At the end of June 2000, Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji dismissed Taiwan's democratic presidential election as a "joke" and derided the island's boisterous democracy as "corrupt."
"If you say the president there [Taiwan] was democratically elected, I believe this is a joke," Zhu reportedly told the Italian news agency ANSA. "In Taiwan, he only got 40 percent of the vote, he has no administrative experience and even they acknowledge that Taiwan engages in `black-gold politics,'" Zhu added. Below, we reprint an open letter to Mr. Zhu, written by Michael Fonte, of the Formosan Association of Public Affairs in Washington DC.
Well who elected you, Mr. Zhu? Maybe it is hard for you to understand anything else but `voting' where an election is rigged. Taiwan happens to have a plurality voting system and 40% was more than enough for Chen Shui-bian to win the basically three-way race. By the way, Mr. Zhu, over 82% of Taiwan's eligible voters went to the polls and they overwhelmingly rejected the candidate of a KMT party that had been in power for over 50 years.
Mr. Chen won largely because he opposed the `black-gold' politics of the KMT. Voters had had enough. Oh, and you played a role in Mr. Chen's victory as well. In this close race, you made many Taiwanese angry with your denunciation of Mr. Chen and your suggestion that if the people of Taiwan were dumb enough to vote for him, they might never get a chance to vote again. Footage of your finger-wagging performance was played endlessly on the island and, instead of frightening Taiwanese voters, emboldened many to stand up to your bullying.
The votes were counted honestly. And then, mirabile dictu, there was a peaceful transfer of power from that KMT party to Mr. Chen's Democratic Progressive Party. Does all this scare you, Mr. Zhu? Does it raise too many nightmares about the rapid fall from power of the Communist Party in the old Soviet Union and the possibility that you and your fellow Chinese Communist Party leaders are headed for the same dustbin of history? Is that why all your democracy activists are in jail or exile?
Good Leninist party that it was, the KMT tried jailing, intimidating and even killing those who spoke out for human rights and democracy during the `White Terror' that gripped the island until the mid-80s. Chen Shui-bian and his fellow DPP members, as well as a host of other activists, didn't give up. The KMT finally had to relent. Is this what's eating at you, sir? Strike too close to home?
You should read U.S. policy makers' statements carefully, Mr. Zhu. Perhaps you have and that is another reason for your discomfort. For you see, the U.S. has taken full note of democratic development in Taiwan and now sees this as an integral part of its own "one China policy."
President Clinton has twice stated forcefully that the U.S. " will continue to reject the use of force as a means to resolve the Taiwan question, making absolutely clear that the issues between Beijing and Taiwan must be resolved peacefully and with the assent of the people of Taiwan."
As you may have guessed by now, Mr. Zhu, President Chen is no fool. Here's his pickup, in the 11 April 2000 Asian Wall Street Journal, on President Clinton's statement, "This sentence of Clinton's is extremely important. Clearly, according to all the opinion polls, Taiwanese people will not accept being a province of China, or the one country, two systems formula, or becoming a second Hong Kong. If the cross-strait problem is to be resolved with the consent of the Taiwanese people as Clinton said, then any effort to force Taiwanese people to accept the one-China principle is a very serious subject."
Chen has a constituency to report to, and he knows it. In the ASJ piece he went on to say, "If the one-China principle means that Taiwan is part of the P.R.C., or that Taiwan is a province of the P.R.C., then never mind that Chen Shui-bian couldn't accept it, the overwhelming majority of Taiwanese people also couldn't accept it. Therefore, the principles for talks or negotiations must be founded on certain common beliefs. But at the moment there aren't any. That is why I have suggested that the one-China principle be a topic for discussion, but the outcome shouldn't be decided ahead of time, or discussion precluded."
In a May 24th speech Richard Bush, chair of the American Institute in Taiwan, ran his own riff on President Clinton's statement: "This election should also remind us all that Taiwan's democratization has in a rather profound way transformed the cross-Strait political equation. Taiwan's willingness to move forward on cross-Strait relations is no longer just a function of the views of Taiwan's top leaders; it is also a function of the views of the public at large, the press, members of the legislature, and the leaders and factions of political parties."
Mr. Bush added: "The people of the island themselves will have to be convinced that any arrangements reached in cross-Strait dialogue are in their fundamental interests. And to the extent that Taiwan people interpret the actions of the Mainland side as hostile or bullying, it makes it that much harder for Taiwan's leaders to get support for cross-Strait initiatives. If, on the other hand, the people are convinced that cross-Strait arrangements are appropriate, then they will be more enduring because they enjoy broad support."
Democracy has its discontents, Mr. Zhu, no doubt about it. It demands accountability and can be a messy process. But protecting the right of a people to run no-accounts out of office and to have a real voice in decisions that affect them is dear to American and Taiwanese hearts. We still believe Churchill's statement, "Democracy is the worst system of government in the world, except for all the others."
During the past months, one of the most outspoken pro-unification ideologues in Taiwan has been New Party legislator Elmer Fung. In the March 2000 Presidential election campaign he served as the running mate of New Party candidate Li Ao who made an abysmal showing, eking out just 16,782 votes or 0.1 percent of the total.
