Listen to the voice
PRC dissident with top rights award
SAKHAROV PRIZE: In spite of
heavy lobbying by Beijing, the EU Parliament selected Hu Jia for his active role
in defending human rights in China
AP AND AFP, STRASBOURG, FRANCE
Friday, Oct 24, 2008, Page 1
Chinese dissident Hu Jia (胡佳) won the EU’s top human rights prize yesterday despite a warning from Beijing that his selection would seriously harm relations.
“Hu Jia is one of the real defenders of human rights in the People’s Republic of China,” European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering said. “The European Parliament is sending out a signal of clear support to all those who support human rights in China.”
Hu was selected by members of the European Parliament from a shortlist of three that also included candidates from Belarus and Congo for the Sakharov Prize. Lawmakers said Chinese pressure had been counterproductive.
“Beijing was lobbying heavily for Hu Jia to be passed over but the award of this richly deserved accolade to him shows that MEPs [members of the European Parliament] will not be silenced like so many Chinese dissidents have been, said Charles Tannock, foreign affairs spokesman for the British Conservatives in the EU assembly.
Chinese Ambassador to the EU Song Zhe (宋哲) had warned the bloc’s elected assembly not to pick Hu.
“If the European Parliament should award this prize to Hu Jia, that would inevitably hurt the Chinese people once again and bring serious damage to China-EU relations,” Song wrote in a letter to the assembly’s president.
The announcement of the prize was made as EU leaders gathered in Beijing for a summit with Asian counterparts today and tomorrow seeking to build a global response to the financial crisis.
Hu is a dissident who chronicled the arrests and harassment of other activists before he was sentenced in April to three-and-a-half years in jail in China. Beijing authorities said he planned to work with foreigners to disturb the Beijing Olympics.
He started out fighting for the rights of HIV/AIDS patients, but his scope expanded after the government gave little ground and he began to see China’s problems as rooted in authorities’ lack of respect for human rights.
The Sakharov Prize, named after Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, is in its 20th year. It comes with a cash award of 50,000 euros (US$64,150).
Listen to the voice
court rules for Taiwan in land dispute with China
By Jenny W. Hsu
STAFF REPORTER, WITH AFP, PARIS
Friday, Oct 24, 2008, Page 4
A French court on Wednesday recognized Taiwan’s right to make its case in a legal dispute, despite Paris not recognizing it as an independent state.
The Taiwanese government has been involved in a battle with Beijing over the ownership of a patch of land on Tahiti, in French Polynesia, for more than 30 years, and the case has now been transferred to the appeals court in Paris.
China built a consulate on a patch of land in Papeete, the capital of the French Polynesian island of Tahiti in 1946. Taipei and Beijing have since disputed ownership of the property in a legal battle that started back in 1978.
Last week, in an interim judgment, the court ruled that Taiwan’s case could be heard “independent of the diplomatic situation” even given Taipei’s status as “a Chinese state not recognized by the international community.”
The Taipei government’s lawyer on Wednesday welcomed the French ruling.
“This decision formalizes the recognition of Taiwan by the French judicial authorities,” Guillaume Selnet said. “If Taiwan can play a judicial role, it follows that the Republic of China must exist.”
Beijing’s lawyer, Francois Froment-Meurice, said he would appeal the ruling, which he ascribed to the judges’ “stupidity” and complained that the appeals court had displayed a “worrying judicial mediocrity.”
French foreign ministry spokesman Eris Chevallier said that he could not comment on a judicial decision.
France has recognized the People’s Republic of China since 1964 and does not acknowledge Taiwan as an independent state.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesman Henry Chen (陳銘政) said yesterday the property was donated to the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government by an overseas Chinese group in 1946.
The land was registered in the KMT’s name and the Republic of China in Tahiti’s consular office was built the same year, Chen said.
In 1964, Taiwan and France broke diplomatic ties and the office was shut down the following year. After being vacant for 13 years, the Taiwanese government turned the property over to be managed by the overseas Chinese group, he said.
In 2003, Beijing sued the group and insisted it was the rightful owner of the property. In 2004, a local court in Tahiti ruled in favor of China. The decision infuriated the group, which immediately appealed against the ruling in February 2005.
