It’s just four days to Taiwan’s presidential elections, and the latest turn of events in Tibet have loomed large in the rhetoric on both camps. Here are a few things that Frank Hsieh 謝長廷 (DPP), currently lagging in opinion polls and the underdog in the race (mainly because of the corruption charges against his predecessor), has said:
“As we look at Tibet, we must think about our own fate.”
“Tibet is a test case for China’s application of the anti-secession law.”
“We need to be powerful to protect Taiwan. If China comes here without permission, we can kick them out and demand their apology.”
Said Mr Cheng Wen-tsan, spokesman for Frank Hsieh:
‘The violence in Tibet is related to our platform of resisting Chinese imperialism.’
In an editorial from the independence-leaning Liberty Times, we find the following words:
‘If this revelation in Tibet can wake up many people in Taiwan and show them clearly China’s wild ambition to invade Taiwan, then that is a blessing from God for Taiwan.’
On Monday night, Frank Hsieh appeared at a peace vigil that saw several hundred people, including Tibetan monks and exiles, Taiwanese Buddhist monks and Christian clerics, gathered in central Taipei. Addressing the crowd was Khedroob Thondup, a nephew of the Dalai Lama:
“Beijing blames the Dalai Lama for the events that took place. I want to clarify to all of you that the Tibetan people are fed up with 49 years of suppression and repression. This is a people’s movement inside Tibet.”
Ma Ying-jeou 馬英九 of the Kuomintang, the more mainland-friendly of the two, while currently leading opinion polls, has rubbished Frank Hsieh’s attempt to draw a link between Tibet and Taiwan:
‘To draw an analogy between Taiwan and Tibet is an incorrect one,’
‘Tibet is under mainland China rule, and Taiwan is not.’
Nevertheless, Ma has had to backtrack on his stance somewhat. Jonathan Manthorpe of the Canwest News Service reports:
Ma reiterated his policy of maintaining the status quo in relations across the 160-kilometre wide Taiwan Strait, but he did it in blunter language than he has done before.
The KMT leader said he would implement a policy of “no unification (with China), no independence and no use of force.”
Taiwan, Ma said, will never be part of the People’s Republic of China, though he holds out the possibility of talks on some form of political association if and when China becomes a democracy like Taiwan.
He also makes the following observation:
Even without the intervention of the Tibet crackdown, the two party positions on relations with China reflect a strengthening of public attitude in Taiwan during the eight years of the Chen presidency both against union with China and in support of the island’s own cultural and political identity.
When Chen came to power in 2000 he held out the prospect of negotiations with Beijing on any topic at all if the Communist regime would drop its precondition for talks that Taiwan must accept it is part of China.
Both Hsieh and Ma have much more antagonistic policies towards Beijing because that is what public opinion demands.
As you read this, thousands of Taiwanese businessmen are now flying from the mainland back to Taiwan to vote. The results of this Saturday’s election may well hinge on this segment of voters, who with their billions and billions of dollars invested in the mainland, perceive the ruling DPP as having done little to maintain their economic interests here and thus swing a few points in the Kuomintang’s favour in this tightly-contested race.
AP: Tibet clampdown becomes an issue in Taiwan’s presidential elections
Canwest News Service: Tibet unrest prompts Taiwanese parties to harden stance toward China
Reuters: Tibet bloodshed shakes up Taiwan election
BBC: Pro-Tibet demonstration in Taiwan
Reuters: No dramatic thaw with China likely after Taiwan poll
Macau Daily Times: Taiwanese businessmen in China return for presidential vote