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Is Taiwan next for China’s thuggery?

Opinion Editorial
April 7, 2008

By Mike Krause

Communist China has tried mightily to put on a friendly face for the upcoming 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. But with China’s thuggish military occupation of Tibet on display to the world, the regime in Beijing is showing its true colors.

Tibetans being killed in the streets by Chinese security forces, while bad enough on its own, also serves as a grim indicator of what could be in store for Taiwan should the island nation ever be “re-unified” with China.

On March 10, Tibetans began demonstrations to commemorate a failed 1959 uprising against China’s occupation. The demonstrators were joined around the world not just by Tibetans forced into exile by China, but also by organizations here in Colorado that support independence for Tibet, such as the Tibetan Association of Colorado and Colorado Friends of Tibet.

Beijing reacted with a brutal and ongoing crackdown, kicking foreign journalists out of Tibet and shutting down video Web sites such as You Tube within China. To date — as best as can be determined due to Beijing’s extreme censorship — dozens, if not hundreds of Tibetans have been killed.

As with Tibet, China claims sovereignty over democratic Taiwan — even though it is obvious that Taiwan functions as an independent state — and that only Beijing may represent Taiwan’s 23 million citizens in international organizations.

China backs up its claim over Tibet through brute force of military might. Similarly, China backs up its false claim over Taiwan with over 1,300 ballistic missiles pointed at the island from across the Taiwan Strait and the threat of annihilation against the Taiwanese people.

On March 22, Taiwan held a presidential election. The Nationalist Party (Kuomintang, or KMT) candidate Ma Ying-Jeou won a landslide victory, defeating the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) candidate by some 17 percent.

Much to Ma’s credit, he has forcefully spoken out against China’s crackdown in Tibet, even threatening to boycott the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, “If elected, I will not let Taiwan become Tibet-ized,” Ma told reporters before the elections.

But, as the Tapei Times has reported, Ma also says he will prioritize “closer economic relations” with China, followed by “confidence-building measures leading to an eventual peace agreement with Beijing.”

Shortly after the People’s Republic of China was formed, Chinese Dictator Mao Tse-Tung sought to “re-unify” Tibet with China. After first invading eastern Tibet in 1950, China pressured Tibetan delegates to sign a 17-point “peaceful liberation” agreement in 1951. Then Mao went ahead and sent People’s Liberation Army soldiers into the capital city of Lhasa and simply tyrannized Tibet by force.

In 2005, Beijing enacted an “Anti-Secession Law” which codified China’s already long-standing threats against Taiwan. Article eight of the law mandates the use of “non-peaceful” means against Taiwan if, among other things, “a major event occurs which would lead to Taiwan’s separation from China.”

Also on the ballot during Taiwan’s recent elections was a national referendum over whether to formally apply for United Nations membership under the name “Taiwan.” This comes after more than a decade of being turned down for UN membership under its traditional name “Republic of China,” as well as an application last year under the name of “Taiwan.” While an overwhelming majority of Taiwanese who voted on the referendum said yes to the referendum, Taiwanese law requires that over 50 percent of eligible voters must vote on a referendum to make it count. On election day, about 75 percent of eligible voters went to the polls, and only about half of them voted in the referendum.

Before Taiwan even held its referendum, Beijing had already stated that the measure represented the kind of “major event” towards separation that would allow the regime to invoke article eight against Taiwan. Yet on a dozen occasions leading up to Taiwan’s elections, the Bush Administration voiced vehement opposition to Taiwan’s UN membership referendum in order to appease Beijing, actually lending credibility to China’s threats of violence against Taiwan.

What is happening in Tibet makes clear that China is more than willing to back up its threats of violence with the real thing, and should be reason enough for the world to demand an end not only to China’s occupation of Tibet, but also to the regime’s threats of invasion against democratic Taiwan.

This article originially appeared in the Boulder Daily Camera.