Cablegate: Media Reaction: Taiwan's Un Referendum and President Chen
DE RUEHIN #1993/01 2420913
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 300913Z AUG 07
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 6594
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 7188
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 8444
UNCLAS AIT TAIPEI 001993
DEPARTMENT FOR INR/R/MR, EAP/TC, EAP/PA, EAP/PD - NIDA EMMONS
DEPARTMENT PASS AIT/WASHINGTON
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OPRC KMDR KPAO TW
SUBJECT: MEDIA REACTION: TAIWAN'S UN REFERENDUM AND PRESIDENT CHEN
1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese- and English-language dailies
August 30 devoted much space again to U.S. Deputy Secretary of State
John Negroponte's remarks on Taiwan's UN referendum as well as
President Chen Shui-bian's trip to Latin America, with an emphasis
on his transit in Alaska and his reaction to D/S Negroponte's
2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, the pro-independence
"Liberty Times" said in an editorial that the U.S. opposition to the
referendum on Taiwan's UN bid violates its own principles. The
English-language pro-independence "Taipei Times" said in its
editorial that the United States, as a friend, should not oppose
Taiwan people exercising their right to vote in a referendum. A
column in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily" said President Chen
Shui-bian is challenging both the United States and China at the
same time. A "China Times" news analysis said U.S. objection is
helpful for the DPP in upcoming elections. "United Daily News"
questioned President Chen Shui-bian's motives in an editorial. The
English-language "China Post" said Chen's trick cannot fool the
United States. End summary.
A) "U.S. Objection to Taiwan UN Referendum Violates Its Own Basic
Principles [lit. the spirit of its foundation] and Democratic
An editorial of the pro-independence "Liberty Times" [circulation:
720,000] said (8/30):
"... A series of recent U.S. moves highlighted its clear opposition
against Taiwan's holding a referendum on its UN bid. Therefore,
Negroponte's public remarks did not come as a surprise. However,
they make all people in Taiwan feel regret and need solemnly to
protest to this long-term ally. We believe the United States
obviously is not objective about the universal value of a referendum
as a means directly to demonstrate public opinion and and as an
indispensable part of the democratic system. Wouldn't it be
ridiculous for the leader of the democratic world to be afraid of a
referendum? The U.S. opposition seems targeted at the broader
international strategic level. That is, [they are] worried that
China's over-reaction to the referendum on Taiwan's UN bid will hurt
the current stability of the international order. As the United
States can neither predict nor control China's behavior, it has
turned the pressure on Taiwan, hoping that Taiwan can make
concessions and give up pushing for the UN referendum.
"... As for the accusation that Taiwan is breaking the status quo,
it is absolutely reversing truth and falsehood, because what Taiwan
is doing now is to prevent, by going through the process of making
Taiwan a normal nation, the Taiwan independence status quo from
being sabotaged. It is China that is breaking the status quo by
aiming its missiles at Taiwan and threatening military invasion. Is
the U.S. government unable to distinguish such a simple fact?
Moreover, the U.S. opposition to the referendum, in fact, violates
its own basic principles and democratic values and is [equal to]
succumbing to vicious forces. Once the United States loses its core
values, the victims will not be limited to the democracy- and
freedom-loving people of Taiwan. It will also be a sign that the
U.S. super-power position is collapsing."
B) "What Does 'Friendship' Mean?"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taipei Times" [circulation:
30,000] editorialized (8/30):
"If the U.S. State Department has a list of least favorite people,
President Chen Shui-bian must surely now be on it. U.S. Deputy
Secretary of State John Negroponte made the U.S. stance on Chen's
proposed UN referendum known on Monday, branding the proposal a
'mistake' and warning it would be seen by Washington as an attempt
to change the cross-strait 'status quo.'
"It could be that some State Department officials are so frustrated
with Chen that they are pounding the table in their strategy rooms,
complaining about the 'trouble-maker,' all the while scratching
their heads and wondering why Chen is being so adamant this time in
pushing for the referendum.
"... It is understood that the United States has come under
increasing pressure from China on the referendum issue. But what is
China afraid of? Doesn't the Beijing administration often trumpet
that China 'places its hope in the people of Taiwan?' So what is
there to fear in having the people of Taiwan raise their collective
voice to tell the world what they want?
"And why does the United States -- the Big Brother promoter of
democracy -- all of a sudden fail to understand that exercising this
universal right is a hallmark of democracy?
"In the Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV interview, Negroponte reiterated
the U.S.' friendship for Taiwan and Washington's support for
"But what does it mean to 'support Taiwan's democracy' and then work
to the contrary and suppress Taiwanese from taking part in a
referendum? What does it mean to 'be Taiwan's friend' but then show
disrespect for the decisions and will of that friend?
"Sure, the United States has its national interests to look after,
but so does Taiwan. Chen, as the elected president, has the
responsibility to work in the best interests of Taiwanese and
continue to follow the people's call for the universal values of
democracy and respect for human rights.
"... The U.S. State Department should understand that it is not Chen
who is being adamant in pushing the referendum, but Taiwanese
themselves -- the true masters and stakeholders in the nation -- who
are backing Chen up in the wish to exercise this universal right."
C) "Anti-China Turned into Anti-U.S."
Columnist Antonio Chiang wrote in the mass-circulation "Apple Daily"
[circulation: 530,000] (8/30):
"Big nations and powers can do whatever they want. Small countries
and the weak are forced to do what they have to do. It is a common
practice that the United States interferes with domestic affairs of
other countries. This is the nature of politics played by the
powers. However, not only the [U.S.] objection to Taiwan's
referendum violates the democratic vales it advocates globally, the
tone of its statement is like lecturing to a small grand child. It
is as if the United States is the guardian of Taiwan's interest.
