Friday, October 16, 2009

The closer we move to Beijing, the farther we move from democracy

Taiwan News with another awesome editorial on how things are moving here. This one is on the PRC boycott of southern Taiwan, the KMT's client-agent relationship with China, and the obvious political nature of the economics relations with China....
"Ten Conditions of Love" on exiled Uighur rights activist Rebiya Kadeer this month. It is important to note that the Dalai Lama made no inflammatory statements during his visit to Taiwan and neither the content of "Ten Conditions of Love" or any public or reported statement by Rebiya Kadeer have manifested "propaganda for war" or contained "advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred."

Doubts over the veracity of reports by Kaohsiung hotel operators of a retaliatory boycott by PRC tourists were dispelled this weekend when Taiwan's own Tourism Bureau revealed that 9,500 Chinese visiting Taiwan later this month under the auspices of Beijing-based Pro-Health Company would not visit the south.

Responding to a question by the PRC state-owned China News Service, the TAO spokeswoman confirmed the boycott and its political motivation. "There are some forces in Kaohsiung which have joined together with 'Tibetan independence' and 'Xinjiang independence' splittist forces and manufactured some incidents which impact on core mainland interests and hurt the feelings of mainland compatriots," said Fan, who added that "it is very natural that mainland masses are dissatisfied with these actions" According to a transcript on the TAO website, Fan declared that "stopping the alarm requires someone to hit the button," presumably a demand that the Kaohsiung City government apologize for inviting the Dalai Lama or cancel the KFF showings of "Ten Conditions of Love."

Fan's statement made explicit a trend which has been obvious since the KMT took office last May and implemented a China-tilting policy of KMT-CCP "reconciliation" and cross-strait economic "deregulation."

To put the matter in "economic" terms, Beijing is using its control over the flow of Chinese tourists to force the Taiwan government, at both central and local levels, to act as its "general agent" for the exportation of PRC's draconian restrictions on freedom of speech and expression to Taiwan and impose these CCP - made standards on our own citizens.

The comment by the TAO spokeswoman also exploded months of pollyannaish propaganda by the Ma government that the ECFA "only concerns economics" and will not "impinge on sovereignty" since it constituted an open declaration of Beijing's intent to use commercial interests to dictate the standards of human rights of Taiwan citizens in direct violation of our national sovereignty.

The TAO action demonstrates that Beijing absolutely does not "separate politics from economics" but, on the contrary, fully intends to use any and all market openings or deeper business relationships to intensify political pressure on our society and government. While the DPP and other Taiwan-centric groups have denounced the PRC's move to "use business to pressure politics," the KMT government has so far remained mum, with the exception of a meek complaint by Mainland Affairs Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan that Fan's statement had "hurt the feelings of the Taiwan people." Such a response is woefully inadequate because what Beijing aims to hurt is not our feelings but undermine the most fundamental "core interest" of the Taiwan people, our democratic freedoms.

Indeed, the International Covenant on Civic and Political Rights, which President Ma Ying-jeou signed into Taiwan law earlier this year, commits its signatories, to "respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant," including the right of free expression.

The Taiwan government is therefore legally obligated to defend the right of free expression of our citizens and must no longer bow to Beijing's pressure if it wishes to retain its own political legitimacy.

Indeed, as any police officer knows, caving into blackmail never leads to outpourings of "goodwill" by the blackmailer toward the victim but only paves the road for even more ruthless extortion by exposing the weak will of the victim to resist.

The Ma government must now decide whether it is willing to act as Beijing's official agent or show some backbone and suspend further cross-strait consultations pending a public apology by the PRC authorities.
As Taiwan's dependence on China increases, so will this kind of pressure. On a related issue, the Supremes today said that the change of judges in the Chen Shui-bian case was constitutional. Juxtapose that with some over events: last month a KMT legislator complained when William Stanton, our new AIT director, pointed out that some learned Americans were concerned about the judicial system here (Good work, Mr. Stanton!). President Ma is currently calling for an extradition treaty with the US, but I have heard that there is quiet concern in the halls of Congress about the fairness of the judiciary in Taiwan. This is delicately hinted at in Jerome Cohen's piece in SCMP earlier this week responding to KMT attacks on his criticism of the decision not to permit Kadeer to enter Taiwan....
Informative government responses to foreign critics also benefit domestic audiences. What I had actually criticised was not the Taiwan government’s decision to ban Kadeer’s visit but the explanation offered by Interior Minister Jiang Yi-huah. He might have followed the precedent set by his government last December when temporarily declining a visit by another figure opposed by the mainland government, the Dalai Lama. It had simply noted that the timing of the visit was “inappropriate”, the unspoken but understood premise being that the visit would strain the sensitive new effort at cross-strait reconciliation.

Whether or not one agreed with that decision, the explanation given was honest, respectful of audiences in both Taiwan and abroad, and not harmful to anyone. Jiang’s explanation, by contrast, linked Kadeer to terrorism. At least at this juncture, that accusation seems inaccurate and unfair. It echoed Beijing’s as yet unproven claims rather than the conclusions of many democratic governments – including that of her host, the US. Worst of all, it appeared to defame a person who enjoys wide respect for her struggle against the mainland government’s oppression of her ethnic group.

