On 18 October 1996, the Kuomintang authorities in Taipei forced approval of the budget for the Fourth Nuclear Powerplant through the Legislative Yuan, while over ten thousand anti-nuclear demonstrators surrounded the Legislative Yuan building. The furious demonstrators burned a police vehicle and, in scenes reminiscent of the martial-law days, police turned water cannons on the crowd.
The Fourth Nuclear Powerplant budget had been canceled by a vote in the Legislative Yuan in May 1996, but in violation of standard democratic procedures the Kuomintang authorities still signed a US$ 1.8 billion contract with the American GE-Company for two reactors for the 2,700-megawatt plant, which has a total budget of US$ 4.2 billion.
The Kuomintang authorities resorted to backroom maneuvering and invoked a shadowy "national security" provision, by which they could pass the Plant's budget by only a one-third vote of the Legislative Yuan.
The Fourth Nuclear Powerplant is controversial because it is located on Taiwan's Eastern seaboard, only 24 miles from the major metropolitan area of Taipei. It is also situated near a major vault line, in an area known for its earthquakes.
The project has been repeatedly canceled, reinstated and canceled again since it was first approved in 1980. After this latest KMT move, the opposition parties are planning to launch a fresh round of attacks on the fourth plant's budget.
Despite Taiwan's power crisis, the government has done very little to promote energy conservation. The DPP's Taiwan International Review reported in a recent article that most buildings in Taipei lack central air conditioning and instead rely on countless inefficient window units. Hundreds of thousands of leaky refrigerators are chugging away in Taiwan's apartments and restaurants. The TIR' article concluded: "Even mild efforts to change such habits would bring great results."
In addition, the Taiwan authorities have done virtually nothing to promote alternative sources of energy, such as wind energy in the coastal and southern regions of Taiwan, and solar energy: since the peak use of energy takes place during the summer afternoons, when airconditioning units run full blast, solar energy would be a prime source of electricity.
Community leaders in Kungliao, where Taipower wants to build the nuclear plant, say they would support using the site for a natural gas or clean-coal powerplant. Though a fire-powered facility would not generate as much electricity, it could go on-line in a fraction of the time it will take to build the two new reactors Taipower wants.
Taiwan's existing six reactors have a bad safety record and have an emergency shutdown rate many times that of Japan's facilities. In addition, Taipower has not solved the problem of where to put its nuclear waste. Since the early 1980's all waste has been dumped on tiny Orchid Island off southeast Taiwan, the home of the Yami tribe.
On 28 November 1996, President Nelson Mandela announced in a press conference that by the end of 1997 South Africa will establish relations with the PRC and discontinue diplomatic ties with the Kuomintang authorities in Taipei.
It is regrettable that the South African government has succumbed to the pressure from Beijing to cut ties with Taipei, particularly in view of earlier pronouncements by Mr. Mandela in August 1996 that he favored the principle of "dual recognition",
However, the upcoming break in relations is primarily due to the Kuomintang's stubborn clinging to its "Republic of China" title and its outdated claim to be part of the so-called "One China."
The best way to solve the dilemma would be for everyone involved to accept a "new Taiwan policy" in which
At the end off November 1996, both the Associated Press and the Wall Street Journal reported that several major American universities, including Berkeley, Chicago, Stanford and Columbia are debating whether to compete for some US$ 3 million in funding for a new center for "Chinese" studies.
The catch is that the funding comes from the "Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation", an institution closely associated with the Kuomintang authorities in Taiwan. The Foundation is requiring that the new center is to be named "Chiang Ching-kuo Center for Chinese studies."
The matter is controversial for two reasons: for many years, Mr. Chiang headed the Kuomintang's dreaded secret police and was responsible for much of the repression of the Taiwanese people by his father's regime. When he succeeded his father in 1975, the repression continued unabatedly until the mid-1980s, when he was forced to relax the grip of the KMT regime when the Taiwanese democratic opposition started to organize itself and pushed for an end to the forty-year-old martial law.
The second reason is that the Foundation has blatantly pushed the political agenda of the Kuomintang and has totally disregarded academic study of Taiwanese history, culture, and social and economic developments.
A Wall Street Journal article on the issue ("US scholars debate offer from Taiwan", WSJ, 29 November 1996) also reported that a US$ 440,000 a year grant to Columbia University was discontinued in retaliation, after Columbia hosted a 1991 conference about Constitutional reform in Taiwan, organized by the democratic opposition on the island.
