Sensitive spots dampen Ma’s dream
To the excitement of democracies and democracy activists around the world, Liu Xiaobo (劉曉波), the well-known, currently imprisoned Chinese dissident, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last week. In democratic Taiwan, however, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) merely offered a hollow statement saying the award was of historic significance.
In contrast to the US president, the German chancellor, the Japanese prime minister and others who called on the Chinese government to free Liu and allow him to receive the prize in person, Ma needed more than 24 hours to consider his response. Not until the evening after the prize was awarded did he issue a statement expressing a “hope that Liu Xiaobo will be released and allowed to regain his freedom as soon as possible.”
He also said: “I believe the Taiwanese public would be highly appreciative of the Chinese initiative” if Liu were to be released.
What he didn’t say in that strange statement was that if Taiwanese were not highly appreciative of such a move, they would probably also be unlikely to accept Ma’s “eventual unification” or to re-elect him in the 2012 presidential election.
Ma’s response has been met with criticism from all quarters and former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) called the statement a case of testing the wind because Ma is always sensitive to which way the wind blows for fear of offending his masters in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Another of Ma’s sensitive spots is that he is probably angling for the same award. In November last year, Control Yuan President Wang Chien-shien (王建煊) said that if the cross-strait relationship, which has made such improvements under Ma’s leadership, continues to improve, it would just be a matter of time before the Nobel Peace Prize found its way to Taiwan. Of course he was talking about Ma.
With the prize going to Liu this year, Ma’s chances are obviously deteriorating. In addition, he is trying to use the positive fallout from the cross-strait detente to build political momentum toward winning the prize. Unfortunately for Ma, the fact that the committee gave the prize to Liu makes it obvious that they continue to base their decisions on the universal values of liberty, democracy, human rights and the rule of law rather than on the positive fallout from cross-strait detente aimed at surrendering Taiwan to the CCP.
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