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China still on Taiwan's tail
Paul Lin

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In a farcical gesture, China's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) recently offered to donate medical supplies to Taiwan for SARS prevention. China has committed two major offenses against Taiwan as far as SARS is concerned.

First, by covering up the epidemic, China caused the virus to spread to Hong Kong and then to Taiwan. This not only caused loss of life in Taiwan but also resulted in incalculable economic damage.

Second, despite the immediate threat of SARS, China has continued its political oppression of Tai-wan. From former health minister Zhang Wenkang, who covered up the epidemic, to the "iron lady" Wu Yi, a heartless rumormonger, they are all of the same ilk. They act this way in Beijing and also carried their bad behavior onto the international stage in places such as the World Health Assembly meeting in Switzerland and the UN's headquarters in New York.

Because of these offenses, the people of Taiwan have a right to demand that China's authorities apologize to Taiwan or even pay damages.

Beijing is well aware that its record is poor and that the feelings of the Taiwanese people have been badly hurt. To cover lies told in international forums about helping Taiwan combat SARS, they are trying to make amends quickly by having ARATS step forward to donate medical supplies to Taiwan.

For this purpose, they have been willing to play fast and loose with the truth by twisting the words of the Straits Exchange Foundation, which has accepted donations from Taiwanese businessmen based in China and other civic groups, to imply acceptance of the official donations from Bei-jing. After the foundation refused the ARATS' aid, Beijing's shame turned to rage and it began to sow discord between the foundation and the Taiwanese public in an attempt to shirk their own res-ponsibility for disseminating the virus.

There were two reasons for the foundation's refusal of China's aid. On the one hand, they wanted to point out that China had hurt the feelings of the Taiwanese people. On the other hand, they hoped China would use that medical equipment to help its own citizens, whose need were even more dire than their own. This reasonable and sympathetic response was described by China as a "crass refusal" -- a reaction which shows that when the trap laid by the authorities in Beijing was exposed, they were infuriated and lashed out irrationally.

A Chinese proverb says, "A weasel wishing a hen season's greetings has ulterior motives." China is just such a weasel, never having abandoned its ambition to swallow up Taiwan. Could their sudden donation of medical supplies really indicate concern for Taiwan's people? If they truly cared about the people of Taiwan, how could they let Taiwan become a backwater beyond the reach of the World Health Organization's (WHO) influence?

If they truly cared about the people, how could they cover up the epidemic, thereby causing it to spread throughout the country and even to Taiwan? Even when confronted by Beijing's imposing power, the foundation has never hesitated to uphold this nation's sovereign status. For this reason, the foundation has been opposed by Beijing, which hopes to open other channels for negotiation and to make the foundation irrelevant.

In reporting about this matter, however, some media appear to remain impartial by giving the accounts of both sides and leaving people with a kind of Rashomon feeling. Such "impartiality" in fact confounds right and wrong and misleads the public. It makes one think of certain media organizations and politicians that didn't criticize Beijing for its recent behavior oppressing Taiwan and diminishing Taiwan's sovereignty at the WHO and the WTO. Instead they claimed the government of Taiwan was whipping up "populist" sentiment and propagating the notion of a "China threat."

One doesn't know whether people who speak this way stand on the side of Taiwan or that of China. Taiwan's public has been provoked by China's SARS invasion and military threats. How can this be called "populism," and how can anyone claim China hasn't threatened Taiwan? In fact, this problem of perspective is a problem of national identity, and it is something Taiwan must work out in the course of its development.

Could the people of democratic Taiwan identify with the PRC? Even those who support the notion of greater China shouldn't feel that way. Please consider the following fact. On May 30, China's State Council convened yet another press conference on the subject of SARS. At this press conference, Vice Minister of Health Gao Qiang delivered remarks denying that China had covered up the epidemic. He also denied that the former health minister had been sacked for covering up the epidemic.

To outsiders this is, of course, more of China's shameless irresponsibility, but China does have its logic. Recall for a moment -- what was a reason given when the health minister and Beijing mayor Meng Xuenong were sacked? Did Beijing ever admit to covering up the epide-mic? These were merely the unfulfilled desires of outsiders, but the foreign media can't wait to announce that China has become "transparent" and "pragmatic."

Transparent? Or is it a black box? Pragmatic? Or just a pack of lies?

Paul Lin is a political commentator based in New York.

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