Chen Shui-bian, President of Taiwan, meets EuroNews to talk about his conditions to eventual talks with China, the role of the European Union in the region and Taipei’s current efforts to become an observer at the World Health organisation (WHO).
Taiwan is striving to assert its identity as it emerges into the millenium. For over 50 years Taiwan’s chief preoccupation has been its relationship with its big brother China, just 180 kilometers away across the Taiwan strait. Beijing considers the island part of its territory and has threatened military action should Taipei ever formally declare independence.
Most Taiwanese are content with the existing situation, representing neither independence or integration…but recognizing a historic and cultural link with the mainland.
Today the Taiwanese can’t avoid feeling overshadowed by their giant neighbour with its burgeoning economic power.
Taipei is striving to express its own personality and this sometimes leads to diplomatic tensions…
President of Taiwan, Chen Shui-bian, (elected in 2000 and re-elected in march 2004 for a second and last mandate) met EuroNews to talk about his conditions to eventual talks with China, the role of the European Union in the region, and Taipei’ s current efforts to become an observer at the World Health Organisation (WHO).
EuroNews: Mr President, thank you for receiving us. Confronted with an economic and commercial superpower like the people’ s republic of China, what kind of arguments and supports do you have to defend your country?
“The most important thing is to uphold Taiwan5;s identity and consciousness. Taiwan is not a part of China, nor is it subordinate to China. We must also maintain Taiwan5;s economic independence and avoid leaning too heavily on China. However, as long as companies keep their roots, their headquarters, their bases, and their Research and Development centres in Taiwan, then the Chinese market can be considered as a single environment in our broader strategy to 6;deeply cultivate Taiwan while we reach out to the world6;”.
EuroNews: You have suggested that you are willing to talk to China if it commits itself to democratic reforms. What kind of reforms are you talking about?
“First, China must abandon totalitarian rule under the Chinese Communist Party. Second, China must implement a genuine democratic system and safeguard its people5;s freedom of religious belief, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and of the Internet, and freedom of assembly and association. Third, China must cease to oppress Taiwan in the international arena, including in the spheres of diplomacy, politics, the economy, and the military. Fourth, China must abandon its attempts and preparations to use force against Taiwan. It must withdraw the missiles it has targeted against Taiwan, and repeal the so-called “anti-secession law”. Fifth, China must respect the free choice and decision of the 23 million people of Taiwan.
If China meets all these conditions, then perhaps one day, the people of Taiwan might reconsider the idea of ultimate reunification”.
EuroNews: Some critics say that the European Union has adopted a “backseat” position on Taiwan. Do you share this feeling? What do you expect from the European Union to improve the relationship between the EU and Taiwan?
“We attach great importance to the pragmatic and friendly relations between the EU and Taiwan. We can be the strongest of allies on many issues, especially in the fields of the economy, trade, and commercial cooperation, based upon our shared belief in the universal values of democracy, freedom, human rights, and peace.
The European Parliament has passed many resolutions calling for the disputes between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait to be resolved peacefully through dialogue, and not through the use of force or other non-peaceful means.
Furthermore, the European Parliament has passed many resolutions in support of Taiwan5;s bid to become an observer at the WHA (World Health Asembly) and to participate in activities related to the World Health Organization (WHO).
In 2001, I was awarded the “ Prize for Freedom.” by the international body “The Liberal International”. Originally, the award ceremony was to be held in Denmark.
But the Danish government refused to issue me a visa. Then, the ceremony was moved to Strasbourg in France. However, the French government also refused to grant me a visa.
I think for EU member states, it was indeed a great irony that I was not allowed to go to Strasbourg, the headquarters of the European Parliament, to receive the Prize for Freedom, given the fact that EU member states have long believed in the principles of freedom, democracy, human rights, and peace”.
EuroNews: You have already mentioned that your country is working hard to become an observer in the WHO, the world health organisation. Why do you think your country deserves that status?
“I think it is very clear that issues such as health care and disease prevention transcend national boundaries. This being the case, the 23 million people of Taiwan should not be deprived of their human right to health, nor should this right in any way be ignored or limited.
Taiwan should not be the only hole in the global disease prevention network, or remain the only one absent from important international health organizations. Above all, Taiwan should not be segregated and isolated from the global disease prevention network. We are not even asking for formal membership in the WHO. We just humbly wish to become an observer at the World Heaith Assembly as a 6;health entity.6;
We have tried in vain for the past five years to be admitted. This is the tenth year, and we are stili seeking admission. Taiwan5;s hope to become an observer at the WHA has nothing to do with the issue of sovereignty, and it has no bearing on the so-called “one China policy”. If we consider that even the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta can become observers to the WHA, then why are the 23 million people of Taiwan denied the right to participate?”.