To be sure, every country imposes restrictions on entry. The US itself
maintains an overly broad barrier against Taiwan’s highest leaders, in order not to cast doubt on its recognition of the People’s Republic as China’s only legitimate government. But such barriers restrict domestic audiences’ democratic rights to interact with important speakers and must be frequently challenged. Another recent case of an unfortunate Taiwan reaction to foreign criticism occurred when William Stanton, the new head of the “unofficial” US mission in Taipei, pointed out that many learned Americans were concerned about the fairness of former president Chen Shui-bian’s criminal trial. This led some of Taiwan’s legislators and media to label his remarks impermissible foreign interference in the administration of justice.

Taiwan’s minister of justice, Wang Ching-feng, however, rejected this charge. She is more aware than most of the importance to Taiwan of American perceptions of its legal system, since she is attempting to negotiate an agreement that would require the US to extradite fugitives to Taiwan.

The US, like any nation contemplating extradition, has a valid interest in the quality of justice in the country that is requesting it and a right to express reasonable concerns. More generally, as President Ma Ying-jeou has emphasised, despite his efforts to improve relations with the mainland, Taiwan cannot afford to neglect its military defence. That defence relies implicitly on the security guarantees of the US Taiwan Relations Act. They, in turn rest, on the American people’s continuing belief that the island is worth defending, even at the cost of nuclear war. While Taiwan was once valued mainly for its strategic location, its thriving democracy and developing rule of law are now seen to deserve protection in and of themselves. Its leaders and people should keep this in mind.
Cohen does not follow through the consequences of his logic: if it is democracy that attracts the US to defending Taiwan, then it follows that in order to annex the island to China, it must be made hollow. That will have a twofold payoff: reducing US interest, and reducing local opposition.

More importantly, Cohen still has not made the connection, at least publicly, that connection that Beijing has openly with this latest "boycott" of the south: that the "reconciliation" between the KMT and the CCP can only be made over the dead body of the island's democracy. The economic closeness that US Establishment analysts laud and Cohen has played cheerleader for can have only one outcome, Beijing has made that clear. It's time for US critics to stop mixing their signals.

Note also how the Chinese tourists finally give Beijing the leverage it needs to affect Taipei openly and publicly. As I have observed many times, Beijing always makes noise whenever Taiwan does something pro-Taiwan, but it could never take action against Taiwanese in China, since that would harm itself. Hence it attempted to browbeat the US into hacking on Taiwan, transferring the costs of harming Taiwan to the US-Taiwan relationship, something that the Bush Administration was only too happy to comply with. Now, with the tourists, it can dispense with the middleman, and directly punish Taiwan. Scary.

Finally, as a human being outraged at my own nation's inexcusable behavior, I can only add that for the US to express reservations about another country's judicial system, after secretly kidnapping foreign nationals abroad and depositing them in third countries to be detained and tortured, as well as to torture human beings and detain them indefinitely in US prisons overseas, is to raise hypocrisy to high art. Please, let's get our own house in order so that our comments actually have teeth.

REFERENCE: J Michael's paper on prospects for Chinese espionage in Taiwan.
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Kaminoge said...

Thanks for the NYT link. "Dogs and Demons" by Alex Kerr does a great job in explaining how the Japanese construction state operates. Much of what he writes about is also applicable to the situation here in Taiwan.

Anonymous said...

That defence relies implicitly on the security guarantees of the US Taiwan Relations Act. They, in turn rest, on the American people’s continuing belief that the island is worth defending, even at the cost of nuclear war.

Nothing is worth the cost of nuclear war Mr Cohen. Nothing.

MJ Klein said...

the other losers in the game are the ordinary Chinese citizens who's lives are nothing more than numbers to throw about. imaging being one of those people who had plans to visit Taiwan, only to have your own government tell you that you can't leave.

dan said...


That's a photo of Jerome Keating in the Woodstock story. And Eric Mader in Taipei, too. Too bad neither the Taipei Times nor the China Post had room for the story, but c'est la vie.

There is an interesting follow up to my expat memories of Woodstock blog story that didn’t make it into the papers here for reasons of space and timing and budget cuts …. but one the expats interviewed for the story, Martin DeJonge who lives in northern Taiwan along a beautiful beach and works in central Taipei for a marketing firm told me that HE WAS IN THAT ANG LEE movie about Woodstock. It’s true. His sister was the production designer for Lee on the movie last year, and in one scene, she quietly arranged to have a photograph and her and her brother and other family members placed in one of the interior scenes in a home for the movie. So Martin was suppoed to appear in the movie as part of that photograph! It would have been his first starrring role as an extra, he told me. BUT….

FATE intervened, and here is the rest of the story: He tells me today:

“I went to see the Ang Lee movie at Warner Village in Taipei last week. The other members of my family were clearly to be seen in that photo, but me? Covered up by Chinese subtitles! How funny is that!”

Close, but no cigar. Still, I would give him an honorary Oscar for ALMOST appearing in an Ang Lee film!

True story!

PS: There was a long hour-long interview on TVBS channel 56 last night with Ang Lee in Chinese, he seems like one of the most relaxed and laid-back directors Hollywood has ever fielded! He just radiates cool laidback easygoing Tainan teenage boy from way back, and although he’s now in his 50s, he’s still that little boy growing up in Tainan, with the whole world before him now. BRAVO!

les said...

No Chinese tourists down south? Maybe I'll move to Kaohsiung and take advantage of that!