Jerome Cohen and Chen Yu-jie are online at ChinaFile with a widely circulated piece on the implications of the Lee Ming-che detention in China for cross-strait relations....
Although it would be wise as well as humane for Beijing to release Lee Ming-che now, his case may have just begun. Yet its lessons are already worth considering. It vividly illustrates Beijing’s continuing determination to suspend the operation of important cross-strait agreements in the current political circumstances. It also exposes not only how little respect the Chinese Government has for even the minimal human rights protections enshrined in the Judicial Assistance Agreement but also the need to provide effective means for their enforcement. Beijing has met its agenda for the short term, which is to signal non-cooperation with Tsai Ing-wen’s government. The long-term consequences of destroying the reliability and legitimacy of cross-strait institutions, however, are not in its interest. If cross-strait agreements can be brushed aside by Beijing when considered politically inconvenient, they will no longer be trusted in Taiwan. What will then be left in Beijing’s toolkit for cross-strait cooperation and stability?This analysis is legalistic, imagining that cross-strait "stability" resides in agreements. The truth is that "cross strait institutions" are a fantasy of this type of analysis.
Whatever your theory of why Lee was abducted, this is hardly the first time that China has failed to honor cross-strait understandings, frameworks, and agreements. That is in fact China's normal practice. Anyone remember the April deportations last year, of scam suspects from Kenya to Malaysia? Taipei Times:
Officers immediately contacted their Malaysian counterparts and were told that all documents and evidence were in the hands of Chinese authorities, Tuan said, adding that when they contacted Chinese authorities, the Chinese Ministry of Public Security turned down the request.....but no evidence was sent. Remember when China simply threw a new air route over the Taiwan Strait even though negotiations on the issue hadn't been concluded?
Tuan said that according to an agreement reached by Taiwan and China in 2011, when Taiwanese or Chinese are deported for crimes committed in a third country, any evidence is to be sent with the suspects on deportation.
It would be redundant to list the piles of agreements with many nations that Beijing has reneged on....
This tactic of honoring agreements when it feels like it is normal for Beijing. There is nothing to see here, move along folks. Arbitrary withholding or granting of privileges is one of the ways an authoritarian state retains its grip on the flow of events, be they individual behaviors in its own society, or the global political sphere. In this case not only does Beijing get to demonstrate who holds the whip hand, but it also signals that Taiwan activists take risks when they cross into China (and Hong Kong). That will help chill activist links.
No matter what the outcome, it has seriously worsened cross-strait relations and China’s chances for attaining “soft power.”There was never any chance of "attaining 'soft power'". This whole reading of events is based on a framework of normal establishment politics that simply does not exist in Beijing.
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