Dec 29, 2007

Taiwan Watch: Ma Not Guilty; Japan Opposes Referendum

Given that tension between China and Taiwan is likely to rise in 2008 with the referendum on Taiwan's UN membership and a Presidential election both scheduled, and as the coverage in the New Zealand media on these issues is so poor we thought that we would start a regular watch for our readers on developments.

There are two interesting developments to report today. KMT Presidential hopeful, Ma Ying-jeou was yesterday found not guilty on corruption charges by the High Court. Prosecutors are, however, considering an appeal to the Supreme Court. Ma's former secretary Yu Wen, a co-defendant in the trial, was sentenced to one year in jail for using fraudulent receipts to claim reimbursements from Ma's special allowance fund.

There are rumours that the Government has more corruption dirt on Ma - so watch this space. This is important as Ma is the candidate that Beijing wants to win the Presidential election. Tensions have a better chance of easing if Ma is President.

In another development Japan's PM told China's Premier yesterday that Tokyo opposes Taiwan's planned referendum on UN membership. We quote from the Taipei Times:
"We don't want a situation in which Taiwan's referendum leads to tensions between [the two sides]," said Fukuda, who is in China for a four-day visit.
China has been angered by the Democratic Progressive Party's insistence on holding a referendum alongside the presidential election next year on whether to seek UN membership using the name "Taiwan."
Many countries, including the US, have opposed the referendum, saying it could be seen as a step to declaring full independence.

Why is this important? A formal declaration of independence by Taiwan could draw a military response from China. This could then draw the US, Japan, Australia and others into a conflict.

The referendum is a cunning ploy by the DPP Government to raise tensions and anti-China sentiment in the run up to the Presidential election, and boost support for the DPP.

China is on best behavior in the run up to the referendum as it is beginning to understand Taiwanese democracy better. We hear rumours that some countries that currently recognise Taiwan have been persuaded to defect to China, but China has asked that no announcements be made until after the referendum. The loss of "diplomatic allies" causes real indignation for the average Taiwanese voter. Taiwan has several "allies" in the Pacific, and would like to both keep them and add to the list.........