Press freedom and the legal system suffer as Taiwan and China get closer. This facilitates an easier relationship for the West with China, but in the end we lose. Democracy and human rights are essential for a sustainable development. It is therefore gratifying that the EU is telling Taiwan directly that Taiwan should abolish capital punishment, which Taiwan has resumed.
The Danish newspaper Information on March 25 2013 first published the article. However, new information is added regarding media mergers.
By Michael Danielsen, Chairman of Taiwan Corner
Over the past five years, the EU and the U.S. has applauded Taiwan and China for their friendly tones. This is due to the many trade agreements that integrate the two parties’ economies, and in particular, the silence on Taiwan’s right to independence. The vast majority of the Taiwanese want independence. However, the question that we have to answer is, who is this so-called friendship benefiting in reality, when Taiwan’s democracy is set in a worrying reversal?
Press freedom is measured, among others, by the French Reporters Without Borders, which recently degraded Taiwanese press freedom by two points, and thus confirmed the general trend, since the former authoritarian party, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), came to power after the 2008 election. The development stands in stark contrast to the positive development during the previous independence-seeking government.
When you look at events in Taiwan, it is surprising that the decline has not been worse. One of the recent concerns is a huge media merger. The merger is now cancelled due to disagreements among the buyers. If Taiwan’s authorities had approved the merger, it would have provided China with indirect dominance in the Taiwanese press. After the media merger, Taiwan press would have been dominated by a few Taiwanese, but pro-Chinese business men. They would have controlled more than 50 per cent of Taiwan’s printed media, owning several TV channels and electronic news platforms.
Chinese values are gaining ground
The U.S. based Freedom House registers Taiwan as free, but there appears some dark clouds over the island state. The gloomy prediction is reinforced when Taiwan’s China-friendly president leaves the impression that traditional Chinese values are above the western human rights. And there are several other issues.
A credible legal system is essential in a democracy. Therefore, it is worrying that several opposition politicians have been accused since 2008. Prosecutors have targeted 26 members of the opposition party, the DPP. Out of the 26 members, for example, eight are former ministers, nine are from the previous administration, and three are mayors. Although their cases are now closed, and thus have been acquitted, they have experienced psychological pressure, gone through expensive litigation and has been vilified in the press. The latest figures show that eight more have not received a final settlement of their cases.
The judiciary must also be careful. Judge Hong Yin-Hua was degraded after she criticized the trial of Taiwan’s former president Chen. She believes that the case got invalid from the beginning, when a judge was replaced
Seen from the West, the integration between China and Taiwan benefits the EU and the USA. The reason is simply that the Taiwan problem is not on the radar screen, which facilitates trade relations with China. However, leaving Taiwan to China is neither sustainable for the West or the Taiwanese.
The concerns are illustrated, for instance, in a new U.S. Congress report that calls for an investigation into a possible cooperation between China and Taiwan in the dispute over the Japanese islands. This is one of the adverse consequences of a not very well thought out strategy. Taiwan still has military and commercial importance. In addition, other Asian countries would respond with great concern if the U.S. leaves Taiwan to China, which today shows muscles in both the South China and East China Sea.
There will not be peace in Taiwan. The Taiwanese youth have demonstrated against the media merger both on the street and in social media. In addition, it is evident when you move around in Taiwan that there is widespread dissatisfaction with the island state situation.
Democracy and human rights are essential for a sustainable development. It is therefore gratifying that the EU is telling Taiwan directly that Taiwan should abolish capital punishment, which Taiwan has resumed. Politicians, which are close to Taiwan should follow up and engage in dialogue on the island state’s democratic development. They should also ensure that they get a balanced impression by meeting with Taiwan’s opposition, on their paid visits to Taiwan.