Lee Wan-chien (李宛蒨), a Taiwanese exchange student at Reykjavik University in Iceland, was unhappy when she found “China” listed as her country of origin on her residence permit. After an amount of back and forth, she managed to get a new Icelandic ID, only to find that it listed her as “stateless.”
This is the lot of anyone born in Taiwan. It is also undoubtedly the direct consequence of the four words repeatedly uttered by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) before and after the presidential election: “maintaining the status quo.”
The idea of maintaining the “status quo” is, of course, to be encouraged if the person doing the maintaining is aware of what they are talking about and the repercussions of such a position. It is less deserving of our respect should that person not be aware of the implications.
Maintaining the “status quo” can be positive, but it can also be negative. Regurgitating the phrase for form’s sake is meaningless.
Before one starts talking of “maintaining the status quo,” one should first contemplate the exact nature of that “status quo,” and from there think about whether maintaining it, or indeed changing it, is for the best. Only then should one be talking of what should be done in the situation at hand.
For example, should a nation that places no checks on the media, that allows freedom of expression, that looks to reduce political corruption, that respects human rights and seeks to allocate resources fairly, and yet is not maintaining the “status quo,” turn around?
What of the “status quo” of the state that restricts the media, suppresses the freedom of expression, countenances corruption, tramples on human rights and oversees a huge wealth disparity between rich and poor, all of which favors the political elite?
Let us look first at the “status quo” of Taiwan’s international dealings. The doors of the UN are closed to us. We have 22 diplomatic allies, but the majority of them wield little or no influence, with populations of less than 80 million. If we want to participate in international events, forums and organizations such as the Olympics, APEC and the WHO, we are required to do so not as Taiwan, but as Chinese Taipei.
Even Taiwanese students in Iceland are seen as stateless.
Former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), during his eight years in office, wasted little time cozying up to and pandering to Beijing, and Beijing spent most of that time suppressing, isolating and belittling Taiwan.
Meanwhile, large groups of retired generals from Taiwan have been attending military parades in China, and looking engaged as they listen to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) speeches. They party with the top brass of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and clink their glasses, declaring: “Soon our armed forces will be as one, there will be no ROC military and PLA, there will just be one united Chinese military.”
Finally, there is the string of cases of retired officers getting together with serving officers to spy for China.
What about Taiwan’s domestic situation? Despite undergoing a third change of government, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which opposed the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement when in opposition, still appointed former Council for Economic Planning and Development minister Chen Tain-jy (陳添枝), who supported the pact, to head the National Development Council when it took office.
The same DPP that preached “Taiwan First” while in opposition appointed David Lee (李大維), who has not exactly proven himself to be pro-Taiwan, as minister of foreign affairs.
This is also the same DPP that has always proudly maintained the Taiwanese independence clause in its party charter, but still appointed People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜), who has been quite insistent that both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to “one China” and is opposed to Taiwanese independence, as its special envoy to the recent APEC summit in Lima.
As to the judicial reform that Tsai swore she would pursue if elected — the disbanding of the Special Investigation Division, which operated as something of a modern-day Ming Dynasty dongchang (東廠, secret police) — notwithstanding, the DPP has little to show for itself after six months in power.
Not one of the people responsible for the pernicious politicization of the judiciary in the past have been removed from their positions, and none of the wrongs committed in this process have been righted. Judicial reform seems to have consisted mainly of having the usual suspects in the judiciary swap offices with each other, still at liberty to wreak their own brand of havoc from their new positions.
Is this really the kind of “status quo” that Taiwanese wish to maintain? Or is it something that we should dismantle and reconstruct?
Chang Kuo-tsai was an associate professor at National Hsinchu University of Education before retiring and a former deputy secretary-general of the Taiwan Association of University Professors.
Translated by Paul Cooper
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