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Los Angeles

House Arrest in Long Beach

By Timothy K. Gallaher

Los Angeles, 13 August 2000

I am perplexed. I've been perplexed for a number of years now. I could never understand how former Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui's 1995 visit to the US could be considered controversial. Why would the visit of a head of state to give a speech at his alma mater be a matter of concern to anyone? And why should we care what the Chinese government thought about the trip?

Now, Lee's successor, Chen Shui-bian, elected earlier this year as Taiwan's president, is spending the night in the US on his way to the Central America and then Africa. Chen is ordered by the Clinton administration to not speak or meet with anyone. He's supposed to be under what is essentially house arrest in Long Beach. Why?

We welcomed, with 21 gun salutes, political and military leaders of China who have massacred their own citizens; who jail or even kill people for stating opinions contrary to the party line.

But we let a democratically elected leader like Chen, who is committed to liberty -- freedom and democracy, enter the country only if he pretends like he is not here.

It makes no sense.

Did Chen jail his predecessor and call in the army to massacre people in the street like Jiang Zemin and Chi Haotian, both of whom have been honored at the White House or Pentagon, did? No. In fact Chen's career has been an example of the exact opposite approach. He was an opposition leader who was subjected to harassment and persecution from the ruling party. He was jailed for eight months on trumped up charges. Worse, and among the most horrible sort of act conceivable, his wife was run down in a politically motivated hit and lost the use of her legs. She stands tall today as first lady, carrying out her duties from her wheel chair.

Despite the climate of repression and violence faced by the opposition, Chen never reciprocated at that level nor advocated violence to bring about freedom and democracy. He worked through the system, such as it was, and made the most of the opportunities that did exist. He took what the ruling party threw at them and never responded in kind at their level.

And his approach worked. Thanks to him and many others, Taiwan is a fully free and democratic nation -- just the sort of country the US claims to be and holds up as the ideal.

In his new position of power as President has Chen sought vengeance on those who threw him in jail? No. Despite their still being on the political scene (albeit marginal and trying at every turn to undermine and undercut Chen and the Taiwan government) he has not even approached that path.

Has Chen sought vengeance on those who ran down his wife? No. Has he sought vengeance on those who harassed and jailed him and his associates? No. In fact his response was simply to beat one of them in the election.

This is the type of leader that should be feted at the White House and honored in Congress, not someone who should be told to keep quiet and out of sight in a hotel room.

And why is Chen kept under this sort of house arrest by our own State Department? To appease a regime that uses threats and extortion to get their way. To placate a one party dictatorship that jails its' critics and uses its' army to massacre unarmed citizens.

Is this what our country is reduced to?

Since when do we no longer believe in the truths that are self evident? Since when do we not support and stand with our allies who also believe in the self evident truths?

I don't remember any US President announcing to the world that the US no longer stands for or believes in freedom and democracy for all people.

Maybe Clinton is scheduling a press conference.