During the months of October and November 1996, many articles were published in the American and international press about the donations of Chinese-American John Huang and the Indonesian Riady family to the Clinton campaign and the connections and influence they were able to obtain in this manner.
One aspect, which we want to highlight here is that -- while there is a connection to Taiwan -- this link is to the Kuomintang authorities, who consider themselves "Chinese" and not "Taiwanese." The KMT has long been known to engage in influence-buying, a practice it perfected over many years of one-party authoritarian rule over Taiwan.
The episode where Mr. Liu Tai-ying, the business tycoon who manages the Kuomintang's finances reportedly offered US$ 15 million in donations to the Democratic campaign through former White House aide Mark Middleton in exchange for "access" to the White House does not seem implausible. It signifies the corruption of money and power which prevails in the KMT-system.
Still, the matter is giving Taiwan a bad name. This point was made in an excellent letter to the Editor of the Washington Post by Mr. Kok-ui Lim, legal counsel of the Taiwan Democratic Party office in Washington DC:
The Post's Nov. 12 news story "Taiwan, in courting U.S. officials, reflects yearning for recognition" gave an accurate description of Taiwan's ruling Kuomintang Party (KMT) and its efforts to lobby the U.S. government. It should be remembered that the KMT's efforts on behalf of Taiwan do not necessarily reflect the desires, let alone the input, of the majority of the Taiwanese people. If anything, the article demonstrates how the KMT may have come to impede Taiwan's desire for greater U.S. and international recognition.
Herein lies a serious problem for Taiwan. The KMT has failed to recognize that Taiwan's diplomatic isolation is a result of the KMT's mutual animosity with China's Communist government. Even well-intentioned actions by Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs are incapable of transforming the historical legacy of the KMT's rivalry with the People's Republic of China into anything but a burden for Taiwan and its allies.
If the accusations of KMT money diplomacy are true, it painfully reveals the KMT's desperation to accomplish by money what it cannot do politically: obtain legitimacy for its "Chinese" government on Taiwan. After all, few if any people know that the KMT's formal insistence of the name "Republic of China" refers to Taiwan, not to mention that the ruling party gratuisly calls Taiwan "Free China." KMT money cannot substitute for the failed foreign policy that calls the island "Republic of China" when everyone knows Taiwan as Taiwan.
Should the accusations of money diplomacy prove false, it will, we hope, encourage the KMT to recognize that Taiwan's survival and success are best accomplished by asserting the island's sovereignty and affirming its separation from China, not by roundabout diplomatic initiatives.
After all, no matter how well-intentioned the ruling KMT, its efforts on behalf of Taiwan are undermined by its refusal to acknowledge that Taiwan can neither unify with China nor indefinitely maintain the fictional status quo of the "Republic of China on Taiwan."
In the beginning of December 1996, commemorations were held in the southern port-city of Kaohsiung in remembrance of the "Kaohsiung Incident" of 10 December 1979. When it took place, it was hardly noticed internationally, but since then it has been recognized as an important turning point in the island's recent history.
The now well-known event of the evening of 10 December 1979 started out as the first major Human Rights Day celebration on the island. Until that time the authorities had never allowed any public expression of discontent, but in the summer of 1979 a slight thaw had set in, during which two opposition magazines were established: Formosa Magazine, headed by veteran opposition Legislative Yuan-member Huang Hsin-chieh, and The Eighties, headed by up and coming opposition leader K'ang Ning-hsiang.
Formosa Magazine quickly became the rallying point for the budding democratic movement. During the fall of 1979, it became increasingly vocal, and it was only natural that it would use 10 December as an opportunity to express its views on the lack of democracy and human rights on the island. When the day arrived, the atmosphere had become tense because of increasingly violent attacks by right-wing extremists on offices of the magazine and homes of leading staff members.
What happened on that fateful evening is history: the human rights day celebration ended in chaos after police encircled the peaceful crowd and started using teargas, and pro-government instigators incited violence. See the account of the event in our publication The Kaohsiung Tapes, which is summarized on the history page of our Internet-site:
The importance of the incident is in the fact that it galvanized both the Taiwanese people in Taiwan as well as the overseas Taiwanese community into political action. The movement which grew out of the incident subsequently formed the basis for the present-day democratic opposition of the DPP and its overseas support network of Taiwanese organizations in North America and Europe.
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