Stop glossing over China's threat to Taiwan

By the Liberty Times editorial

Sunday, Dec 07, 2003, Page 8

Taipei Times

President Chen Shui-bian (???) recently said that China's People's Liberation Army has deployed 496 missiles in Guangdong, Jiangxi and Fujian provinces to threaten Taiwan.

His suggestion that a defensive referendum be held together with the presidential election on March 20 has triggered severe criticism from the pan-blue camp. Pan-blue legislators also questioned the president's divulging the exact number of missiles deployed against Taiwan, saying that it was an act of "leaking state secrets."

Such a paradoxical statement applies pro-China thinking to cover up the fact that China is stepping up its military presence in the Taiwan Strait. We wonder which country is referred to when pan-blue leaders and lawmakers accuse Chen of leaking "state secrets."

That China's submarines and missiles pose a threat in the Taiwan Strait is a longstanding fact known to all. As head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces, Chen has the responsibility and obligation to clearly inform the people of Taiwan and the international community about the enemy's threat to the nation.

With this information, the people will not misjudge the situation and blindly believe that China no longer poses a threat, or drop their guard to allow enemies to approach our doorstep without our having any sense of crisis.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait and Iraqi troops arrived at the Kuwaiti royal palace, the Kuwaiti people saw nothing unusual in their presence, thinking Iraq was using Kuwaiti land to conduct a military drill. Iraqi troops therefore easily took cities and seized other territory. When it was too late to do anything, Kuwaitis realized they had been plunged into misery and suffering.

This is a good lesson for the people of Taiwan.

We also have to ask why the pan-blue camp purposely glosses over China's military threat. Why did they turn around to attack their own leader when they should have denounced China's armed threat?

Moreover, the Ministry of National Defense reported in a legislative meeting in October that Beijing is aiming nearly 500 missiles at Taiwan. The number disclosed by the president, 496 missiles, is no secret at all, yet the pan-blue camp makes an issue of it.

Did it do so simply for the sake of opposing him?

China has used the rapid growth of its military strength in recent years to attack and isolate Taiwan diplomatically and it has also used every possible means to put pressure on Taiwan's international space and visibility. Even more seriously, Beijing has vowed not to give up the option of armed invasion of Taiwan. To accomplish its goal of unifying China and "liberating" Taiwan, Beijing has tried to threaten Taipei with pen and sword, and used commerce to put political pressure on Taiwan.

China's old unification tricks, along with missiles and submarines, and warfare strategies such as "unlimited war" and asymmetrical warfare, pose immediate threats to Taiwan.

Under such circumstances, how can a responsible head of state act like an ostrich and intentionally ignore or avoid the facts?

Certain blue-camp legislators do not care about the safety of the nation and its people, nor do they make an effort to understand the true nature of the Chinese threat. Instead, they attack the president by accusing him of leaking confidential information. Their intentions are indeed questionable. No wonder the people are dissatisfied with the Legislature's performance.

Now, there is the Referendum Law (???). Following repeated amendments to the Constitution in an effort to accommodate reality, it has become fragmented and out of touch with reality and public opinion. To endow the people with the right to initiate new laws outside the current framework, the Democratic Progressive Party has pushed for a referendum law. Their courage and will power deserve our praise. However, due to the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) and the People First Party's legislative majority, with the help of hijacked independent legislators, the newly passed blue-camp version of the Referendum Law is a wicked law that prevents the people from launching referendums.

Anyone with the most basic legal or democratic sense knows that none of the referendum laws of other countries is as ridiculous as Taiwan's, which stipulates that all referendum proposals need to be reviewed by a Referendum Review Committee, formed by the head of the Central Election Committee and representatives from all political parties proportionally to their representation in the Legislature. Whoever controls the legislative majority controls everything about the referendum. In view of such restrictions, the Referendum Law is perhaps the most anti-democratic of its kind in the world. This is indeed a retreat for democratic politics in Taiwan.

Although the new law is preposterous, it fortunately contains Article 17, which allows for a defensive referendum. This may be the only redeeming feature of this wicked law.

The defensive referendum article says that "when the nation is exposed to an external threat which threatens a change in national sovereignty, the president may, following a resolution by the Cabinet, place matters of national security before the public for decision in a national referendum."

In other words, given a concrete hostile threat that threatens to change the status of Taiwan's sovereignty -- China still has not given up its threat of attacking Taiwan, it has repeatedly tried every method to annex Taiwan, and it has ambitions to "unify China" -- this is the best time to hold a defensive referendum.

At a time when the enemy is still not on our doorstep, a defensive referendum is certainly the best way to demonstrate the public's determination to oppose the enemy and protect Taiwan's sovereignty, and to consolidate the power of the "soft national defense" that the people want. It is not an armed provocation, nor is it a referendum on independence. It is, rather, a referendum to oppose Chinese armed invasion. What reason could China or the international community have to oppose this? What excuse could the blue camp come up with to oppose and block this?

If the people cannot choose their own future in next year's presidential election, do they then have to wait until China invades, and, while fighting a war, organize a referendum to decide their own fate?

Taiwan's political situation is exceptional. Historically, Taiwan has spent most of its time under colonial rule or under the rule of Chinese governments, and the people of Taiwan are ruled by a Constitution created in 1946, one not compatible with the nation's current situation.

What crime have the people of Taiwan committed? Why do they have to suffer both international restrictions and the threat of China's regional hegemony? Fortunately, Taiwan is a democratic country where the people can elect their representatives and leaders, and in the future they will also be able to choose their way of life in a national referendum.

The whole world knows that as long as China doesn't give up its armed threats, it is an impossibility that the Asian region will remain peaceful.

It cannot be guaranteed that the lives, property and happiness of the Taiwanese people will still exist tomorrow.

We must consolidate the public will for the sake of individual property and national survival and development, and use a national referendum to unambiguously let China know what road Taiwan will take in the future.

We also hope that the blue camp, with its opposing view, will be able to take the same position as the majority of the people, and listen carefully to the voice of the people instead of continuing to support China's lies and fawn on China. We must not allow 23 million Taiwanese to miss this opportunity to express their wishes.