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Ma praises China in June 4 statement

THE NEW MA? : In contrast to previous years, when he attended events to remember the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre, this year Ma issued a short statement

By Ko Shu-ling
Thursday, Jun 05, 2008, Page 3

President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) maintained a low profile on the 19th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre yesterday, issuing only a short statement that fell short of criticizing Beijing.

Ma has attended activities commemorating the 1989 incident almost every year since the massacre, but last year opted to write an editorial published in the Chinese-language United Daily News.

In the 366-character statement, Ma said he was concerned about the democratic freedoms of the Chinese people.

The statement said he had mentioned in his inaugural address that Taiwan cares sincerely for the welfare of the 1.3 billion people of China and that the Taiwanese hoped to see Beijing march down the road to freedom, democracy and equal distribution of wealth.

Ma said in the statement that he would like to see a friendly atmosphere in the Taiwan Strait conducive to the peaceful development of sustainable ties and a “win-win” situation.

Ma praised Beijing for making progress in several areas. Compared with Beijing’s actions in the wake of the 1975 Tangshan earthquake, China’s handling of the Sichuan quake revealed that its reforms and efforts to open up to the world had borne fruit. Beijing’s official response to the disaster, the freedom it granted to its press to report the tragedy, the Chinese people’s enthusiasm in donating to relief efforts, and China’s acceptance of aid from foreign countries — including Taiwan — all reflected progress, Ma said.

In response, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) yesterday attacked Ma, accusing him of retreating from his earlier stance on the Tiananmen Massacre and human rights in China.

Lin Chen-wei (林成蔚), director of the DPP’s Department of International Affairs, said Ma no longer had the guts to criticize China’s human rights record, including its brutal crackdown in Tibet.

“How do we expect President Ma to protect Taiwan’s democracy and freedom if he is afraid of addressing these issues?” Lin asked.

Lin said Ma had withdrawn his position on the 1989 massacre because he was anxious to see through his election promises and win goodwill gestures from Beijing.

Lin drew a parallel between the Tibet and Tiananmen crackdowns, and said that if Ma’s concern for human rights in China were sincere, why did he not mention Tibet in his statement?

That Ma declined to criticize Beijing in his statement indicated that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is not willing to take a stand for democracy and freedom.

During his election campaign, Ma said publicly that he had not ruled out a boycott of the Olympics in response to the Tibet crackdown, Lin said, but the president seems to have lost his interest in human rights since winning the election.

Lin said Ma’s praise of China for its response to the Sichuan quake was selective. Beijing blocked media access to the disaster area in the first stages after the earthquake. Ma should not be so quick to praise media freedoms in China, Lin said, when the press also had little access to information about the tens of thousands of protests that occur in China each year.



‘Chinese Taipei’ won’t get Taiwan into WHO: group

Thursday, Jun 05, 2008, Page 3

“For me, China’s goodwill is an old trick.”-Lin Shih-chia, executive director of the Foundation of Medical Professionals Alliance in Taiwan

In response to a statement by Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) to the effect that China might relent from obstructing Taiwan’s WHO membership bid, a group of pro-independence activists on Tuesday questioned Beijing’s sincerity and predicted that next year’s application would also be rejected.

The group called on President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) not to drop the name “Taiwan” from the WHO application as it would help neither the chances of acceptance nor the nation’s dignity.

Ma has indicated that his administration may file next year’s WHO application under the name “Chinese Taipei,” which he has said would be the most appropriate option.

Representatives of the pro-independence Foundation of Medical Professionals Alliance in Taiwan expressed concern that the president was too eager to see Beijing’s goodwill gestures as sincere.

During their meeting in Beijing last week, Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) told Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung (吳伯雄) that the issue of Taiwan’s participation in the WHO could be a priority in future cross-strait talks.

“For me, China’s goodwill is an old trick,” foundation executive director Lin Shih-chia (林世嘉) said.

In 2005, Lin said, China made a similar show of goodwill in a statement to then-KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰), but only a few months later signed a memorandum of understanding with the WHO Secretariat to further hinder Taiwan’s participation in the organization.

In a survey conducted by the foundation, Lin said that 80 percent of respondents said they would prefer that the government file the application under the name “Taiwan.”

Supporters of Ma do not necessarily agree with all of his views, she said, adding that “Taiwan” is the best name to use on the application.

The foundation has campaigned for Taiwan’s participation at the WHO for 12 years.

Wu Yung-tung (吳運東), a former president of the Taiwan Medical Association, said the government should proceed with caution and remember that the name the nation uses at international organizations is also a matter of dignity.

Wu said it might be possible to join the WHO under the name “Chinese Taipei,” but that the government should consider the potential negative effects down the line.

