Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Assault on (the Taiwan Foundation for) Democracy

Sheesh! I stop blogging for a month and suddenly everything goes to pot, from Nicholas Kristoff making laughable claims about Ma Ying-jeou, to Jerome Cohen, Ma's law school mentor, lamenting the depressing state of affairs here, to Want Want Corp. sending chilling letters to local media commentators about their remarks on its takeover of the China Times media group, to the attempt by the KMT to change the management of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy that has serious implications for the future.

Taiwan News described the "crimes" of the TFD in its editorial today:
In the run-up to yesterday's board meeting, numerous media reported "a senior presidential official" had demanded the replacement of TFD President and National Sun Yat-sen political scientist Professor Lin Wen-cheng, a long-time associate of TFD Chairman and Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pyng, by a former KMT lawmaker and the cashiering of two TFD vice presidents affiliated with the opposition Taiwan-centric Democratic Progressive Party.

According to reports in the pro-KMT United Daily News, the "senior presidential official" had complained that the TFD had "supported Tibetan independence," entered into "murky ties" with Chinese dissidents, "had relations" with Cuba and had "used the government's money" to entice foreign human rights or democracy advocate non-governmental organizations to "attack" the KMT government.
Imagine that -- a Democracy Foundation actually working for democracy in China. The nerve of these people! Naturally that could not be permitted to go on. The criticism that the Foundation used government money to attack the government actually reveals how the KMT thinks of itself -- the Foundation uses taxpayer money, as someone smart pointed out to me, to criticize the actions of the government. Both the government and the money belong to the people, not the party in power.

Back to the Taipei Times report on the KMT's attempt to reshuffle the management of the TFD to make it more China-friendly. The paper observes:
He also dismissed speculation that a government plan to make major changes was dropped because of pressure from Washington, saying that Lin chose to remain in his post because the TFD is highly respected at home and abroad.

US Congressman Robert Andrews recently wrote a letter to US President Barack Obama expressing concern over the growing controversy over the TFD's future.

It has been widely reported that the Ma administration intended to make major changes to the foundation's governing board and to stop it from offering financial support to pro-democracy movements in China, Tibet and Cuba.

The letter asked Obama to “urge” President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and his administration to “let the TFD do its useful work the way it had done over the past six years.”

Carl Gershman, president of the Washington-based National Endowment for Democracy, had also written to Ma, calling on him not to interfere with the structure and policies of the foundation.

Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) yesterday declined to comment, saying only that the foundation’s personnel reshuffle was made in accordance with its charter.

A presidential aide, who asked to remain anonymous, said National Security Council Secretary-General Su Chi (蘇起) had intervened in the personnel reshuffle.
First, the scuttlebutt is that the letter from Carl Gershman of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in the US was effective. The Taiwan News editorial notes that as well.

Second, the compromises in which Maysing Yang and others were retained are temporary. They will likely be eased out at the end of the year. Then, as one observer of the mess noted, the government will just step in and say, well, the TFD having done its work, time to move on, shut the thing down....

Third, the ruckus over the TFD may well be a form of cover for other events taking place behind the scenes. Another story making the rounds is that many of the thinktanks are quietly being reconfigured for more pro-China stances even as the move against the TFD attracts all the attention.

Fourth, the Taipei Times identifies NSC head Su Chi as the mover behind these events. Rumor has it that he was the one who complained about the pro-democracy stance of the TFD. But recall that Ma and Su Chi are old high school buddies and came up through the KMT together. Is Su Chi the tongs that Ma uses to handle the democracy rollback without burning himself? Or is he Rasputin to Ma's Tsar Nicholas?

Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


Gerd said...

Great that you're back!

Jade said...

I'm so glad to see you back. I was hoping to see your posting again in July and was surprised to see new blogs. It seems that we all got a bonus.

Congressman Robert Andrew happens to be in my district. I cannot praise him enough for his support for Taiwan. He will always gets my vote as long as his name is on the ballot.

David said...

The comments on this article at Democracy Digest are worth reading.

The key point is what the KMT tried to do here goes way beyond partisan politics. The statements from Washington act as testimony to this. What the KMT has done to PTS is far worse, and it looks like they are going to get away with it.