Barely a day has gone by in recent weeks without a report from China of police rounding up dissidents or religious figures as part of measures adopted by Beijing to stave off a so-called “Jasmine Revolution.”
For those on the receiving end of the repressive state apparatus, one small country across the Taiwan Strait has served as a beacon of hope — and in some cases as a refuge — for Chinese activists. A few received political asylum in Taiwan following the brutal crackdown in Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.
Among those who made a new home in Taiwan while continuing the fight for freedom in China was Wang Dan (王丹), one of the student leaders of the Chinese democracy movement at Tiananmen Square, a role that landed him several years in prison before he went into exile in the US. Soon after receiving his doctorate at Harvard, Wang moved to Taiwan.
In Taiwan, Wang found not only an audience that was receptive to his views, but also support and a sense of security. It can be said that Wang had found a safe haven that allowed him to continue his advocacy for political freedom in China.
Then Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) stepped into the Presidential Office on May 20, 2008, with a mandate to improve relations with China. One of the many costs of that rapprochement has been Taiwan’s inability to criticize Beijing over human rights abuses, with the Ma administration often remaining silent in the face of terrible acts or reacting belatedly when it realized that silence risked hurting its performance at the polls.
For Wang, the first worrying sign that the environment was changing occurred in May 2009, when a planned meeting between him and Ma ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre was canceled.
Then came news on Friday from the state-owned Central News Agency (CNA) than Wang had “admitted” during a Taiwan High Court hearing to receiving US$400,000 in subsidies from former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). Not only did Wang deny the claim, but there is nothing illegal about dissidents receiving money from friendly governments. Still, the implication was that Wang, by virtue of his contact with Chen, had done something illegal.
As far as can be ascertained, the news came from a single source — CNA, an agency whose journalistic neutrality under the Ma administration has come into question. We have every reason to believe Wang’s denial because if he was lying, he would be committing perjury one day after saying the opposite in court, which is hardly something a renowned dissident would want to add to his resume.
It could be that the CNA report was simply bad journalism, in which case the agency should respond to Wang’s request for an apology and try to determine where things went wrong.
However, in the current environment, and given three years of failings by this administration to clearly affirm its support for human rights in China, it is not infeasible that something more sinister is afoot.
Taiwan’s judiciary, for one, appears to have turned into an instrument for the KMT to discredit its opponents and anyone who had anything to do with the Chen administration, as was highlighted recently with the probe into thousands of “missing” government documents targeting 17 former top Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) officials.
While in the past, allegations of corruption against Chen were used to discredit other DPP members, it now looks like the Chen tar baby can also serve as a means to undermine those whom Beijing regards as its enemies — dissidents like Wang — all ostensibly in a bid to improve relations.
In Taiwan’s hyper-charged news environment, even the hint of suspicion, or guilt by association, can be enough to discredit an individual. Let us hope the truth behind this ugly affair is uncovered before Wang becomes its latest victim.
The US intelligence community’s annual threat assessment for this year certainly cannot be faulted for having a narrow focus or Pollyanna perspective. From a rising China, Russian aggression and Iran’s nuclear ambitions, to climate change, future pandemics and the growing reach of international organized crime, US intelligence analysis is as comprehensive as it is worrying. Inaugurated two decades ago as a gesture of transparency and to inform the public and the US Congress, the annual threat assessment offers the intelligence agencies’ top-line conclusions about the country’s leading national-security threats — although always in ways that do not compromise “sources and methods.”
Let’s begin with the bottom line. The sad truth of the matter is that Beijing has trampled on its solemn pledge to grant Hong Kong a great deal of autonomy for at least fifty years. In so doing, the PRC ignored a promise Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) made to both Great Britain’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the wider world back in the early 1980s. This was at a time when Beijing, under Deng and his successors, appeared to be seeking an equitable accommodation with the West. I remain puzzled by China’s recent policy shift. Was it because Hong Kong was perceived
The recent meeting in New Delhi between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov — the first such high-level interaction since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine — suggests that diplomacy might no longer be a dirty word. The 10 minute meeting on the sidelines of the G20 gathering occurred after US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan reportedly urged Ukraine to show Russia that it is open to negotiating an end to the war. Together, these developments offer a glimmer of hope that a ceasefire is within the realm of the possible. The
French police have confirmed that China’s overseas “police service stations” were behind cyberattacks against a Taiwanese Mandarin Learning Center in the European nation. This is another example of Beijing bullying Taiwanese organizations, as well as a show of contempt for other countries’ sovereignty and for international laws and norms. L’Encrier Chinois, a Chinese-language school that opened in 2005 in Paris, became the second Taiwanese Mandarin Learning Center in France in 2021. The school was targeted by at least three cyberattacks last year, which were reported to French police, who discovered that the attacks originated from China’s overseas police stations. Overseas