Oct 10, 2005

Taiwan: Double Tenth: A Time for Rededication to Freedom

For progressive Taiwanese in the new millennium, the purpose of their Double Tenth National Day is not to pump up self-esteem based on ethnic pride, economic or military power, ideological jingoism or geopolitical ambition
For progressive Taiwanese in the new millennium, the purpose of their Double Tenth National Day is not to pump up self-esteem based on ethnic pride, economic or military power, ideological jingoism or geopolitical ambition.

Much less is its purpose to whip up nationalistic chauvinism and hysteria directed against this or that perceived enemy of the people at home or abroad.

The spirit of this year's Double Tenth, in other words, is a renunciation of its authoritarian past and rejection of an authoritarian future.

It is a time for the people of Taiwan to reflect upon, and rededicate themselves to the bedrock values that transcend their differences, hold them together as a family, and unite them with the global family.

On Oct. 10, 2005, Taiwan has much to be thankful for as well as much to be concerned about. Most gratifying, there has taken root among its citizens an appreciation of the preciousness of human liberty.

They affirm the imperative _ so eloquently expressed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his recommendations on U.N. organizational reform titled ``In Larger Freedom’’ _ to base national development and the maintenance of peace and security on the advancement of human rights and democracy.

No responsible person or nation can fail to feel revolted by those who amass and wield power in a manner that holds human beings in contempt while telling them it is for their own good.

Over the past two decades, at great cost in suffering to many, the citizens of Taiwan have radically transformed themselves.

They used to cower in the shadow of authoritarian rulers who justified repression in Taiwan in the name of preparing to liberate many more people elsewhere. Now, what makes the Taiwanese a united people is their will to insist on liberty for themselves first and foremost.

They are capable of helping others only for saving their own collective soul.

Thanks to this spiritual revolution, Taiwan enjoys a high degree of human rights protection, opportunity for public participation in government, and transparency and accountability in government.

According to Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2005 survey, Taiwan is one of the few countries in Asia that qualifies as ``free.’’ It shares that with two other nations, Japan and South Korea. Taiwan ranked Asia's most free with overall rating of 1.5 on a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 represents the freest.

The same survey rates China ``not free,’’ at 6.5, only a half point away from sharing the world's worst rating with Sudan, North Korea and Myanmar.

Here lies the greatest external threat to Taiwan's free and democratic way of life.

The tyrants who ruthlessly oppress the Chinese and Tibetan people declare the Taiwanese their chattel and rant that they will stop at nothing to crush Taiwan's sovereignty.

In March, the rubber-stamp Chinese parliament unanimously approved a so-called ``anti-secession law,’’ which claims that the Chinese Civil War is still on and will end only when the Taiwanese people, who, except for those forcefully conscripted, took no part in that war, are united with a society that does not share their appreciation of human rights, freedom and democracy.

In their hypernationalistic rhetoric, Beijing officials have claimed that Taiwan poses the gravest danger to China's national security. The world can see through such hysterical raving.

Ever since the Taiwanese people liberated themselves from an authoritarian system transplanted from China _ which did indeed threaten to replace the Chinese Communist Party's brand of repression with its own _ their government has made every effort to promote peace and understanding across the Taiwan Strait.

Repeated calls by Taiwan's government under President Chen Shui-bian _ as well as by a growing chorus of world leaders and concerned observers _ for direct consultations between Taipei and Beijing have gone unheeded by the Beijing leaders.

Instead of talking, they have continued to escalate tensions in the Asia-Pacific by deploying increasing numbers of missiles targeted at Taiwan _ more than 700 at last count _ and building a war machine that analysts agree is aimed at attacking Taiwan and anyone who come to its aid.

A helpful first step to reduce mounting worldwide anxiety of China's intentions, and to eventually bring lasting peace and stability to the Taiwan Strait, would be for Beijing to accept Taipei's offers to conduct negotiations on topics of immediate, practical concern to both sides, such as fighting cross-strait crime and establishing a hotline to prevent misunderstandings that might lead to conflict.

Agreements reached last year and this year between the two sides' representatives on special holiday charter flights and overflights are encouraging examples of what is possible.

It is hoped that Taiwan and China can build on such exchanges to advance ``a larger freedom’’ across the Taiwan Strait.

Source: The Korean Times