Jerome Cohen wrote a wonderful response to a Chinese nationalist loon/scholar who attacked Cohen for being "Green" on the subject of Taiwan. The piece, entitled Neither Green nor Blue, should be read in its entirety.
In his lead in to the discussion Cohen wrote:
....I am sure I have disappointed all such expectations, since I try not to allow either friendship or previous political history to influence my focus on issues of the greatest importance to me: open democratic governance, human rights and the rule of law.You can be sure that when someone writes that they are above all that silly partisan politicking and judge ideas "on their merits" that they are refusing to see the massive conflict in their own position, and so it is with Cohen. Zhao Nianyu, the Chinese scholar who attacked Cohen, had much to teach him on this, if only Cohen had listened.
I too have been disappointed — by those in Taiwan who analyze issues of law and government in terms of their impact on one side or the other in the island’s overheated partisan politics, rather than on their merits. Paradoxically, in China, where no opposition political party is tolerated, criticism and suggestions for reform, at least superficially, have often focussed on the merits of the topic discussed rather than partisan implications. Of late, however, a rising nationalistic tide has led an increasing number of writers to substitute patriotic rhetoric for responsible analysis.
The issue is quite simple. On one hand Cohen supports the CCP/KMT reconciliation and its project of Chinese nationalism, the annexation of Taiwan to China. He supports ECFA and he supports the close economic links between Beijing and Taipei. On the other hand, Cohen supports democracy and rule of law in Taiwan. There is no question on that latter score; Cohen has been a giant speaking out on behalf of rule of law here. But as Zhao points out, these two positions are inherently contradictory: the KMT and CCP can only kiss and make up over the dead body of Taiwan's democracy.
The problem is that democracy and rule of law are not like hand tools whose "merits" are utilitarian. In the Taiwan case, one of the "merits" of democracy and rule of law is that they help keep Beijing at arms length. Both the pro-China and the pro-Taiwan side in this debate realize that. It is obvious on the KMT side in the Ma Administration's struggles to prevent ECFA from having meaningful democratic oversight, and on Beijing's side from its demands, through spokesmen like Zhao and in its talks with the KMT. After a visit to Taiwan Thor Halvorssen and Alex Gladstein published a remarkable piece about what happens in Taiwan when China's human rights are criticized. Their human rights organization had been invited by the KMT to visit Taiwan....
Surprising, then, that we were invited to Taiwan not by the DPP but by the KMT's Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss the idea of building a human rights gathering in Taipei. The Taiwan Freedom Forum would be akin to the conference we organize in Norway each year that allows human rights defenders to share experiences and strategize. Our speakers are not known for pulling any punches--Kadeer gave this year's keynote address.In Cohen's case, he suffers the same fate as Halvorssen & Co: when they start talking about democracy, they become "troublemakers." Ironically Zhao is saying the same thing to Cohen that Cohen said to the DPP:
As soon as the MFA realized that our programming was openly critical of the Chinese government, however, their interest disappeared. Over the course of an hour-long lunch in Taipei with the head of the foreign ministry's NGO unit, we often talked human rights but the diplomat did not once raise the issue of China. In any other country this omission would not be too strange--but in Taiwan, where everything is seen through the lens of China, the silence was deafening.
Our MFA handler told us that the KMT "would not continue any discussion of a Freedom Forum," and that if we persisted we would be "troublemakers."
In response, we arranged to meet DPP officials and independent journalists who were more interested in hearing about our work. An hour after we visited the DPP's headquarters, the handler who had escorted us everywhere and taken notes on everything we said suddenly evaporated. Initially having been assigned to us for our entire stay, he had been "reassigned."
If the DPP acts reasonably and constructively in the review, rather than engage in the obstructionist tactics that the KMT fears, it will gain public support."If Dr. Cohen just acts reasonably and constructively...."
Zhao has put his finger on the contradiction in Cohen's thinking -- you can't support democracy and the KMT/CCP ECFA sellout talks at the same time, since the ultimate success of the latter entails the loss of the former. Every partisan in this debate recognizes that reality. Even Cohen himself has stated (Ties that blind) "Improved cross-strait relations appear to have come at a cost to some civil liberties in Taiwan".
As Zhao Hianyu instructs you, Dr. Cohen, just keep following that logic to its proper conclusion.
I'm off to bike. See ya'll in a couple of days!
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