Alexa

Taiwan's protests about values, not fear of China: official

Los Angeles, Oct. 7 (CNA) Taiwan's student-led protest against a trade-in-services agreement with China earlier this year was held to preserve values cherished in Taiwan, not because of a fear of China, a Taiwanese official posted in the United States said Tuesday. Responding to an op-ed that appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Steve Hsia, director-general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Los Angeles, said in a letter to the paper that it was "not appropriate" to chalk up the protests in Taipei to "fears of China." That is because "our desire is to keep what we cherish the most: the universal values of human rights, democracy, freedom of speech, equitable prosperity and the rule of law," he wrote in a letter published on Oct. 7. Hsia was taking issue with an opinion piece by assistant professor of law Timothy Webster that appeared in the paper on Oct. 2 titled "The West gets the blame, but it's China that Hong Kong and Taiwan fear." "Unlike Hong Kong, the Republic of China (Taiwan) is a sovereign nation that holds its own elections for president and parliament. That is why our president, Ma Ying-jeou, supports Hong Kong in its demands for greater democracy and could not accept mainland China's 'one country, two systems' formula," Hsia said. "We hope mainland China will eventually develop an open, reasonable and peaceful system in which Taiwan, Hong Kong and the surrounding countries can dispel their doubts and wariness," he said. In his essay, Webster -- director of East Asian legal studies at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio -- said China often accuses the West, and particularly the U.S., of stirring up trouble and fanning fears of China. "But fear of China is not a Western machination. In the span of six months, massive protests in Taipei and Hong Kong show that fear of China is most acute along its own borders," Webster argued. The Chinese might reasonably expect demonstrations in Vietnam, the Philippines, Japan and other countries with which it has maritime disputes, he said. But the thousands of students occupying central Hong Kong, and the hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese citizens who protested earlier this year in Taipei, are not CIA operatives, he said. "Rather, it is the inhabitants of greater China -- the ones whom Beijing hopes one day to incorporate into a unified motherland -- who fear China the most. They are protesting Chinese encroachments in far greater numbers than either the Vietnamese or Japanese," he said. The ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong followed protests in Taipei in March and April against the services trade agreement with China. The protesters in Taiwan feared the pact would hurt Taiwanese interests and give Beijing greater leverage over Taiwan's economy. Taiwan's government has argued that legislative ratification of the trade agreement is critical to opening the way for participation in other free trade blocs in the future, and that failure to pass it would hurt Taiwan's credibility in seeking similar deals. (By Oscar Wu and Elaine Hou)