When the appeal was rejected in May 2005, the group made a direct appeal in 2006 to a French court to retry the case.
Chen said this was not the first time that a property had been confiscated by the local government after the severance of official ties with Taipei.
When Seoul switched recognition to Beijing 1992, a piece of real estate that included the Republic of China embassy was given to Beijing.
Listen to the voice
It’s time to go
As the saying goes: “Democracy is the art of disciplining oneself so that one need not be disciplined by others.” Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Vice Chairman Zhang Mingqing’s (張銘清) statement that there will be no war if Taiwan doesn’t proclaim independence is a good illustration that Chinese officials need a long time to learn the art.
China is still an authoritarian regime controlling people with fear. There is no freedom of speech or religion where Zhang comes from. Human rights abuse and corruption are widespread.
And Zhang feels entitled to discipline and chastise Taiwanese, forgetting that on this free island it is the right of the people to decide whether they want to be independent or not. They have a choice that Zhang’s fellow countrymen are not given.
We all know China is a nation of great ambition, but to really get a “place in the sun,” it has to build a modern society. And the truly modern are those with integrity, those whose integrity is supported by a network of political and civil rights, those who can vote and argue freely.
It is high time for Zhang to go home and discipline the fellow members of his political clique.
Listen to the voice
Freddy Lim (林昶佐), who campaigned in many countries for Taiwan to join the UN, is urging people to join the Oct. 25 demonstration against Chinese poisoned foods and in support of Taiwan’s sovereignty, initiated by the Democratic Progressive Party, the Taiwan Solidarity Union and several pro-Taiwan organizations.
The slogan Freddy will use is mtang huilui (勿通匪類) which means “don’t destroy” (or “don’t degenerate”) in Hoklo. This slogan asks the Ma administration not to ruin Taiwan’s future — its health, education, economy, democracy and sovereignty in particular.
The same slogan has a completely different meaning in Mandarin. It literally means “Don’t communicate with bandits.” In the anti-communist eras of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), Chinese communists were called the “communist bandits” or simply “bandits.” At that time, there was one rule: If you know a bandit and don’t report him or her to the government, you are as guilty as the bandit. The “bandits” were mostly executed in the Machangding (馬場町) area of Taipei.
Today, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) — in spite of his worship for both Chiangs — runs a pro-communist government and puts Taiwan in jeopardy. Freddy’s slogan may have different meanings in Taiwanese and Mandarin but serves the same purpose. It asks the government to not get too close to China, otherwise Taiwan will be destroyed.
Hopefully, Ma will listen to the demonstrators’ appeal and take the necessary actions to rectify his unpopular policies toward China. People have had enough of Ma’s “thank you for your suggestions” and then forgetting the suggestions.
Listen to the voice
Which one is our country?
By Michelle Wang 王美琇
Friday, Oct 24, 2008, Page 8
So many strange phenomena are considered normal in Taiwan that people have become numb to the situation. This month has been filled with lies about the nation. One way to reach normality could be to deconstruct all these lies and come out of the numbness.
In an interview with Japanese media earlier this month, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said: “The Chinese mainland is the territory of the Republic of China.” The Chinese-language Liberty Times, the Taipei Times’ sister publication, criticized the statement, but most other media outlets simply ignored it.
Could anything like this occur if Taiwan were a normal country? Why do we tolerate a national leader who has such a muddled understanding of what constitutes the nation’s sovereign territory? How can we go on living in a country with such a muddled national awareness, as if everything is fine and then call ourselves “citizens”? Citizens of what country?
“Know your country” is the kind of common-sense knowledge that should be given in elementary school. It is a basic understanding that any citizen of any normal country must have. Maybe every Taiwanese needs to read up on civic education: Lesson 1: Which one is our country?
Which is our country? Taiwan? The Republic of China? During international sports events, have you ever heard “Taiwan” or “the Republic of China” mentioned? No. Is there a country called Taiwan among the 192 members of the world’s largest club of nations, the UN? No.
In the international community, there is no nation named Taiwan, and the Republic of China has long been dead in the world community. For the time being, our country has seven or eight different names, but with Chinese manipulation, and Ma’s tacit approval, this number is slowly being reduced to one: “Taipei, China.” Pray tell, is this a normal country?
