nov. 27 Kaohsiung mayoral election, who accused Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) of “ruining” the economy by inviting the Dalai Lama last year and allowing the screening of The 10 Conditions, certainly thinks along those lines.
Or is it, perhaps, the message that those individuals bring with them, salutary warnings about the dangers and consequences of dealing with an unyielding nationalistic party-state that brooks no opposition?
The Ma administration keeps saying that Taiwan and China should “put their differences aside,” and focus on common interests. It is becoming increasingly clear that two of the things they have in common is a disregard for human rights and freedom of speech.
Should this “Beijing consensus” ever gain traction in Taiwan, we could find ourselves heading down a very dark road indeed.
It is a plot that could have come straight from the pages of a John le Carre novel. The head of a nation’s secret intelligence service is caught in a honeytrap: captured on camera with a mysterious younger woman at Bangkok International Airport and covertly followed to their hotel. A secret liaison in an exotic location, used to blackmail the spymaster of an adversary, who misappropriated public funds to pay for the clandestine affaire d’amour. This is what the Chinese Ministry of State Security wants people to believe after it used a Thai-language “cutout” Twitter account to release a “leaked” photograph
In a China-US war over Taiwan, paradoxically the greatest loss of life could be inflicted on the Muslim Uighurs. Uighurs constitute 45 percent of the Xinjiang population of 25 million people, with over 1 million incarcerated in internment camps in accordance with a policy initiated under Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平). Another half-million children have been placed in state-run boarding schools. Forced sterilization has led to a 24 to 60 percent drop in the birthrate, leading officials from many countries to describe the mass detention as genocide. Estimated annual death rates in the camps of between 5 and 10 percent could
Starting from November, and in line with recent amendments to the Compulsory Automobile Liability Insurance Act (強制汽車責任保險法), electric bicycles (e-bikes) and other small electric two-wheeled vehicles must be licensed with mounted license plates before they can be ridden on the road. This change should resolve some existing problems, such as the difficulty that e-bike owners have faced in receiving help to find their bikes if they are stolen, and the difficulty that road users have in holding anyone accountable when an accident occurs. It would also allow the more than 600,000 e-bikes that are currently being ridden on Taiwan’s roads to
Taiwan is a fully functional democracy with a constitution and democratically elected leaders. Over the past seven decades its political system has matured and it is completely different from communist China. It is consistently ranked as one of the freest countries by the Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders freedom indices, as well as the Heritage Index of Economic Freedom. Taiwan’s economic and political growth has been remarkable. It is one of Asia’s major economies and a leader in the global semiconductor industry. Only 13 UN members recognize Taiwan and about 59 countries, including India, have established unofficial diplomatic relations