Yeh Ching-chuan, Minister of the Department of Health (DOH) under the Executive Yuan, visited Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng this morning and confirmed that he had received a formal invitation from Margaret Chan, Director-General of World Health Organization, to lead a delegation, under the designation of Chinese Taipei, to participate as an observer in the 62nd World Health Assembly, scheduled to be held on May 18.We can expect a flood of articles with the phrase "further sign of warming ties" etc as well as fawning pieces from Ma/KMT supporters in the western policy community. There is nothing really important about Taiwan being able to observe an assembly, and this development has been in the cards for months. We'll come back to this...
Minister Yeh ....pointed out four significant implications of this invitation. They are:
1. A breakthrough of the formulation that was used in the 2005 MOU model, namely, “Taiwan, China.”
2. The WHO Secretariat contacted the DOH directly.
3. The designation of “Chinese Taipei” is used.
4. The level of representation is elevated to that of minister.
Two other developments are of interest this week. First, Taiwan News came out with one of its best editorials ever, on the odious new draft Assembly and Parade Law:
The Cabinet's draft bill will drop the current requirement for the application of a parade permit, but will substitute a compulsory and highly restrictive advance notification system and is full of other features that will threaten to curtail the actual possibilities of citizens or civic organizations to exercise their right of assembly and protest.The DPP's last weapon against the annexation of the island and the evisceration of its economic and social strength is the street demonstration. The new law would be a great weapon against it. The really great thing is the in-your-face timing that is classic: the new law comes after the Wild Strawberry protests against the original law, which as it turns out was less restrictive, and it comes after Ma made the legislature pass the human rights covenants discussed above. This is the same mentality at work that appoints two new bishops for the PRC state Catholic Church in the midst of negotiations with the Vatican, or places a nuclear waste dump on a pristine tropical island while telling the locals they were getting a fish cannery.
Among the more unreasonable statutes include the imposition of an excessive 300 meter buffer zone between protestors and "restricted sites" such as the Office of the President, the Executive Yuan and all embassies or foreign representative offices.
Moreover, Article 9 may impose a prohibitive social cost on march organizers by requiring agreement in writing from "private locations" along a proposed route march must be submitted with the five-day advance march notification.
In addition, Article 10 requires that the "responsible person" reporting a planned rally cannot be less than 20 years of age, must have ROC citizenship, cannot have had previous convictions or be under probation or a police record or under guidance or counseling for juvenile offense or under guardianship.
Under this restriction, foreign workers would be effectively banned from protesting mistreatment or discrimination by employers, ex-convicts would be prohibited from holding a rally to call for changes in unfair rulings and persons under "guardianship" for physical or mental handicaps would be unable to protest the failure of public facilities or government policies to address their problems.
But these problems pale in light of Article 11, which grants the "responsible" law enforcement authorities the power at will to ban, restrict or change the course, location or time of any "reported" assembly or protest if police deem that the event will "immediately affect national security, social order or the public interest" or will immediately threaten lives, health or liberty or cause damage to property or if there is an overlap between different parades.
While an immediate threat to lives and health would justify police action, the vague language of "harm to national security, social order or the public interest" gives immense scope for abuse if law enforcement agencies or their political masters determine that a protest "violates national security or the public interest" as determined by the ruling party.
Moreover, the new "liberalized" draft bill contains a powerful weapon to stifle small or large protests in Article 26, which would allow the government to impose cumulative fines between NT$30,000-NT$150,000 on the "responsible persons" for marches which the police decide to ban if participants do not comply and to increase the fine repeatedly until the orders are obeyed.
The provision of accumulating massive fines if a rally does not obey the commands of police to disperse will undoubtedly intimidate many small groups from holding any assemblies at all and threatens to bankrupt any organization which dares to launch a major protest action.
It should be obvious that this new clause is directly aimed at the DPP, the Taiwan Solidarity Union and other "Taiwan-centric" organizations which could challenge the KMT government's tilt toward the authoritarian People's Republic of China with massive protests, such as the action to "safeguard jobs and sovereignty" on May 17.
Even a cursory review shows that these revisions are not aimed at facilitating but intend to trample on the right of assembly which is granted to all citizens under the ROC Constitution and to all people under the International Covenant on Civic and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Cultural and Social Rights approved by the KMT-controlled Legislative Yuan March 31 and promulgated by Ma last Wednesday.
Indeed, the unseemly haste of KMT legislators to secure the passage of this dangerous bill naturally gives to suspicions that the KMT intends to use these tools actively to ride roughshod over any protests to its pro-China policies and intimidate into silence any public voices angry over its incompetence.
