Chinese govt cannot be trusted to decide Taiwan's fate

Chinese govt cannot be trusted to decide Taiwan's fate

The words of Fan Liqing, China's Taiwan Affairs Office spokeswoman, have caused quite a stir in Taiwan over the past week.

In response to Tainan Mayor William Lai's declaration that "Taiwan's future must be decided jointly by the 23 million people of Taiwan," TAO responded with, "Any issue that involves Chinese sovereignty and China's territorial completeness must be decided by, including Taiwanese compatriots, the entire populace of China."

Recently in this corner we have pointed out that the consensus among the inhabitants of this island is that Taiwan is already independent; the debate for the vast majority of Taiwanese is, rather, over whether to move toward a name-change involving the dropping of the world "China" from the country's official name.

It is a debate over cultural identity and heritage that has little to do with Beijing's view of Taiwan as a rebel province, a view that nobody here ascribes to.

We made an observation that Lai merely brought out into the open, an observation of the PRC's hard-line position, which has always been hard-line, and reminded Taiwanese that perhaps the solution to the problem cannot be found through "more communication" as the problem lies in a fundamental refusal to accept each others' respective positions.

China's call for "all Chinese" to decide the future of Taiwan needs to be tested against the question of what is the substance of the choice we are being offered. How valuable is the "decision" over the future of Taiwan's status?

"The Chinese do not even get to decide their own fate, how can they decide the fate of others?" runs a popular refrain from the past week, referring to the PRC's authoritarian governance. China's crackdown on the New Citizens' Movement, a group of liberal activists who seek to promote constitutional rights of free speech guaranteed by the PRC's own charter, does not inspire confidence in its sincerity to provide room for a serious choice to be made.

China's publication of its white paper on Hong Kong in the past week, in which it emphasised its interpretation of the Central People's Government's (CPG) relationship with Hong Kong as one of absolute lordship, with privileges currently being granted on a conditional basis, and which can be withdrawn at any time, only serves to fuel growing alarm in the special administrative district. It is alarming for Hong Kong residents that Beijing is building a case to pull the rights of civil liberties and self-governance that they currently enjoy.

"Will Hong Kong still be what the country needs if the CPG fully controls and runs it? This is the most important question. It is clear from the way the CPG has all along dealt with Hong Kong affairs that such a Hong Kong would not be what China needs," the liberal Ming Pao in Hong Kong protested on its editorial page in response to the white paper.

Maybe the CPG failed to contain the anxiety of hard-liners, and in turn might have had a tough time with calls for the direct election of the Special Administrative Region's leader. Maybe the hard-liners feel pressured by the spread of democratic street movements from Taipei to Hong Kong and even the more pro-Beijing Macau.

This year's strong attendance in Victoria Park at the quarter-century candlelight memorial for victims of the June 4, 1989 bloody crackdown on students in Tiananmen Square may also have touched nerves. But the Chinese government has only given credence to the criticism that it is not prepared to brook dissent.

When the censorship of the Tiananmen Square crackdown goes to such extreme ends as to censor anything related to that day - Victoria Park; or Teng Biao, the activist who lambasted the Communist Party - on Chinese search engines, who can have confidence that there remains a true choice for people living under the communist government to make choices about their own destinies?

And that is what makes China's latest reiteration of its offer unconvincing. The Chinese government right now does not offer its people a choice about their own futures, not to mention the future of China. The democratic protesters across the strait, on the other hand, represent the fight not only for their own agendas, but for the universal idea of people's right to decide their fate.

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