Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Opposition voices absent from cross-strait forums

The government made no effort to invite voices from the opposition to a recent series of forums on cross-strait diplomacy, a former Taiwanese government official said yesterday.

Commenting on the sidelines of a forum on a cross-strait peace agreement at National Chengchi University’s Institute of International Relations (IIR), Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), former Mainland Affairs Council chairman, said agencies under President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration had failed to invite academics from the pan-green camp or former government officials to the forums, at which former Chinese Communist Party officials and Chinese academics were invited to speak.

“They had to invite me [this morning] because I’m a fellow here at the IIR,” Wu, the sole pan-green voice at the forum, told the Taipei Times, adding that the situation had been similar at a pair of forums held over the weekend to mark the 60th anniversary of cross-strait relations.

“[Chinese President] Hu Jintao’s [胡錦濤] confidant Zheng Bijian [鄭必堅] can come to Taipei and claim that the Taiwanese independence movement is doomed and some retired People’s Liberation Army general can threaten us the next day, but academics from the opposition are not invited,” Wu said.

When the Democratic Progressive Party was in power, we always made sure to invite those from the other camp to such events, he said.

This one-sided debate is hardly conducive to the process that is required to build consensus on cross-strait matters, Wu said, adding that pro-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) academics had a tendency to mirror Ma’s “polite” approach to China, which involves no criticism of Beijing’s human rights record.

“Topics such as a peace agreement are very important and this is the first time that both sides discuss them openly,” Wu said.

Unfortunately, with opposition voices absent there is no plurality of voices and the Ma administration can give the impression that its policies are widely supported, he said.

Wu also said that the American Institute in Taiwan had not been informed about the forums, adding that this was reminiscent of the US government being kept in the dark during negotiations on Taiwan’s participation at the World Health Assembly earlier this year.

This story was published today in the Taipei Times.

I had lunch with Dr. Wu after the morning session of the forum at the IIR, during which we also touched on the DPP’s financial woes, which prevents its members from travelling abroad to share their views, and the government’s preventing visiting dignitaries from getting in touch with former DPP administration members or pan-green academics. Dr. Wu said that Koo Kwang-ming (辜寬敏) was setting up his own think tank, which could perhaps help the DPP make more contacts abroad.

Ultimately, however, Wu said that the only voice the Ma administration is likely to listen to is that of the US government, and he agreed with me that so far it has been easy for the KMT to ignore isolated foreign voices or the opposition in Taiwan.

Wu also mentioned that the government appeared to be scrutinizing former the finances of former DPP government officials for any financial irregularities or leaking of classified information to hang them with. “If I am not careful,” Wu said, “they could get me.”

It is always a delight to listen to Dr. Wu or to have conversation with him. His love and passion for Taiwan is undeniable, and he is very supportive of those who are willing to help out.


Criminal Intelligence Analyst said...

Hi Michael,

Just wanted to say that I enjoy your blog and have read your book on CSIS, which I found to be very informative as someone who once considered being a prospective recruit for the service.

J. Michael said...

Dear Criminal Intelligence Analyst,

Many thanks for the kind words re: my blog as well as Smokescreen. I hope the book helped illuminate your decisions concerning applying for work at CSIS, and that whatever you chose to do instead is more rewarding. All good wishes, Michael.