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Home > East Asia > 

Beijing trying to trample on rights
Paul Lin
10/13/2005

Hurricane Katrina blew away the originally planned official meeting between Chinese President Hu Jintao and US President George W. Bush in Washington. As a result, the Hu-Bush talks were postponed and replaced by the UN summit in New York.

Nevertheless, Hu's intentions to achieve his goals, such as establishing Sino-US constructive co-operative relations, did not disappear with the postponement, but instead, were kept intact and carried out in the bilateral meeting in New York.

In the prologue of the Bush-Hu talks in front of media photographers, Bush only gave a one-minute speech, whereas Hu chattered like an old fuddy-duddy for more than 10 minutes.

In the official talks, Bush showed no interest in discussing the Taiwan issue, even though Hu, according to reports, offered him a "new formulation" as bait to tempt Bush into cooperating with China in maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.

The is not the first time China invited the US to "intervene in its domestic affairs" on its own terms, so the move is hardly innovative. Because of Beijing's tight media control, the government is free to give its own interpretation to its actions, and the people will accept that certain things need to be done "for the good of the revolution" or as part of a longer-term strategy.

`Therefore, this talk of cooperation to "maintain a military balance across the Taiwan Strait" is no more than phrasemongering, and what China wants is for the US to take its side and recognize it as "the boss."'

The formulation of the Sino-US cooperation to maintain a military balance across the Taiwan Strait may well appeal to the US, but if Washington is not careful, it will become a victim of Chinese trickery.

Fortunately, Bush has dealt with China for several years and understands its malign nature; he therefore did not respond directly, but stonewalled with the hackneyed support for "one China." Hu did not get much out of the US on this occasion, which was reminiscent of former Chinese president Jiang Zemin's offer, just before he retired, to withdraw missiles targeting Taiwan in exchange for the US not selling weapons to Taiwan. This offer, too, was ignored by the Bush administration.

The terms of Hu's offer are certainly more appealing than Jiang's, but the malevolent intentions are the same. This can be exemplified in the following three points:

First, the US has long insisted that any resolution of the Taiwan issue must gain the consent of the Taiwanese people. Hu's offer of a Sino-US resolution to the cross-strait issue is nothing more than yet another means of trampling over the wishes of Taiwan's people. This goes against everything the US stands for. By tempting the US to act against righteousness, China hopes to alienate the US and Taiwan.

Second, the negotiations between the UK and China over the future of Hong Kong in 1983 and 1984, and the subsequent history of the territory can serve as an example. When Tso Kuang-jung, director of Hong Kong's Information Services Department, was appointed private secretary to then governor Edward Youde to participate in Sino-British negotiations, China rejected the need for three-way talks and denied Tso a visa, so that the negotiations took place without the participation of any local Hong Kong representative.

In this way, the wishes of the Hong Kong people were ignored. This is exactly the trick the Chinese are now trying to pull off.

Third, the provision of the September 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration on the future of Hong Kong concerning the establishment of a Sino-British Joint Liaison Group can be used as a reference. Annex II of the declaration outlines the goals, nature, responsibilities and term of the group.

Its goal was to assist in the 1997 handover, but it was clearly indicated that it would be a forum for liaison only and not an organ of power. It would not even have a supervisory role. It would only be responsible for liaison and facilitating negotiations.

China agreed the group would operate until Jan. 1, 2000, greatly soothing the anxiety of the people of Hong Kong, who believed the British government would continue to act as a restraining influence on China until that time. Unfortunately, it did not turn out that way.

On November 1984, Hsu Jiatun, the head of the Xinhua news agency in Hong Kong criticized the British for violating the letter of the agreement, and demanded the right to interpret the joint declaration.

In 1994, the Chinese government even used the last Hong Kong governer Chris Patten's political reform to make trouble, and then publicly announced that "it is the boss." The Chinese had no truck with the negotiations mandated by the declaration, and every time the British expressed any disagreement Beijing would harshly criticize the government for interfering in internal affairs.

Therefore, this talk of cooperation to "maintain a military balance across the Taiwan Strait" is no more than phrasemongering, and what China wants is for the US to take its side and recognize it as "the boss."

The Taiwan issue needs to be made an international one. The UN should take note of China's behavior, for although it is a member of the UN Security Council, its constant saber rattling over Taiwan now threatens regional peace. If China opposes UN involvement on this issue, perhaps the model of talks on North Korean nuclear capability should be adopted.

In this instance, four-party talks involving Japan, the US, Taiwan and China could be established. As the Philippines is close by and would be engulfed by a cross-strait conflict, it could also participate. If a regional debate of this kind could not resolve the issue, then the matter could be taken up by the UN.

Paul Lin is a political commentator based in New York.

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