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THE LIBERTY TIMES EDITORIAL:Ma bows to China over Dalai Lama

December 10, 2008

Taipei Times - Taiwan
Tuesday, Dec 09, 2008, Page 8
In response to the Dalai Lama’s suggestion that he visit Taiwan, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said last Wednesday that the timing was not appropriate.
Ma’s remarks have caused much debate. Even Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) suggested that Ma reconsider his decision. But Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) explained on Thursday that the decision was made out of concern for “overall national interests,” for which the timing was not right. It remains unclear which “nation” the president has in mind.
The Dalai Lama is not only Tibet’s spiritual leader, but also enjoys a great reputation in democratic countries. His determination to resist China’s authoritarian regime has become an asset in the fight for universal human rights. Over the past few years, he has visited the US several times and has been invited to the White House as a special guest of the US president. He has also visited Taiwan twice and both visits highlighted the values shared by Taiwan and democratic countries in the West. Undoubtedly, this was beneficial to our “overall national interests.”
Ma should be reminded of his own words. When China launched a crackdown in Tibet that coincided with Taiwan’s presidential election campaign earlier this year, Ma issued a statement in support of Tibetans and the Dalai Lama and called on the public to join him in condemning Beijing.
At the time, he urged the Chinese communists to stop their military crackdown and open a dialogue with the Dalai Lama. In an interview with the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung in July, Ma said the Dalai Lama had visited Taiwan twice in his capacity as a religious leader and that they had met twice. Ma said Taiwan would welcome the Dalai Lama if he visited again as a religious leader. Comparing Ma’s previous comments with his new stance, it is clear he has gone back on his statement to please China.
When the Dalai Lama visits democratic countries in the West, China always issues “serious protests,” including threats or retaliatory measures. However, despite Beijing’s loud objections and threats to commercial interests, Western democracies choose to stand by democracy and human rights.
Ma, by contrast, has rejected the Dalai Lama’s visit to curry favor with Beijing in the name of “overall national interests.”
His habit of belittling himself shows that the self-proclaimed “valiant steed” is cowardly when it comes to dealing with Beijing.
Ma’s unwillingness to offend China is not surprising. Immediately after taking office, he said that cross-strait relations would be his top priority.
He also stressed to foreign media that Taiwan must maintain a good relationship with China. In reality, it is Ma himself who needs China’s help. He is hoping that China will promote the nation’s economic development so that he can run the country smoothly and be re-elected.
Promoting the myth that the nation’s economy depends on China, Ma has over the past six months pushed to relax restrictions on Taiwanese investment in China, thus locking Taiwan’s economy into China’s.
But, at the same time, Ma was not alert to the looming global financial crisis, and now the nation’s economy is troubled by both internal and external difficulties. Internally, companies are closing down because of the outflow of manufacturing plants and capital, which is fueling unemployment. Externally, the global financial tsunami has swept over Taiwan and pounded its already weakened economic structure.
As a result, Ma has failed to fulfill his campaign promises of 6 percent economic growth, an unemployment rate of less than 3 percent and a per capita income of US$30,000, along with a promise that the TAIEX would climb above 20,000 points.
Instead, employees are being forced to take leave with no pay and are facing pay cuts and layoffs. Their future looks dim.
With regard to the hardships faced by ordinary people, Ma says he feels their pain, but it seems he has no intention of righting his misguided policies.
He has not changed his strategy of encouraging industries to relocate to China. Encouraging them to return to Taiwan would promote domestic investment and create jobs. But Ma and his Cabinet propose measures such as consumer vouchers, tax cuts and various subsidies that create an illusion of prosperity based on “saving the economy through consumption.”
On the other hand, Ma is looking across the Taiwan Strait, hoping China will grant some favors to boost the economy. Under such circumstances, he would not dare offend Beijing by allowing the Dalai Lama to visit.
Ma has catered to China in almost every way — from belittling the nation’s sovereignty to suppressing protests against Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin (陳雲林).
Taking Beijing as his master, Ma is acting like the chief executive of a Chinese special administrative region, or the puppet king of a vassal state.
Taiwan has won much praise for its successful democratization over the past two decades. In the past six months, however, judicial and human rights and freedom of speech, assembly and protest have regressed, arousing concern from international human rights groups.
Ma has ruled out a visit from the Dalai Lama. This may give people in other countries the impression that Taiwan has downgraded itself to a part of authoritarian China.
The legislature, as the highest representative body, should give the situation serious attention.
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