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Listen to the voice

What are Beijing’s leaders so afraid of?

By Paul Lin 林保華
Monday, Aug 04, 2008, Page 8

The opening of the Beijing Olympics is only a few days away and China has already tried to deter its staunchest critics by creating an atmosphere of terror, arresting and shooting dissidents as if Beijing were under martial law.

Media reports say the Chinese government is staging a “people’s war” on terror. Apart from the 100,000-strong anti-terrorist army, 1.4 million anti-terrorist volunteers, 200,000 troops and three armed services are safeguarding the games. The most advanced SU-27 jet fighters have been deployed around the National Stadium.

The scale of the deployment exceeds the deployment for the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre. Many armed police with submachine guns are appearing in the streets, questioning and examining passersby. Some Beijing residents have said that a number of scientific research organizations have had to vacate their premises so they can be used as temporary dormitories for the armed police. Are these deployments also aimed at preventing a possible coup d’etat?

Traffic in and out of Beijing is also strictly controlled, isolating the city. All vehicles entering the city need to undergo safety checks. A vehicle packed with passengers is turned back if a single passenger does not have ID documents. Subway passengers also undergo such scrutiny.

On the opening day of the Games on Friday, there will be no flights over Beijing, or even balloons. For the convenience of the Olympic participants, the areas around Beijing Capital International Airport and Beijing Railway Station will be closed during opening week, while two layers of wire netting surround the Olympic Village as if it were a prison.

The media are also tightly controlled. On July 24, the Chinese-language tabloid Beijing News published an interview with a Hong Kong-born US photographer, who took a picture of casualties being rushed to a hospital on the back of a tricycle during the Tiananmen Massacre. Beijing immediately ordered the paper yanked from stalls and the report cut from its Web site, calling the article premeditation.

On July 25, some Hong Kong reporters and photographers were strong-armed by police while covering the uproar among people who wanted to buy tickets for the Games. Over the past two weeks, at least four groups of Hong Kong reporters have been treated brutally. The Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games asked the reporters to follow police instructions.

Beijing has also banned the public from filing complaints during the Games, along with bans on prostitution and eating dog meat. It has even required that top-level managers of financial funds leave before the Games. On July 24, China Securities Regulatory Commission issued a notice to all fund operators, ordering them not to comment on the stock market in public to avoid market fluctuation. Why doesn’t Beijing simply close the market?

To promote etiquette among its residents, Beijing first told them that they were not allowed to discuss political or religious issues; now they are prohibited from talking about salaries, sex or health issues such as those related to pollution.

On the surface, Beijing is well protected. However, violent protests have occured from Guizhou and Yunnan provinces to Shanghai. Even Uighurs have reportedly threatened Beijing. Can Beijing really polish up its image before the Games start?

“One world, one dream” is the slogan for the games. But should Taiwan and the world lower themselves to China’s level? Due to the high costs of the Games and low incomes of the Chinese, the government has already held a meeting to call on the public to be prepared for danger amid the calm. What calm?

Paul Lin is a political commentator.


Listen to the voice

Turning back time on sovereignty

Monday, Aug 04, 2008, Page 8

The inevitable came to pass on Friday when Taiwan Post Co announced plans to change its name back to Chunghwa Post Co. The corporation’s chairman, Wu Min-yu (吳民佑), said that the change was in response to a resolution adopted by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) in April that said the company had not completed the required legal procedures.

Saying that the original process was unlawful — the bills were stalled in the KMT-controlled legislature — was a disingenuous ploy to distract attention from the real issue of why the name was changed in the first place.

When the Democratic Progressive Party (DDP) changed Chunghwa Post to Taiwan Post in February of last year, Steve Chen (陳瑞隆), then-minister of economic affairs, made it clear that changing the titles of state-run enterprises would “help avoid confusion and increase Taiwan’s international presence.”

Other name changes included Chinese Petroleum Corp (CPC) to CPC Corp, Taiwan and China Shipbuilding Corp (CSBC) to Taiwan International Shipbuilding Corp. Although the DPP was justifiably raked over the coals at the time for its belated and half-baked attempts (though the word “China” was removed from the Chinese-language titles they were retained in some of the English-language acronyms), it was an effort to bring the names closer to reality.

It is fitting then that the current administration, which seems intent on diminishing Taiwan’s international presence, would go after Taiwan Post first because it is a clear manifestation, though mostly symbolic, of Taiwan’s status as a sovereign nation. It is only a matter of time before other state-run corporations follow suit.

Meanwhile, on the same day Wu made the announcement, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was patting himself on the back — again — over his Pyrrhic victory with China’s state-run media.

In a meeting at the Presidential Office with Australian Commerce and Industry Office in Taipei representative Stephen Waters, Ma said that China’s willingness to use Taiwan’s official title Zhonghua Taibei (中華台北, or Chinese Taipei) at the Olympics rather than Zhongguo Taibei (中國台北, or Taipei, China), represented a triumph and demonstrated the ability of both sides to work towards a “diplomatic truce.”

This is laughable. The very idea of a “diplomatic truce” implies that both sides are independent countries that use diplomacy to solve disputes. Beijing will use whatever language it needs to achieve its goals of unification and cares little for the concerns of Taiwan.

Or, for that matter, the international community.

It has become apparent in the past week that Beijing is backtracking on its earlier pledges to grant foreign accredited journalists unfettered access to the Internet during the Olympic games. So what goodwill can Ma expect from China?

Taken together with his recent statements about not following the tradition of the previous administration in using the name Taiwan in its bid to join the UN, it is clear that the current administration is turning back the clock on sovereignty under the paradoxical notion that it will somehow increase Taiwan’s visibility on the international stage.

But then again, the administration doesn’t seem as concerned about Taiwan’s diplomatic impasse as much as it cares about appeasing the dictators in Beijing.


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