If Taiwan joins the WHO as “Chinese Taipei,” that could restrict it to the name at other international activities, he said.

The government should not make its decision on what name to use without gauging public opinion first, he said.

The government has applied for WHO membership every year since 1997.



Anniversary passes quietly in Tiananmen

SILENCE REIGNS: Exiled Chinese dissident Wang Dan lamented the lack of progress in China’s political circumstances, describing the situation as a ‘national tragedy’ and a ‘political humiliation’

Thursday, Jun 05, 2008, Page 5

Scores of policemen kept a close watch on crowds in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on Wednesday, the anniversary of the bloody military crackdown on 1989 pro-democracy protests based in the vast plaza.

No public commemorations were known to be held, and there were few reminders of the events of 19 years ago. Instead, the square, like the rest of the Chinese capital, was adorned with symbols of the upcoming Beijing Olympics, in which it will be prominently featured.

Exiled dissidents and human rights groups have sought to link the two events, saying releasing political prisoners and allowing exiled student leaders to return would burnish the Communist government’s image before the Olympic spotlight turns on Beijing.

“Then the Chinese people can work together to build a new China out of the ruins of national tragedy and to engage the world as a rights-respecting nation at home and abroad,” Wang Dan (王丹), one of the 1989 movement’s leading voices, wrote in an article in yesterday’s International Herald Tribune.

Discussion of the student movement and the June 3-4 military assault on the protesters in which hundreds, possibly thousands, were killed remains taboo in China. The Communist leadership labeled the protest an anti-government riot and has never offered a full account of the crackdown.

Security was tight yesterday and crowds of visitors moved calmly around the square, one of Beijing’s main tourist attractions. Police and other security officers searched bags for banners or leaflets containing dissident messages. Plainclothes officers used handheld video cameras to supplement the dozens of permanent mounted cameras trained on the square.

A security cordon around the hulking Monument to the People’s Heroes was the only visual reminder of the protests. The obelisk and its surrounding terraces have been closed to the public ever since student leaders used it as their command center on the square in 1989.

Like much of Beijing, the square and its surroundings are getting a facelift ahead of the August Olympics. A countdown clock to the Aug. 8 start of the Games dominates one side, while tunnels leading to the square are being refurbished, the construction work covered with banners reading “Join hands with the Olympics, make a date with Beijing in 2008.”

Nearby, peddlers hawked trinkets bearing the Olympic logo as visitors wore T-shirts reading “I love China.”

In his article, the New York-based Wang bemoaned China’s lack of political reform since 1989, despite rising prosperity and a growing global presence.

“The many dissidents still behind bars today represent a national tragedy as well as a political humiliation,” Wang wrote.

In an earlier appeal, Human Rights Watch also urged China to free Tiananmen prisoners to show “the global Olympic audience it’s serious about human rights.”

The group, based in New York, said about 130 prisoners are still being held for their role in the weeks-long demonstrations, which involved tens of thousands of students and others, and which started in Tiananmen Square before spreading to several major cities.

In Washington, the US State Department urged China to make a full public accounting of those killed, detained or missing in the crackdown. It called on the international community to urge China to release prisoners still serving sentences from the protests.

The US said that Chinese steps to protect freedoms of its citizens would help “achieve its goal of projecting a positive image to the world.”

China pledged to improve its human rights situation when bidding to host the 2008 Olympics. But one Tiananmen activist, whose son was killed as he hid from soldiers enforcing martial law, scoffed when asked whether the Games had spurred the government to change its attitude.

“I don’t have this kind of illusion,” said Ding Zilin (丁子霖), co-founder of Tiananmen Mothers, a group representing families of those who died.

She has campaigned to get the government to acknowledge those killed in the crackdown and compensate families for the deaths.

China Human Rights Defenders, a network of activists and rights monitoring groups, released a list on Tuesday of eight Beijing residents who remain imprisoned.



Rudd’s Asia plan sinks in Beijing

By Sushil Seth
Thursday, Jun 05, 2008, Page 8

‘The Rudd government may need to rework its Asia policy by recognizing its different components and dealing with them in their own right rather than expecting them to fit Canberra’s grand plan.’

If Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, a Mandarin speaker, was banking on his understanding of China to forge a new relationship with Beijing, it has obviously not worked so far.

His government initially sought to ingratiate itself with Beijing by snubbing Japan and India. Tokyo was not amused when it was left out of Rudd’s recent major trip to the US, Europe and China.

The Rudd government also dumped the quadrilateral security dialogue between the US, Japan, India and Australia.

Even worse, this was done at a joint press conference with the visiting Chinese foreign minister.

