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A girl with a painted face holds up a sign to cheer on the Taiwanese team on the last day of the wushu competition at the World Games in Kaohsiung yesterday.

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Hoklo-speaking diplomat aims for realistic PRC ties

‘PERSONALLY INVESTED’:: Obama’s pick as the next US ambassador to Beijing learned to speak fluent Hoklo and Mandarin while he lived in Taiwan as a missionary

Saturday, Jul 25, 2009, Page 1

US ambassador-nominee to China Jon Huntsman smiles on Capitol Hill in Washington on Thursday during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.


US President Barack Obama’s nominee to be ambassador to China promised on Thursday to bring a “hard-headed realist” approach to relations and said he felt personally invested in the fate of Taiwan.

Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who is fluent in Mandarin and Hoklo, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the sometimes difficult 30-year diplomatic relationship was in “an exceptionally exciting time.”

“But I also am a hard-headed realist about what it’s going to take to manage this relationship or being part of that team in circumnavigating the challenges ahead,” said Huntsman, 49, who is expected to win easy confirmation.

The governor, who had been floated as a possible 2012 Republican challenger to Obama, said he would work to improve Sino-US economic and military relations and bolster cooperation on issues such as climate change and North Korea.

“We need to continue working closely with China to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons program,” Huntsman said, just hours after Pyongyang declared denuclearization talks dead.

However, Huntsman named Taiwan, human rights and Tibet among the “areas where we have differences with China” and vowed “robust engagement” on human rights if confirmed.

The governor, who lived in Taiwan as a Mormon missionary, said he felt “personally invested in the peaceful resolution of cross-strait differences, in a way that respects the wishes of the people on both Taiwan and the mainland.”

He said that current US policy “supports this objective, and I have been encouraged by the recent relaxing of cross-strait tensions.”

The governor received warm praise from senators of both parties, and the committee was expected to refer his nomination to the full Senate quickly for confirmation before lawmakers leave for a month-long recess on Aug. 7.

Relations between Washington and Beijing have taken on rising importance in the last decade as China has embraced its role as a leading global economy and has pushed for regional security amid tense standoffs with North Korea.

Asked about persistent US complaints that China’s currency is artificially cheap, giving its exports a boost, Huntsman said Beijing had made progress on trade imbalances and on the value of its money.

“It is our every hope and desire and, indeed, our intent at the negotiating table to ensure that progress is made in this particular area,” the governor said.

He also said he hoped that Beijing would curb arms sales to conflict-ravaged areas of Africa and urged China to “work with us to address governance and development concerns in places like Sudan, Burma [Myanmar] and Zimbabwe.”

There were moments of levity, too, as when Huntsman acknowledged senators’ praise and declared: “I hope I do as well at my funeral. I’m not sure that I will.”

The Utah governor, a former ambassador to Singapore, noted that he had two adopted daughters, one from China and one from India, and quipped: “Happily, no border disputes yet surrounding their bedrooms.”





A likely envoy with a clear message

Saturday, Jul 25, 2009, Page 8

The likely appointment of Republican Utah Governor Jon Huntsman as the next US ambassador to China is an intriguing development, and certainly welcome as far as Taiwan is concerned.

Amid increasingly aggressive comments by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Pyongyang’s brinkmanship, Huntsman’s emergence as the probable next envoy to China sends another signal that the US is beginning to reassert itself and make up for a period of Asia policy neglect that emboldened not only North Korea and Myanmar but also Chinese militarism.

President Barack Obama’s nomination of Huntsman is part of a growing number of strategic job offers to Republican politicians and conservatives. Democrats in certain quarters may be feeling a little irritated at the scope of Obama’s attempt to engage with his political foes, but those with genuine concerns about China’s recalcitrance on issues ranging from defense and currency manipulation to human rights and regional security will welcome Huntsman’s appointment.

Democrats were also a lot less likely to subject Huntsman to the silly grilling that Republicans have opted for in the case of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. Such bilateral support for Huntsman amounts to another signal to Beijing that his likely appointment cannot be interpreted along factional or partisan lines but as a clear statement of intent by Washington to deal with China in a more vigorous fashion.