The third thing that has happened recently, which I think is also interesting, is that the Treaty of Taipei is being revived (Wiki, text of treaty) by President Ma:
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said yesterday that the 1952 Treaty of Taipei affirmed the transfer of Taiwan’s sovereignty from Japan to the Republic of China (ROC). Ma’s statement deviated from his previous claim that it was the 1943 Cairo Declaration that gave the ROC its claim to Taiwan.A couple of weeks back a local pro-KMT scholar came out with the claim that she had "discovered" that the Treaty of Taipei recognized ROC sovereignty over Taiwan (see article referenced above), which it certainly does not. It clearly defers to the San Francisco Peace Treaty and like it, refuses to name a recipient of the sovereignty over Taiwan.
“While the 1952 treaty does not specify the legal successor government [of Taiwan], it was clear between the lines,” he said. “Japan would not have signed the accord with the ROC if it did not intend to concede the territories to the ROC.”
Ma said the 1952 pact had three meanings: It not only affirmed the “de jure termination of war between Japan and the ROC” after Tokyo’s surrender in 1945, but reasserted the “de jure transfer of Taiwan’s sovereignty to the ROC” as well as “restoring friendly and normal relations with Japan.”
Ma made the remarks at an unveiling ceremony at the Taipei Guest House of a bronze sculpture depicting representatives of Japan and the ROC signing the treaty on April 28, 1952. The statues are part of an exhibition marking the 57th anniversary of the treaty.
The interesting thing is, why now? The 57th anniversary of anything is not important. On one side, the KMT government drafts laws attacking the freedom of the public to assemble, clearly aimed at the pro-Taiwan opposition. On the other, it pushes a treaty that it claims gives the ROC legal authority over Taiwan, while in yet another direction, it clearly waited for China to grant Taiwan WHA observer status, a strong signal that the KMT government considers that Taiwan is subordinate to the PRC.
The pixels are coming into focus: a legal basis of the upcoming "treaty of peace" between the KMT and the CCP will be the Treaty of Taipei, gently revived here for future use. I think we'll be seeing some kind of shared sovereignty position here with the Treaty of Taipei as a pillar or justification -- note that by changing the claim for ROC jurisdiction over Taiwan from Cairo to the Treaty of Taipei, Ma avoids getting the US tangled up in the legalities -- just in time for the 2011 100th anniversary of the ROC, a stealth agreement that will attempt to avoid sparking voter recognition that the islanders have been sold out -- because there are elections in 2012. Much remains to be filled in, but the speed of events is breathtaking. And with democratic oversight of events carefully checked by KMT control of the legislature and by constant claims that no such oversight is necessary.....
UPDATE: FAPA attempts in this press release to inject some sanity into the Hallelujah Chorus of Benevolent China and Provocative Taiwan Having Warming Ties:
Washington DC. The KMT administration of President Ma Ying-jeou is playing politics with the health of the people of Taiwan. This is the position of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) in reaction to the announcement on April 29th by Mr. Ma that Taiwan has been invited, as “Chinese Taipei,” to attend the upcoming annual meeting of the World Health Assembly, the WHO governing body in Geneva.
FAPA President Prof. Bob Yang stated in a reaction that “Taiwan’s international status has taken another step backward.” The head of the Taiwanese-American grassroots organization headquartered in Washington DC added: “We have been working for Taiwan’s membership in the World Health Organization for more than a decade. It is the right of Taiwan as a free and democratic country to have truly meaningful participation in this important international health organization. That can only be done if Taiwan is a full and equal member.” “Just attending the WHA-and under the subservient moniker “Chinese Taipei,” doesn’t protect the health of the people of Taiwan”, he said, adding: “For that, Taiwanese doctors need to have unfettered access specialists’ meetings and information exchange.”
He explained that the conditions under which Ma’s government is now accepting “observership” are demeaning to the Taiwanese and undermine Taiwan’s sovereignty. In particular the use of the idiosyncratic name “Chinese Taipei” is an outrage, he said. “Everyone, including the US, calls Taiwan Taiwan”, he added: “why can’t Taiwan do the same?”
Dr. Yang also said he is concerned about any under-the-table deals made by the Ma Administration with China on the matter, given the precedent of the nauseating MOU forced on WHO by China in 2005. He said that the decision-making process of the Ma Administration has been “clear as mud.” He urged the legislature and the public in Taiwan to demand full transparency, and disclosure of any deals made with China on the issue. “Only then will we be able to say that Taiwanese sovereignty and interests have not been sold out”, he said.
Dr. Yang concluded that it would be a dangerous precedent if Taiwan’s participation in international organizations is at the whim of Beijing. “Why are we letting a repressive and authoritarian regime set the conditions under which a free and democratic nation participates in the international community?” he asked. “Isn’t this a flagrant violation of the basic UN principles which we should adhere to?”
He added that the Taiwanese-American community would continue to work with the Obama Administration and Congress to protect Taiwan’s safety and security, and help Taiwan become a full and equal member of the international community.
No breakthrough here, folks, just the same pattern of the KMT subordinating Taiwan to China and its desire to annex the island that we have seen since Ma took power. Good-bye, free and independent Taiwan: we hardly knew ya.
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