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On May 14th 2010, a group of international scholars wrote a letter to the Speaker of the Legislative Yuan, Wang Jin-pyng, expressing concern about the erosion of Taiwan's sovereignty due to the proposed ECFA agreement with China. Between November 2008 and November 2009,the group expressed concern about the erosion of justice and democracy in five letters to the Justice Minister and to President Ma Ying-jeou.

Concerns about the proposed ECFA agreement with the PRC

Erosion of Sovereignty; Moving into the sphere of influence of a still very undemocratic China

14 May 2010

The Honorable Wang Jin-pyng

Speaker of the Legislative Yuan

Dear Mr. Speaker,

As strong supporters of a free and democratic Taiwan, we would like to call your attention to a number of concerns have regarding the ongoing negotiations between the government of Taiwan and of the People's Republic of China to arrive at an Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA).

While in principle an economic agreement between the two countries would be laudable, it concerns us that there has been a lack of transparency and legislative checks and balances on the part of the government in Taiwan: Media and civic groups have complained about the secrecy of the negotiations, and the fact that there is no clarity on what the agreement would entail, or what impact it would have on Taiwan's economy, in particular its agriculture, small and medium-size industries and the labor force.

Furthermore, the Legislative Yuan appears to be sidelined in the decision-making process, which does not bode well for the island's young democracy. Against this background we urge you to emphasize that you attach great importance to checks and balances in a democratic system. It is also imperative that the Taiwan government seek a democratic consensus on this important decision through a public referendum of all people in Taiwan before the agreement is signed.

Many in Taiwan and abroad are also concerned about the impact of closer economic ties on Taiwan's de facto independence and sovereignty: they feel that closer economic ties will give the government in Beijing leverage to push Taiwan into further political isolation. This would make it increasingly difficult for the people of Taiwan to maintain their freedom, basic human rights and democracy, and determine their own future. The problem is of course that China unjustifiably claims sovereignty over Taiwan, and doesn't recognize its right to exist as a free, democratic and independent nation.

If Taiwan increasingly moves into the sphere of influence of a still very undemocratic China, this will have a negative impact on democracy and human rights in Taiwan itself, and on its role as a beacon for democracy in East Asia. We feel that the present approach by the Ma administration is too much predicated on China having a say in how Taiwan relates to the rest of the world. In our view, Taiwan should be accepted in its own right, and be able to sign free trade agreements with other nations without going through China.

We may also refer to recent statements by two of Taiwan's strongest supporters in the US Congress, who are very critical of the proposed agreement: in a briefing on April 28th 2010, Congressman Robert Andrews (D-NJ) referred to it as a "cage" for Taiwan from where it will be difficult to escape, while Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) referred to it as a "Trojan Horse," one gift-horse Taiwan should not allow in, because the authorities in Beijing are using it as a political tool with the ultimate goal of absorbing Taiwan.

Mr. Speaker, we hope you will agree with us that maintaining a free and democratic Taiwan is essential, not only for the people in Taiwan themselves, but also for the cause of freedom and democracy in East Asia as a whole. We thus urge you to take a critical look at the proposed Agreement, and ensure that the economic, political and strategic interests of the Taiwanese people are fully safeguarded.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Respectfully yours,


Names of those who joined later are marked with a *

  1. Ambassador Nat Bellocchi, former Chairman of the American Institute in Taiwan
  2. Coen Blaauw, Formosan Association for Public Affairs, Washington DC
  3. Gordon G. Chang, author, "The Coming Collapse of China."
  4. Peter Chow, Professor of Economics, City College of New York
  5. Stéphane Corcuff, Associate Professor of Political Science, China and Taiwan Studies, University of Lyon, France
  6. Michael Danielsen, Chairman, Taiwan Corner, Copenhagen, Denmark
  7. June Teufel Dreyer, Professor of Political Science, University of Miami, Florida
  8. Norman W. Getsinger, U.S. Foreign Service (Retired), The George Washington University Graduate Program, Washington DC
  9. Terri Giles, Executive Director, Formosa Foundation, Los Angeles
  10. Michael Rand Hoare, Emeritus Reader at the University of London, Great Britain
  11. Thomas G. Hughes, Former chief of staff to the late Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI), Washington DC
  12. Richard C. Kagan, Professor Emeritus of History, Hamline University, St. Paul Minnesota. Author, "Taiwan's Statesman, Lee Teng-hui and Democracy in Asia"
  13. Jerome F. Keating, Associate Professor, National Taipei University (Ret.). Author, "Island in the Stream, a quick case study of Taiwan's complex history" and other works on Taiwan's history
  14. Hon. David Kilgour, former Member Parliament and Secretary of State for Asia-Pacific (2002-2003), Canada
  15. André Laliberté, Associate Professor, School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa, Canada
  16. Daniel Lynch, Associate Professor, School of International Relations, University of Southern California
  17. Victor H. Mair, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature, University of Pennsylvania
  18. Donald Rodgers, Associate Professor of Political Science, Austin College, Texas
  19. Terence Russell, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature, University of Manitoba, Canada
  20. Christian Schafferer, Associate Professor, Department of International Trade, Overseas Chinese Institute; Chair Austrian Association of East Asian Studies, Editor Journal of Contemporary Eastern Asia, Vienna, Austria
  21. Michael Stainton, York Center for Asia Research, Toronto, Canada
  22. Peter Tague, Professor of Law, Georgetown University, Washington DC
  23. Ross Terrill * , Fairbank Center, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA ; author of "The New Chinese Empire" and "Mao"
  24. John J. Tkacik Jr., former Senior Research Fellow at The Heritage Foundation, and former officer at the Taiwan Coordination Desk, Department of State, Washington DC
  25. Arthur Waldron, Lauder Professor of International Relations, University of Pennsylvania
  26. Vincent Wei-cheng Wang, Professor of Political Science, University of Richmond, Virginia
  27. Gerrit van der Wees, Editor Taiwan Communiqué, Washington DC
  28. Michael Yahuda, Professor Emeritus, the London School of Economics & Visiting Scholar, George Washington University
  29. Stephen Yates, President of DC Asia Advisory and former Deputy Assistant to the Vice President for National Security Affairs