Taiwan reached deals with China
at the expense of sovereignty and democracy
by European Federation of Taiwanese Associations
Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and its Chinese counterpart – the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) signed four agreements in Taipei on November 4th 2008. Both SEF and ARATS have agreed to address direct sea links, daily charter flights, direct postal service and food safety.
SEF and ARATS are semi-official organisations created by the governments of Taiwan and China to handle communications between two sides, as both governments do not recognise each other as legitimate entity. The two organisations began a series of talks that culminated in the 1992 meetings, in which both sides agreed to deliberate ambiguity on questions of sovereignty, in order to engage on operational questions affecting both sides. The semi-official dialogue was ended after the former President Lee Teng-hui proposed a ‘Special state-to-state relations’ for China-Taiwan relations which was received angrily by Beijing.
Negotiations resumed at the cost of Taiwan’s sovereignty
The formal negotiations between both sides have been resumed after Ma Ying-jeou, an advocate of “eventual unification with China”, took office as the new president of Taiwan in May 2008. In his inaugural address, Ma offered to reopen dialogues with China based on the controversial “1992 Consensus” under which both sides recognise there is only one China, but agree to differ on its definition. Ma’s move has opened way for the highest-ranking Chinese delegation to visit Taiwan for talks aimed at improving cross-straight relations; it, nevertheless, has also given away Taiwan’s sovereignty as Beijing is recognised by the international community as the sole legitimate government of China.
Anger and anxiety of Taiwanese people over talks with China
The Chinese delegation led by Chen Yunlin – the chairman of ARATS, is not a welcome guest for many Taiwanese as Beijing has said openly that it does not exclude the use of military force as a means to annex Taiwan. Up till now, China has deployed more than 1,300 missiles aiming at Taiwan to prevent Taiwan declaring its formal independence, and oppressed Taiwan’s participation in international organisations and activities. Infectious diseases (e.g. SARS) and recent toxic products coming from China have furthered Taiwanese people’s worry over full interactions with Chinese government who has never responded to the issue of human right seriously. Yet the biggest reason led to people’s anxiety over Taiwan’s future lies in Ma’s China policy and his inability to handle the international financial crisis and domestic discontent. The anger and anxiety of many Taiwanese have resulted in a large-scale protest on October 25th 2008, with 600,000 people attended the event condemning Ma’s pro-china stance and his incompetent administration, and demanding that Taiwan’s sovereignty be safeguarded.
Photos taken by: 謝明海 (left) and Dr. Billy Pan (right)
Young democracy turned into a police state
To honour Chen, Ma and his government have treated him like an emissary of Chinese empire, and deployed approximately 10,000 police to prevent any protests. Various protests have been taking place to show Chen how pluralistic and lively Taiwan’s democracy is. Yet backed-up by Ma’s government, the police treat these protesters like criminals, and infringe on their freedoms of association and speech guaranteed under the Constitution.
Overstated economic benefits of a stronger tie with China
President Ma claimed that improving ties with China would bolster the island's faltering economy. But so far, the economy has continued to deteriorate. China appreciates Ma's China policy and wants to help him boost Taiwan's economy. But the first round of talks in June, which lifted a ban on Chinese tourism to Taiwan, has resulted in fewer than 1,000 visitors a day to Taiwan. Many Taiwanese companies invested in tourism to serve the Chinese market have closed down their business. Furthermore, the SEF-ARATS talks have been directing Taiwan’s economy to be more dependent on China than it is already. Taiwan’s money, talent and technology will be sucked dry. If Taiwan is turned politically and economically into a second Hong Kong, China will be able to annex it without even firing a shot.
Taiwan’s parliament as rubber stamp
The agreements signed by SEF and ARATS were not revealed to or approved by Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan (the parliament of Taiwan) prior to the negotiations, let along for the general public to have their say on issues for negotiations. The deadlines to implement these agreements have even been set as if the parliament would buyout whatever signed. This is absolutely against the functioning of representative democracy.
We hereby urge Ma’s government to:
- Renounce its One China policy and safeguard Taiwan’s sovereignty;
- Stop violating civil rights and restore people’s freedom of association and speech as guaranteed in the Constitution;
- Respect to the wills of Taiwanese people, and bear in mind that the process of any negotiation with China and other country should be open and transparent;
- Amend the Referendum Law, so that people in Taiwan can really express views on issues of their concerns and on sovereignty and reject any illegitimate agreements between the governments of Taiwan and China.
And the last appeal to our fellow Taiwanese for the moment is to keep an eye on Ma and make sure he keeps his promise that:
“Taiwan’s future should be decided by its 23 million people.”
For details, see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7707566.stm