Cablegate: Media Reaction: Obama's Ait Appointee, the Dalai Lama
DE RUEHIN #1698/01 3430720
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 080720Z DEC 08 ZDK
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0515
INFO RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 8785
RUEHHK/AMCONSUL HONG KONG 0243
UNCLAS AIT TAIPIE 001698
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: OBAMA'S AIT APPOINTEE, THE DALAI LAMA
1. Summary: Taiwan's major Chinese-language dailies focused
December 6-8 news coverage on the legislature passing a bill to
distribute consumption vouchers; on the local economy; and on the
call to amend the Assembly and Parade Law.
2. In terms of editorials and commentaries, an editorial in the
conservative, pro-unification, English-language daily "China Post"
called on United States President-elect Barack Obama to carefully
select a suitable appointee as the top of the American Institute in
Taiwan (AIT). The editorial said no matter who is chosen, that
person should be someone like former AIT Chairman Richard Bush or
current AIT Chairman Raymond Burghardt who has rich experience and
knowledge about the Taiwan Strait and the region. Papers addressed
the pros and cons of President Ma Ying-jeou's statement about not
welcoming a Dalai Lama visit to Taiwan in 2009. An editorial in the
mass-circulation "Apple Daily" supported Ma's decision while an
editorial in the pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News"
said Taiwan should welcome the Dalai Lama to visit Taiwan at any
time. The "Taiwan News" editorial further alleged that Ma's decline
of the Dalai Lama's visit must be China's manipulation behind the
scene, just as Washington instructed Ma how to behave during Ma's
August transit in the United States. End summary
3. Obama's AIT Appointee
"Obama Must Be Careful on AIT Appointee"
The conservative, pro-unification, English-language "China Post"
[circulation: 30,000] editorialized (12/7):
"... However, we would like to respectfully advise the incoming
leader of the world's most powerful country that he must take care
to avoid making the same kinds of mistakes his predecessors did.
"Former President Clinton made a major blunder when he decided to
appoint fellow Arkansas attorney and old friend James C. Wood, who
had little experience in international affairs and knew next to
nothing about the situation in the Taiwan Strait. ...
"In 2001, when the Republican George W. Bush took over from Clinton,
another major blunder was made. The AIT chairman was replaced by
Therese Shaheen, a Florida businesswoman whose only known
achievement was raising lots of campaign funds for the new
"Eventually, President Bush's administration relieved Shaheen of the
position and she was replaced by Raymond Burghardt, a career
diplomat who had previously served as chief of AIT's Taipei office
and possessed extensive knowledge and experience in the region.
Like his predecessor Richard Bush, the current AIT chairman has
brought respectability back to AIT and performed well in his post.
"While we understand that AIT is not at the top of the list when it
comes to the priorities of the new president-elect, we sincerely
hope that Senator Barack Obama's advisors will take note of the
blunders made by predecessors in both parties. While the AIT
chairman's post does not normally attract much attention in the rest
of the world, appointing the wrong person to the position can cause
serious trouble and have major repercussions.
"We do not have any special recommendations as for which specific
individual should replace Burghardt at the top of AIT. If Richard
Bush might be tapped to reprise his former role, such a move would
definitely be welcomed here. Persuading Raymond Burghardt to stay
in his post would be just as wise of an idea.
"However, we do recommend that no matter who gets chosen for the
post, that person should be someone like Richard Bush or Raymond
Burghardt who possesses valuable experience with this region and
knows about recent developments in the Taiwan Strait."
4. The Dalai Lama
A) "The Controversy of the Dalai Lama"
The mass-circulation "Apple Daily" [circulation: 520,000]
"... Every country regards the Dalai Lama as a political and
religious leader, more than just a religionist. He [the Dalai Lama]
is a symbol of human rights, the freedom of religion, and Tibet
under oppression, which no one challenges. However, today the
Taiwan voters' election of Ma [Ying-jeou] as President means [that
Taiwan voters] support Ma's policy on cross-Strait reconciliation.
Ma's turn-down of the Dalai Lama's visit for the moment is
reasonable in terms of political logic."
B) "Taiwan Should Welcome Dalai Lama's Visit"
The pro-independence, English-language "Taiwan News" [circulation:
20,000] editorialized (12/8):
"What is most worrying is the possibility that Beijing told the KMT
government (perhaps through the Chinese Communist Party-KMT forum)
to take this position and the Ma administration did not dare to
challenge this edict.
"This possibility cannot be excluded, especially in the wake of Ma's
last minute nomination of KMT honorary chairman Lien Chan to
represent the Taiwan leader at last month's Asia-Pacific Economic
Cooperation forum summit in Lima, Peru instead of former Control
Yuan president and ex-foreign minister Frederick Chien, reportedly
at Beijing's behest.
"This succession of events hints that the People's Republic of China
authorities can already go through underground channels or other
paths to tell Ma what he is permitted and not permitted to do, just
as Washington instructed him how to behave during his August transit
stops through Los Angeles and San Francisco. ...
"In our view, in the current global situation, any time should be
'appropriate' for either Ma or Taiwan to receive a visit by the
Dalai Lama and we urge the KMT government not to interfere with the
DPP's invitation, which is beneficial for the long - term interests
of Taiwan's people and the maintenance of our freedom and democracy.