For people in Taiwan who support a democratic state anchored in principles of self-determination, the importance of the issue should not be overstated. It is up to the pro-independence side of politics to continue communicating with the Americans through the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) and through channels in the US.

This is especially important now that AIT Director Stephen Young is ending his term. It is essential that his replacement receive a more professional and cordial reception than awaited Douglas Paal, whose poor relationship with the then-Democratic Progressive Party government represented a modern-day nadir in Taiwan-US relations.

The pro-China administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), however, may feel a little uneasy at the thought of Huntsman, a former Taiwan-based Mormon evangelist, being “personally invested in the peaceful resolution of cross-strait differences, in a way that respects the wishes of the people on both Taiwan and the mainland,” as he told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday.

Huntsman will be all too aware of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) grim past, and his background as a politician and his personal characteristics point to a straight shooter, a man willing to live up to his promise of delivering a “hard-headed realist” approach to US-China ties.

It is to be hoped that, notwithstanding the inevitable softening of language that comes with diplomatic postings, Huntsman will be prepared to make a candid assessment on cross-strait pacts between the Communists and the KMT government that are potentially injurious to Taiwanese.



The shame of restoring a memorial to a killer

By Tsai Ing-Wen 蔡英文
Saturday, Jul 25, 2009, Page 8

Five days before the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) abruptly changed the name of National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall back to “Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall,” the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) held a ceremony in memory of the victims of the 228 Incident and the White Terror at Liberty Square in front of the edifice to commemorate the 22nd anniversary of the lifting of martial law.

Hundreds of victims of political persecution and their families attended the memorial. Seeing their old and weak figures in front of the structure that again serves as a memorial for the prime culprit behind a past dictatorship, I felt extremely saddened. I cannot but ask how we can strive for democracy and freedom while extolling autocracy, and how we can solemnly pay tribute to the dead on the one hand while shedding tears for a slaughterer on the other?

We must speak out. If you weep before the alter of this culprit, it is tantamount to flogging his victims and rubbing salt in the wounds of their families and society in general. If you wish to maintain this memorial hall for a dictator using taxpayers’ money and public resources, then this would be a betrayal of democratic politics and a most ruthless trampling on the value of human rights.

The biggest lesson we learned from World War II was the cost of brutality and cruelty, but what frightened humankind the most was the Holocaust. At about the same time, Asia witnessed the regrettable and painful Nanking Massacre. While the Holocaust highlighted the value of the life of a human being and the existence of universal values, the Nanking Massacre continues to be interpreted from a nationalist perspective with little regard to the sacredness of life and human dignity.

Ultra-nationalism has therefore relegated the memory of massacres carried out by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) to oblivion. We must realize that it is this process that turns ordinary people into accomplices of a dictator’s purges and the revisiting of genocide.

Although the number of people massacred by the CCP and the KMT is much higher than those who died in the Japanese invasion of China, the Chinese-speaking world continues to fail to reflect on this. In addition, the KMT and the CCP have avoided facing up to their histories of dictatorship. Thus, Mao Zedong (毛澤東) and Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) remain the celebrated founding fathers of their parties and national heroes, while those who were killed at the time have been forgotten and disappeared quietly from history.

The late human rights activist Bo Yang (柏楊) wrote a poem for the Weeping Tablet (垂�? on Green Island, which reads: “How many mothers have wept long nights for their imprisoned children on Green Island?”

The KMT and the CCP now seek reconciliation and are working together to eradicate their histories of purges and massacres. To the families of victims of political persecution, talks between the KMT and the CCP and cross-strait exchanges are like a black curtain covering the blue sky of freedom. Taiwanese and Chinese worry that they may end up like the Israelites who wandered through Babylon.

I oppose commemorating dictators. We embrace freedom and democracy. This is our commitment to both our ancestors and our descendants. The restoration of the name of the dictator to the memorial hall cannot be recognized by a democratic society, while those responsible for the restoration will be remembered forever for their actions.

Tsai Ing-wen is chairperson of the Democratic Progressive Party.

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