With Beijing wary of anything that looks like a containment policy, Australia’s decision gave the impression that China had played a role in the formulation of Canberra’s foreign policy — at least regarding China.

Not surprisingly, it wasn’t received well by other dialogue partners.

India was also left out of the loop on the question of uranium supply, toward which the government of former Australian prime minister John Howard had been favorably disposed as part of an emerging US-India strategic nexus.

Beijing couldn’t have asked for more from the new Australian government, confirming the widely held view that Rudd is biased toward China.

Believing that proving his China credentials early on would give him license to speak freely on China’s human rights problem during the Tibetan unrest, Rudd was frank during his visit to China, advising Beijing to hold dialogue with the Dalai Lama and his representatives.

This was all happening in the midst of the Olympic torch relay, when protests were staged in London, Paris and elsewhere. The protesters were also targeting the Chinese paramilitary security presence surrounding the torch.

At the time, Rudd declared that security for the Olympic torch relay would only be handled by Australian police as it passed through Canberra.

This, however, seems to have added to Beijing’s displeasure, which it expressed by ignoring Rudd’s advice.

In other words, Rudd’s special relationship with China started to unravel before it could even take off.

At another level, Beijing was hoping it could receive sympathetic treatment from the new Rudd government on the price of natural resources, such as iron ore that China imports from Australia.

In the last few years, prices of such resources have soared, largely as a result of growing demand in China.

One way of getting some control over prices is for China to have an equity stake in Australian corporations engaged in the extraction and exporting of primary resources.

While Beijing has aggressively sought to acquire such a stake, it has been met with some resistance, which it construes as discriminatory.

Writing in the Australian, national affairs correspondent Jennifer Hewett said: “The Rudd government is becoming extremely concerned about the prospect of ever-increasing Chinese investment in Australian resources companies.”

It is no mere coincidence that, at about the same time, an Australian-operated gold mining company in China would come under severe attack on Chinese TV and other media over its acquisition of the mine at a very low cost and the severe environmental impact it has had on the region.

John Garnaut, the Sydney Morning Herald’s Beijing correspondent, reported on May 12 that: “The 30-minute tirade, which advocated even tougher restrictions on foreign investment in Chinese mines, was broadcast nationally twice last week and the transcript reprinted on more than 500 Chinese internet news and blog sites.”

As it happens, there is a convergence of sorts between Beijing’s resentment over Rudd’s criticism over Tibet and the economics and politics of Australia’s mining, investment and export of natural resources.

As columnist Ian Verrender put it in the Sydney Morning Herald: “Soon after delivering his message in Mandarin to Beijing [during Rudd’s China visit] about human rights concerns [in Tibet], he was confronted with accusations that Australia treated Chinese investment differently than money from other nations.”

With its economic success and political clout, China is experiencing a rise in nationalist fervor.

It believes that the timing of the Tibetan unrest — to coincide with the Olympic torch relay — was a conspiracy to undermine its emergence as a superpower, with the Olympic Games as a spectacular backdrop.

Australia’s joining the criticism of its actions in Tibet has dented Rudd’s credentials as a friend of Beijing.

In its courting of Chinese authorities, the Rudd government has sought to substitute China for the whole of Asia. Among the three pillars of his government’s foreign policy (spelled out in a signed article not long before Rudd became prime minister), while the first two focus on “our alliance with the United States [and] our membership [at] the United Nations,” the third pillar would comprise “a policy of comprehensive engagement with the Asia-Pacific region.”

So far, however, engagement with the Asia-Pacific has been mainly with China.

Japan and India aside, Southeast Asia seems to have escaped the notice of the Rudd government.

Criticizing Howard’s Asia policy in the same article, Rudd wrote: “In our own region, Australia has increasingly the look and feel of an outsider…[because] Mr Howard has emphasized Australia’s differences from, rather than commonalities with, the region.”

Rudd then promised that under his Labor Party government, Australia “will revert to a long tradition of engagement with the region” with a view to “find Australia’s security in Asia, not from it.”

With such scant notice taken so far of Southeast Asia, it is not surprising that Indonesia, the largest ASEAN country, has felt left out. Even more so because Indonesia has been routinely featured as Australia’s important — if not the most important — neighbor.

The Rudd government was expected to energize the entire gamut of Australia’s relations with ASEAN countries.

But the early signs do not look promising.

With his anticipated close relations with Beijing, Rudd was perhaps hoping to become an interlocutor between China and the West. By virtue of that, Australia would also gain new respect in Asia.

But that strategy doesn’t seem to be working. The Rudd government may need to rework its Asia policy by recognizing its different components and dealing with them in their own right rather than expecting them to fit Canberra’s grand plan.

Sushil Seth is a writer based in Australia.


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