It is the prerogative of governments to decide who can and cannot enter their borders based on national interest considerations. In that regard, the Taiwanese government was entirely within its rights when it said on Friday that it would not give an entry visa to Uighur leader Rebeiya Kadeer if she applied for one following an invitation by Taiwanese groups for her to visit the country.
Had Taipei limited itself to saying that a visit by Kadeer it this point in time would be “inappropriate,” that it risked “damaging” relations between Taiwan and China — or even that it was not in the “national interest” — the denial could have been bearable, however begrudgingly.
In rationalizing its decision, however, the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) entirely undermined its credibility by adding that the World Uyghur Congress is related to “a terrorist organization” — ostensibly the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM). “We are trying to prevent terrorism from overshadowing Taiwan,” Minister of the Interior Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) told the legislature on Friday.
Terrorism overshadowing Taiwan? Based on whose assessment — that of Taiwanese intelligence agencies? US? Or Chinese? Furthermore, even if, as it sought Chinese acquiescence prior to its invasion of Iraq in 2003, Washington agreed to list ETIM as a terrorist entity (a decision that is now being questioned), it never recognized Kadeer as a terrorist, as doing so would have constituted guilt by association (in fact, after being sent into exile from China, Kadeer received asylum in the US).
It now appears that Taiwan’s assessment of who can and cannot be allowed in the country, and of what constitutes terrorism, is dictated by Beijing. In fact, the Taiwanese government never listed ETIM as a terrorist entity. It was unnecessary for the MOI to add the reference to terrorism, unless it felt the need to signal, to Beijing and the rest of the world, that Taiwan under the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) now sides with China on issues of self-determination, seeing “splittism” as coterminous with terrorism.
In many online forums and comments posted on Chinese newspaper Web sites, Taipei’s decision is being feted by overtly xenophobic and racist readers as “wise.” If wisdom means mirroring the views of a murderous authoritarian government, then the government under Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is indeed becoming wiser.