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China lacks the right to interfere in democracy
Paul Lin

Taiwan's plan to hold a referendum is a big step forward on the path of democracy. But China and its collaborators in Taiwan are annoyed by the referendum. One says Taiwan is pursuing independence in the name of democracy and threatens to use military force. The other says President Chen Shui-bian is bringing Taiwan toward the brink of war.

Chen has made public the two referendum questions, which have drawn a positive response from the US. But I believe China will not give up since it has always opposed Taiwan's democratization in the name of the unification-independence issue. From Taiwan's first presidential election in 1996 to the first transfer of political power in 2000 to now, China has made an all-out effort to suppress Taiwan's democracy.

As I write this article, the Chinese government has not responded to the two referendum questions. But Chinese scholars have said that what concerns Beijing the most is that Taiwan will hold a referendum, not the referendum topics. This is in line with the facts.

Therefore, even if the people of Taiwan support unification with China, Beijing still tries to forbid people from exercising their basic rights through a popular referendum.

The US is the leader of the world's democratic countries and its concern for peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait is understandable. But China is an autocratic empire. It has no right to and is not qualified to criticize Taiwan's democracy. It knows nothing about democracy and is an enemy of democracy.

In July last year, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region government's forceful push for legislation based on Article 23 of the Basic Law triggered a massive demonstration demanding political reforms and giving political power to the people.

In the District Council elections in November, Hong Kong residents once again expressed their demand for democracy with votes. On Jan. 1, 100,000 people took to the streets.

Beijing has tried to turn its back on the demands of the people. Recently four hack scholars of Beijing, dubbed the "four great defenders of the law", came out to suppress the people's cries for democracy.

The US and the UK have heard the Hong Kong people's wishes and expressed their support. The US Consul General in Hong Kong, James Keith, said history has repeatedly proved that the best policy in response to the people's wishes is to hold general elections.

To suppress Taiwan's democracy, China cozies up to the US. But it adopts a totally different attitude toward the US in dealing with the Hong Kong problem. This is because Hong Kong is under China's control, so China can do whatever it wants. Taiwan, on the other hand, is not under China's control, and therefore the US' help is needed.

If Taiwan is ever controlled by China, there will be no room for the US to interfere in Beijing's "internal affairs" and Taiwan's democracy will undoubtedly come to an end.

A pro-China institution in Hong Kong recently invited two of the "four great defenders of the law" to speak at a seminar. One harshly condemned the Hong Kong residents' demand to "give political power to the people." He said that the Hong Kong government gave political power to the people in 1997, and asked if the people of Hong Kong wanted all six million people to be chief executives.

This is either a foolish comment or a defamation of democracy. Obviously, the US can use China in its war against terrorism, but it must never let China interfere in others' affairs. Otherwise, disaster will ensue.

Paul Lin is a commentator based in New York.

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