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Are the Americas also part of China?
Paul Lin

China's People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) is set to pass an anti-secession bill next month. This piece of legislation is based on Article 23 of Hong Kong's Basic Law, the preparations for which led to the demonstration of nearly 1 million people in Hong Kong on July 1 two years ago.

The protesters' main concern was the extension of Chinese legislation into Hong Kong, and included three aspects: The first was that any Hong Kong association belonging to an organization banned in China could be banned in Hong Kong. The second aspect was that it introduced to Hong Kong laws on "sedition," "treason," "subversion" and "illegally publishing state secrets," which threatened freedom of speech. The third aspect was that the article dealing with secret interrogation would have brought China's opaque way of dealing with problems and its judiciary's complete disregard for law and regulations to Hong Kong.

Following the same line of reasoning, China has its own interpretation of what constitutes secession, an interpretation prone to impromptu changes. China's rule by individuals and its political intervention in the judiciary means that it can pin the "secession" crime on Taiwan if it so pleases, and that it can pin it on any of its own citizens. It could even be wielded as a weapon in a domestic power struggle.

If China can apply its anti-secession legislation to Taiwan, then other Chinese laws could of course also be applied. Taiwan would then lose its judicial rights as well as its national sovereignty, something that the government and opposition must face head on. If they don't, Taiwanese living in China, regardless of whether they support the pan-blue or the pan-green camp, could be sentenced for violating the anti-secession law, should China pass it.

The all-pervasive corruption among Chinese officials means that any Taiwanese may be deemed to be in violation of the anti-secession law for simply offending an official. They may even be blackmailed by greedy officials. Even those who do not violate any laws in China could have a crime pinned on them for actions taken outside Chinese territory.

Between September 2002 and July 2003, China spent almost a year debating Article 23 with the people of Hong Kong. The result was a strong local counter-reaction, partly because the consultation period was too short, and the government of the Special Administrative Region had to revoke the bill. China learned its lesson, and prepared the anti-secession legislation aimed at Taiwan and China's minority peoples behind closed doors. No one knows the contents of the legislation, which makes it impossible to respond with persuasive arguments or let the international community know where its dangers lie.

China is also fast-tracking the law to avoid problems -- the CPPCC standing committee reviewed the bill late last year and is planning to pass it in March, after a mere three months.

In Hong Kong under "one country, two systems," no one is ready to accept Chinese legislation violating the "two systems" principle, so how could sovereign and independent Taiwan, which opposes the "one country, two systems" model outright, accept the anti-secession law? The strange thing is that apart from Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou, who has said that the law is unacceptable, pan-blue camp politicians have not taken a clear stand, showing them to have less backbone than the people of Hong Kong.

Because China as adopting a closed-door, fast-track approach, the international community has not attached the same importance to this issue as it did to the Article 23 legislation. The US and Japan are the only countries who have said anything, when, in fact, the law poses a threat to China's neighboring countries as well.

It is well known that China is fond of saying either that a given region has been part of Chinese territory "since ancient times," making unification a Chinese responsibility, or that the Chinese people are the ancestors of the people in a given region, which therefore cannot be separated from China. The Han people only began moving to Taiwan 300 to 400 years ago.

Following the above logic, the historically more ancient Koreas, Vietnam, Singapore and Japan could also be targeted by the anti-secession law. A few years ago, there was a rumor saying that the Chinese people were the ancestors of the American Indians. That would make even the Americas part of Chinese territory "since ancient times."

Paul Lin is a political commentator based in New York.

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