Tibet issue manipulated in Taiwan’s election

2008-05-22 - kwangyin
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Before election, both parties found Tibet a hot topic

When the outrage broke out in Tibet on Mar 14th, 2008, Taiwan was right in the midst of presidential election frenzy. Ma Ying-jeou, the KMT candidate, reprimanded the abuse of force from the PRC government, and reiterated the consistent respect of the ROC government for the cultural, religious, as well political rights of the Tibetan people. He also clarified the principle of handling cross-strait issues—following the opinion of the majority, which is maintaining the status quo, no independence, no unification, no force.

On the other hand, the DPP candidate, Frank Hsieh, not only made a statement to oppose violent crackdowns, he also framed Tibet as a warning for Taiwan, implying that once the one-China market grows into shape, China will use force against Taiwan where there are human rights or security concerns, and that we won't be able to protect Taiwan.

As response to Hsieh's statement, the KMT presidential candidates Ma Ying-jeou and Vincent Siew pointed out during the press conference on Mar 17th, that Hsieh's analogy of Taiwan, Tibet and Hong Kong is invalid, because Taiwan has its own sovereignty, people, territory and regime, moreover, we don't accept the “one country, two systems” stance that Tibet has accepted. Ma also called for the Chinese government to stop violence, release the demonstrators, and initiate talks with Tibetan leader Dalai Lama.

On Mar 18th, premier of the PRC State Council Wen Jiabao pointed out in a press conference that evidence has indicated that recent uproar in Tibet was plotted by Dalai supporters to destabilise the Olympic Games. The authority took immediate yet restrained action to quiet things down, Wen also claimed that Beijing is always willing to negotiate, as long as Dalai gave up on Tibetan independence, and recognised that Tibet and Taiwan are inseparable parts of China.

Wen's talk was harshly criticised by Ma as “"outrageous, unreasonable, arrogant, dumb and pretentious,” and that "The Republic of China [ROC] is a democratic country that enjoys sovereignty. The future of Taiwan will be decided by 23 million Taiwanese people, with no interference from China. He also added that "If the Chinese government continued its suppression of Tibetans, and the situation in Tibet worsens, I (if was elected president) would not rule out stopping athletes from attending the 2008 Beijing Olympics."

Hsieh said in the press conference later,that Wen's talk is consistent with Ma's position, and Ma should give up his one-China market policy. Hsieh expressed his opinion on Tibet by saying that an autocracy would always blame the oppressed for everything, and that DPP will be standing with the Tibetan people against violence.

Moreover, Hsieh responded to Ma's possible boycott by saying that Beijing wouldn't care for Taiwan's action, the boycott would only sacrifice Taiwan's athletes . He claimed that there are many ways to support Tibet, including stopping the campaign to have vigils together with Ma. Ma later emphasized that the boycott will be “possible” “only if” Beijing keeps up with the crackdown, and the situation in Tibet worsens, and he still hoped for the best.

After election, Tibet issues left aside

Compared to the high volume of support from both the campaigns before election, politicians have been rather quiet after the election. From March 20th on, organisations mobilised by the Tibetan government on exile , including “Taiwan Friends of Tibet,” have been gathering for vigils on the “Liberty Square.” From Mar 28th to 30th a 49-hour hunger strike was organised, demands include ceasing violence against monks and ordinary people, the interference of international organisations to conduct unbiased investigations, stopping misrepresenting Tibetans as “rioters” and refusing the presence of Olympic Fame in Tibet. More than a dozen of organisations have joined the petition.

Half a month after the violent breakout, the KMT and DPP legislators filed two cases for Tibet, in the idea of reprimanding the PRC government for its forceful actions and negligence of Tibetan people’s human rights, and appealing to the international community to watch over PRC’s future actions.

Tibet vs. Taiwan

The weighty attention Taiwan has for Tibet roots in the ambiguous historical and political relationship between Taiwan and China. Taiwan is under suppression from China in the international community, and thus is widely not recognised as a normal country, which is a situation the Taiwan people, regardless of political choice, feel bitter about. PRC’s violent crackdown on the Tibetans undoubtedly triggered Taiwanese people’s reaction toward the independence/unification dilemma.

DPP, which supports independence for Taiwan, has always been rough on cross-strait issues, and it took advantage of this incident to attack China for its notorious record of human rights, in hopes of gaining more votes from the election. On the other hand, the KMT, which has been more friendly with China, also criticized Beijing with a strength that is rarely seen, in order to get votes from the undecided voters.

However, both KMT and DPP are located in the right-wing side of the political spectrum, and their concerns over Tibet are most probably more election-motivated than human rights-inclined. Although Tibet had been a hot topic in Taiwan, it will soon be swept under the carpet once the election is over.

Reference:
Mar 19, 2008, “Ma won't rule out Olympic boycott over Tibet.” Taipei Times. http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2008/03/19/2003406155

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