Taiwan Communiqué No. 77, September 1997

The Senate Hearings

John Huang and other stories

During July 1997, the first phase of the Senate Campaign Finance hearings got underway in Washington DC. Many of the details were reported in the press, and we therefore only focus on three aspects which in our view are most significant:

1. The Chairman of the Committee, Senator Fred D. Thompson (R-TN) stated at the outset that the Committee had found evidence of a Chinese plan "designed to pour illegal money into American political campaigns." Mr. Thompson described the plan as the work of "high-level Chinese government officials" who committed "substantial sums of money" to achieve their goals. While two Democratic Senators on the Committee, John Glenn (OH) and Joseph Lieberman (CT) initially believed there was no sufficient evidence to come to that conclusion, they later concluded that the material submitted by the FBI gave credible evidence there was such a plan.

2. The hearings primarily focused on the Chinese attempts through Mr. John Huang & Co. to buy influence in the American political system. We believe the follow-on hearings should also pay attention to Mr. Huang's attempts to influence policy in the Commerce Department itself. There is significant evidence that he briefed Chinese officials on US negotiating positions. He also used his position to block contacts with, and activities relating to, Taiwan (see below).

3. During the July Senate hearings, Mr. John Huang tried to assume the role of "a defenseless target for Asian bashers" (a quote from his lawyer). As Asian-Americans we believe that Mr. Huang should be made to tell all he knows about Chinese influence-buying, and if he broke the laws of this land, stand trial. It would be an outrage if he were granted any immunity.

The Kissinger connection

While he was at the Commerce Department, Mr. John Huang worked closely with David J. Rothkopf, then Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade responsible for trade promotion, assistance to American firms doing business abroad, enforcement of the laws against unfair foreign trade practices, and the development of trade policy generally.

In an internal Commerce Department memo dated January 27th 1995, Mr. Huang wrote to Mr. Rothkopf: "We are quite sensitive to the current events going on with China now. Anything we need to delay program with Taiwan (sic) we should do it (to protect what we have accomplished so far in China). Regardless, we need to take low key approach with Taiwan, at least before Spring is over. We have so much planned with China during this period of time."

Interestingly, in January 1996, Mr. Rothkopf left the Commerce Department and was appointed Managing Director and Member of the Board of Kissinger Associates. The firm is an international consultancy founded and chaired by former U.S. Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger.

Mr. Kissinger is of course well-known for his blind pursuit of relations with China at any cost (see "Kissinger, Haig & Co.: profitable links to China", Taiwan Communiqué no. 75, pp. 10-11). Most recently, Mr. Kissinger wrote an article titled "Let's cooperate with China", which was published in the Washington Post, 6 July 1997.

The article reminded us of Pinocchio, whose nose grew when he was telling a lie: Mr. Kissinger's must have grown at least an inch when he stated that his views are not for sale. Throughout the article it is obvious that he is trading principle for profit in his defense of the Chinese regime.

Instead of spending so many apologist words in defense of China, Mr. Kissinger should focus on convincing his friends in Beijing to free political prisoners like Wei Jingsheng, to allow Tibet to form a free nation, to refrain from selling nuclear materials and weapon systems to Iran and Pakistan, and to accept Taiwan as a free, democratic and independent neighbor.

Asian Values ?

During the months of July and August 1997, an interesting debate evolved over the issue of human rights in Asia. It came up at the ASEAN meeting in Malaysia, where Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad tried to argue that Asian values are somehow different from universal values, and that a review of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 was needed.

Mr. Tung Chee-hwa of Hong Kong has been making similar arguments, stating that individual rights are somehow less important than consensus, economic growth and stability.

In her response to Mr. Mahathir, US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright rightly emphasized the universality of human rights, and stated that the US would be strongly opposed to any review of the 1948 Declaration.

The arguments by Mahathir and Tung are of course not new. They have been trumpeted for several decades by Mr. Lee Kuan-yew of Singapore, who used them to defend the authoritarian state of affairs in his mini-state.