This face of hegemony is really very nasty.
"... But if without U.S. endorsement, [Taiwan] could find no way to
[join] other international organizations. The U.S. open objection
to Taiwan's UN bid is a huge blow to Taiwan's efforts to participate
in the international community because, without U.S. support,
Taiwan's international space will get narrower and narrower.
"As a ruling party, the DPP should know that Taiwan's democracy is
not only an internal issue, but will have external effects. While
there is much overlapping national interests between the United
States and China, the common interests between the United States and
Taiwan are reducing. One can hardly find a common agenda now. It
is much to the disadvantage of Taiwan that the United States is
dealing with its Taiwan policy under the framework of its China
"A-Bian attended the anti-America party organized by the Sandinist
regime in Nicaragua. It is such a serious matter in the
international arena. Yet he was doing it like a child driving a big
car; anti-China plus anti-U.S., challenging two giants at the same
time. He himself may find it a lot of fun. But it is a big
disaster for Taiwan."
D) "U.S. Obstruction Helpful for the Green Camp to Solicit Votes"
A news analysis by journalist Chiang Hui-cheng in the centrist,
KMT-leaning "China Times" [circulation: 400,000] noted (8/30):
"Chen Shui-bian finally ended his troublesome visit to the allies
after bearing the humiliation of low-keyed Transits through Alaska
and putting away stickers promoting Taiwan's UN bid. Now that the
most embarrassing scenes are over, for Bian, there will be no
greater obstruction any more. The stronger the United States
objection, the more this diplomatic pressure will be transferred to
helpful forces for the DPP in elections.
"... Compared to the turbulence resulting from the two-state
statement and the announcement to cease the operation of the
National Unification Council, the U.S. side has never been so swift
and resolute like this: no more special envoys, no more diplomatic
communications, and even the commercial considerations regarding
arms procurement were put aside. Then there is no need for
superficial rhetoric and what should be said has been brought on the
table and expressed thoroughly and directly.
"... Taiwan indeed enjoys no diplomatic space as it is caught in
between the United States and China. Bian correctly took advantage
of the U.S. insufficiency in dealing with the Asia-Pacific situation
and link Taiwan's anxiety to the U.S. anxiety. However, if the
little embarrassment of Bian's transit [in the United States] can be
changed into votes, then probably it is 'worth it.' This is Bian's
most important calculation for his tour this time."
E) "Tell Us President Chen: What Is the Meaning of This?"
The pro-unification "United Daily News" [circulation: 400,000]
"... Chen Shui-bian's manipulation of the UN bid referendum is
entirely out of selfish and political trickery motives. He is eager
to bleach and dye the 'corrupted Chen Shui-bian' into the 'Taiwan
independence Chen Shui-bian.' Then he could occupy the commanding
position as the standard-bearer of Taiwan independence in order to
highjack the presidential elections and the political situation
afterwards. Therefore, he is maneuvering the referendum without
concern over the consequences. In fact, as the above analysis, he
knows very well that [Taiwan] cannot 'successfully enter the UN.'
He just wants to play with the 'failure bid to the UN' in order to
arouse public anger. He also knows clearly that these are only
games played for elections. But he does not care if the nation
needs to pay a long-term price which cannot be compensated.
"Tell us, what is the meaning of this that the U.S.-Taiwan relations
are damaged to such a degree because of the 'fake issue' of the 'UN
bid referendum'? The United States downgraded the transit
treatments to Chen Shui-bian. When asked if this is humiliating to
Chen Shui-bian, the State Department spokes person said 'The United
States respects the people of Taiwan very much.' This is a more
obvious denial of Chen Shui-bian's qualification to represent the
people of Taiwan after U.S. authorities advised Chen Shui-bian to
demonstrate 'leadership.' Now the Department of State has played
brinksmanship with the referendum. Although Chen Shui-bian deserves
his own-made disgrace, the U.S.-Taiwan friendship and trust was
destroyed by Chen Shui-bian to such , how is Taiwan going to get
together with the United States? To hurt seriously the 'real
U.S.-Taiwan relations' because of the 'fake UN bid issue' -- what is
the meaning of this? ..."
F) "Chen Shui-bian's Trick Can't Fool the U.S."
The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (8/30):
"... President Chen Shui-bian and the DPP are not very good at
bettering the quality of life for the people of the island. Over
the past years, a growing number of the island's residents have
lived a life of hardship and misery. Taiwan's economic performance,
which used to outshine that of all over 'Asian Tigers,' has fallen
behind that of South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong.
"The presidential election next year may well bring the DPP's rule
to an end. If that happens, President chen and some of his family
members will face imprisonment. He is trying everything possible to
prevent that scenario.
"A common method that politicians use to influence the outcome of an
election in their own favor is to confuse voters. This ruse is
popular especially in Taiwan. Many Taiwanese voters are
undereducated and have only a vague idea which candidates are really
"Chen's UN bid is designed to confuse voters. The attempt is
intended to create and promote the false idea that the DPP is more
concerned about Taiwan's international standing and that its rival
intends to reunify with the mainland at the expense of Taiwan
"... Although the U.S. has broken off formal diplomatic relations
with the ROC, Washington has been friendly with Taipei over the
years. It remains the ROC's staunchest ally. Taiwan can't afford
to lose the support of this friend, but many of the steps the DPP
has taken in recent years have damaged the good ties between the two