These days, Mr. Fung is quoted frequently in the newspapers and makes frequent trips to Beijing, where he is received at the highest levels. In fact, in the beginning of July 2000, he arrived in Beijing, heading a 10-member New Party delegation, which was scheduled to meet Vice-Premier Qian Qichen, as well as several other top officials. Sometimes, even the international press quotes Fung, and thereby give him a credibility he doesn't deserve.
Who is Mr. Fung? Interestingly, he is a long-time nemesis of president Chen Shui-bian: in 1986, he caused the imprisonment of then Taipei City Council member Chen, after he filed a libel suit against Neo-Formosa Magazine, where Chen served as legal advisor and director.
In 1984, Neo-Formosa was one of the budding tangwai ("outside-the-party") magazines which opposed the one-party rule of the Kuomintang and its martial law, which had been in effect since 1949, and wasn't lifted until 1987. This was not an easy task: during the period mid-1984 until mid-1985 a record 51 out of 52 issues published by the magazine had been banned and confiscated by the secret police.
In its 19 June 1984 issue, Neo-Formosa had carried an article criticizing a book by the pro-KMT professor Fung Hu-hsiang ("Elmer"), titled "A Critique of New Marxism", saying that Mr. Fung had plagiarized foreign publications, and had presented this as his own scholarly work.
In October 1984, Mr. Fung filed his libel suit against the magazine, and named three magazine executives, including now-President Chen Shui-bian and Mr. Huang Tien-fu, brother of tangwai leader Huang Hsin-hsieh. Interestingly, the suit came ten days after a later-leaked "thought police" meeting of high-level civilian, military and secret police officials, in which the KMT authorities decided to take a "more active" approach against the opposition press, and specifically mentioned libel suits as a possible tactic. The London-based Index on Censorship published a full-text translation of the minutes of the thought-police meeting in its June 1985 issue.
In January 1985, Mr. Chen and his co-defendants were sentenced in Taipei District Court to one year imprisonment and payment of NT$ 2 million to Mr. Fung. They appealed and the case dragged on until 30 May 1986, when they were sentenced to eight months imprisonment and payment of the compensation. Interestingly, the High Court hearing the appeal refused to consider a 77-page report by the North American Taiwanese Professors' Association (NATPA), which provided substantive evidence that Mr. Fung indeed committed extensive plagiarism in his book.
Mr. Chen went to prison in June 1986 and served the full eight months. In August 1986, he went on a hunger strike to protest the restrictions imposed on his correspondence with his family. For more information on the case, see Taiwan Communiqué no.s 26 and 27, August and October 1986 respectively.
Taiwan Communiqué comment: Mr. Elmer Fung is thus a dangerous extremist, who does not have any credibility, and whose words should carry no weight. He and his New Party have no support in Taiwan whatsoever.
It is sad to see that many of the news organizations which report on developments in and around Taiwan are so sloppy. This includes Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France Press, CNN, and on occasion the Washington Post and New York Times. Below we present a couple of recent examples, and hope these newswires will take note.
Associated Press, for instance, repeats ad nauseam the phrase that Taiwan " split away from the mainland amid Civil War 50 years ago." This is factually incorrect, since Taiwan was a Japan-held colony at that time, so it couldn't "split away". It was subsequently occupied by the losing side in this Chinese Civil War, in which Taiwan itself had no part.
Another favorite phrase of the newswires is that "China claims Taiwan as a renegade province and has threatened to attack the island if it seeks independence." This is of course China's position, but it would add to the objectivity of the newswires, if they would also mention that the people on Taiwan consider their island a sovereign nation, and do not want to be ruled by Communist China. The "China will attack" ruse has for many years been a scare-tactic by the ruling Kuomintang in Taiwan, and has now started to lead a life of its own.
Taiwan Communiqué comment: These are not just mere nuances, but essentially different perspectives of history. The newswires have become too accustomed to their own phraseology, and need to go back and reassess how they report on these matters.
By E. Gene Deune, MD, Assistant Professor, Johns Hopkins University
China has been vociferous and has been behaving unruly. It is China and not Taiwan which has been the aggressor in upsetting the calm in the Pacific, by not renouncing the use of force against Taiwan, by flying military planes into Taiwanese airspace, by mobilization land troops across the Taiwan Strait, and by lobbing missiles into the waters off of Taiwan (1996).
To do what it's doing, China relies on money, primarily western capital. To make China as incapable of harming Taiwan and the Asia-Pacific region, we need to starve China of the capital it needs to build and buy its weapons and to feed its troops; This way we diminish to its ability to buy weapons and supplies.
We need to make a conscious effort not to buy anything made in China. So if you need to buy a consumer item that is "Made in China", spend some extra time and look for a comparable item that is made elsewhere.
I know it's difficult these days, because a lot of things are made in China. Try hard, because you will be exercising the only thing the Chinese know how to understand: no money; no power. This boycott should also apply to food items. Look carefully at those products in Asian food stores, many of them are made in China. By buying Made in China goods, you are harming the people on Taiwan, by facilitating China's ability to coerce and frighten and possibly harm the people on Taiwan.
You can also make a difference by writing to the companies you intend to purchase things from that you disagree with the Chinese policies on human rights and on Taiwan, and tell them that you will boycott their products because they are made in China.
Speak with your pocketbook. It worked for the South Africa/Apartheid issue, let's make it work for the China/Taiwan issue.
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