Human rights are universal

The counter-argument -- that human rights are universal and that true democracy benefits economic growth and stability -- was made in a series of excellent editorials and articles. Just a brief sample and some highlights:

"When we think of Asian values, we don't think of Singapore's government banning publications it doesn't like and suing opposition politicians. We tend to think, rather, of the multitudes of Philippino's who rose up in 1986 to sweep away the Marcos dictatorship and install a "people-power" democracy led by Corazon Aquino...." ("Asian Values", Washington Post, 1 August 1997).

Ian Buruma, a long-time Asia specialist wrote in similar vein for New World Magazine: "[Western businessmen] are wrong to have too much confidence in economism. In the end they have more to gain from the democrats than from the tycoons and dictators acting in the name of "Asian values." If the Chinese government feels that its business interests are threatened by those of a foreign business, they will crush it. Since there is not established rule of law, they can do this with ease....

The way to check dictatorial excesses, including corruption, is to have freedom of speech, a free press, and the rule of law. Hong Kong had these things, because the colonial regime represented a democracy. It may not have them in the future. ....

After too many years of developmental authoritarianism, Filipinos, Taiwanese, and Koreans understood something too many Western businessmen don't that democracy not only lends dignity to human beings, but it is good for business too ("Asian Values", by Ian Buruma, New World, the Siemens Magazine, 3/97).

The International Herald Tribune of 4 August 1997 published another excellent article titled "Expect Asia's values to turn out much like everyone else's" by Professor Garry Rodan of the University of Warwick in Coventry. He wrote: "Tung Chee-hwa, the Beijing-appointed chief executive of Hong Kong, has cast serious doubt on whether the civil society established under British rule will survive the handover to China. Embracing the concept of "Asian values" to justify political convergence with the mainland, he asserts that Chinese have a preference for consultation over confrontation."

Professor Rodan casts doubts on Mr. Tung's assertions, and mentions the 1989 crushing of the Chinese democracy movement at Tienanmen and the 1949 Communist revolution in China itself as examples that "consultation" is rather alien to Chinese culture and heritage.

Professor Rodan states that "Asian values" will continue to constitute an attractive argument for authoritarian governments, but that in many nations such as Thailand, the Philippines, South Korea and Taiwan independent political organizations are flourishing and are laying the foundation for truly democratic Asian political systems.

China bullying small nations again

China has a habit of trying to bully small nations. Back in April 1997, it threatened Denmark and the Netherlands because these countries supported introducing the annual resolution on human rights in China in the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. In August 1997 it was Panama and Sao Tome's turn to be bullied:

Panama stands up

Panama came under Chinese fire because it invited Taiwan to a four-day conference on the future of the Panama Canal in the beginning of September 1997. Panamanian President Ernesto Perez Balladares invited Taiwan president Lee Teng-hui to attend the inaugural ceremony of the conference. President Lee's travel via Honolulu is leading to awkward maneuvering by the Clinton Administration in Washington (see "A Tale of two presidents", page 4).

President Balladares was unfazed by the Chinese threats, and said that Panama wouldn't sacrifice its relations with Taiwan to please China, even if China stopped using the waterway. He added: "They can always go around Cape Horn."

As expected, the United Nations gave in to Chinese pressure and decided not to send a delegation to the conference. On 20 August 1997, UN spokesman Juan-Carlos Brandt stated that the the reason for the UN non-presence was that Taiwan's presence there "...created a delicate situation."

Taiwan Communiqué comment: the "delicacy" of the situation escapes us a bit. The UN position is about as delicate as that of a Chinese steamroller in a field of tulips. Instead of letting itself be manipulated by the Chinese, the UN should rediscover its own principles as enshrined in the UN-Charter, namely that the people in any nation including Taiwan have the right to self-determination, and should be welcomed in the UN.

Sao Tome under fire

Sao Tome and Principe are being bullied by China because in May 1997, this island-chain off the coast of Africa established relations with Taiwan. Beijing immediately expelled all five Sao Tome and Principe students who were doing graduate studies in Beijing, and told the Sao Tome authorities to repay within 90 days the full $18 million in development grants which China had given the island-nation since its 1975 independence from Portugal.

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