Why does Ma say the relationship between Taiwan and China is not a state-to-state relationship, but a “practical relationship?” What does that mean? Which is Ma’s country? What is his idea of a country? What is the problem with our country?
The truth has been deliberately covered up for 60 years. Let’s open the Pandora’s box of “national truth.”
The first truth about the nation is the current national title — the “Republic of China” — is a name whose use is restricted to Taiwan. The “China” that the world outside of Taiwan recognizes is the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and not the Republic of China (ROC). This is international political common sense, and it is also the political reality. Ma and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) refuse to accept this reality, and the “China” they talk about is the Republic of China. Ma is using this surrealist lie to rule and control the Taiwanese.
After the KMT fled from China in 1949 and occupied Taiwan, it forced the national title, flag and Constitution on Taiwan without the approval of the Taiwanese public. In 1971, the ROC was expelled from the UN and the UN seat was transferred to the PRC, thus issuing an international death sentence to the ROC. From that day onward, the ROC was a name used to deceive Taiwanese and protect the KMT’s national title and Chinese legal system.
Even today, in the 21st century, Ma and the KMT’s idea of our country is that it is China. They believe that the ROC represents China, and that this is an unshakable “legal fact.” This legal perception runs counter to internationally perceived wisdom and political realities. It is holding the Taiwanese people hostage to the ROC and makes it impossible to establish a new country under the name “Taiwan.”
The second truth about the nation is that its legal foundation, the Constitution of the Republic of China, is Taiwan’s biggest lie, and it is the source of the political chaos.
The Constitution states that the national sovereignty and territory includes all of China, and the government’s jurisdiction has been restricted to Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu through a constitutional amendment.
Based on the Constitution, the KMT promulgated the Statute Governing the Relations Between the Peoples of the Taiwan Area and Mainland Area (台灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例) which defines the two sides of the Taiwan Strait as the “Taiwan area” and the “Mainland area.” Under the ROC Constitution, Taiwan is not a country, but merely an “area” and this is why Ma is now talking about the “Taiwan area.” In other words, the country that Ma and the KMT identify with is not Taiwan, but China — which they mistakenly call “the Republic of China.”
Based on this Constitution, the KMT laid down its educational policies which included Chinese literature, history and geography text books full of Chinese thinking, thus creating an education completely disconnecting the Taiwanese people from the land where they grow up, making them strangers in their own country while developing an emotional and imaginary attachment to China. Today, this faulty greater China ideology continues to hurt our next generation. How could this kind of education not create a people with a confused national identity?
Taiwan and the US are both immigrant societies, but the US’ founding fathers did not imagine the UK to be their home country. They created a new and independent state, a new constitution, and political and educational policies founded on the US homeland. After becoming rooted in the US, the second generation of immigrants from all corners of the globe became true Americans and swore allegiance to the US. There was no confusion over their personal and national identities.
The national lie woven by the KMT over 60 years has created today’s confused national identity, chaotic constitutional system and constant political bickering. It has also created the difficult situation whereby Taiwan cannot be recognized as a country. This situation is paralyzing our present and our children’s future.
In his book The Prophet, Khalil Gibran asks: “For how can a tyrant rule the free and the proud, but for a tyranny in their own freedom and a shame in their own pride?”
What I want to ask is this: How can a president with such a confused understanding of national territory and sovereignty be qualified to rule a country? How can a tyrant rule a free and proud people? How can a free and proud people tolerate that their country is not recognized as a country? Are we really free and proud or are we but an enslaved people of feeble opportunists who accept any humiliation or insult thrown our way? Too many questions and too many abnormalities take place in Taiwan every day, but we still pretend that we don’t see them. Can we call ourselves responsible citizens?
Let us therefore once again return to civic education. Lesson 1: Which one is our country? If you, like me, want to build a country named Taiwan on this land and be a responsible, free and proud citizen of Taiwan, then the most important lesson to learn is how to thoroughly tear apart the myth of the Republic of China and put an end to the greatest ring of fraudsters in Taiwan — Ma and the KMT.
Only if the lies and the rule of Ma and the KMT collapse, laying the truth bare, will Taiwan have a chance of being transformed. Then we can open a new era in line with reality, building a new country called Taiwan.
Michelle Wang is a political commentator.