President Must Demonstrate Sincerity When Dialoguing with Students
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
March 26, 2014
Summary: Yesterday the Presidential Office finally invited student representatives to the Presidential Palace for talks, without preconditions. Student representative Lin Fei-fan responded immediately. He said he was willing to dialogue with the president in an open forum to break the deadlock over the Cross-Strait Agreement on Trade in Services. First, the president must demonstrate sincerity. The students, meanwhile, must not attempt to turn the dialogue into a public inquisition
Full text below:
The student occupation of the Legislature has intensified yet again. It led to an unprecedented "occupation" of the Executive Yuan, and a bloody eviction by the police. The image of the government has been battered. The day before yesterday, Christine Chow, the president's wife, responded on Chen Yu-hui's FaceBook page. She said "The government has explained its position repeatedly. But since the people still have doubts, it has a responsibility to say it a few more times." Yesterday the Presidential Office finally invited student representatives to the Presidential Palace for talks, without preconditions. Student representative Lin Fei-fan responded immediately. He said he was willing to dialogue with the president in an open forum to break the deadlock over the Cross-Strait Agreement on Trade in Services.
To being with, public opinion is as mercurial as flowing water. Changes in the political situation are constant. The moment the students succeeded in occupying the grounds of the legislature, the solution ceased being the responsibility of the Legislative Yuan Speaker. Nor was it the responsibility of the students. It became the responsibility of the Ma administration. The police stormed the Executive Yuan and expelled the students. From that moment on, any "violence" was the result of the government, not the students, and definitely not the opposition.
Those opposed to the Cross-Strait Agreement on Trade in Services accused the government of "black box operations." As we know perfectly well, such accusations are false. Take a step back. Before and during negotiations, government agencies held a total of 110 small-scale seminars with industry representatives from domestic finance, video games, exhibition, shipping, printing, cosmetics , food, travel, advertising, and logistics. According to the Legislative Yuan, the Legislative Affairs Committee held three hearings on the Cross-Strait Agreement on Trade in Services in 2013. One on April 20, one on May 2, and one on May 30. Government officials reported in detail the negotiation process. The second session was a secret meeting. It concerned the content of the agreement we were preparing to sign with the other side.
During these three briefing sessions, DPP legislators were present along with KMT legislators. They included Chen Chi-mai, Li Chun-yi, Tuan Yi-kang, Lin Chia-lung, Chen Ting-fei, Kuan Pi-ling, Yeh Yi-Ching, Yao Wen-chih, Chen Ou-po, Hsu Tain-Tsair, Chiu Chih-wei, Hsueh Ling, Tsai Chi-Chang, Yu Mei-nu, Lee Kun-tse, Wu Ping-jui, Hsiao Bi-khim, Lin Shu-Fen, Tien Chiu-chin, Huang Wei-cher, Wei Ming Ku, and other committee members. Also in attendance were the Taiwan Solidarity Union, the People First Party and independents.
Large numbers of ruling and opposition party legislators took part in the Cross-Strait Agreement on Trade in Services hearings. No one can say the administration ignored the legislature. No one can say the administration operated inside a black box. Furthermore, the Cross-Strait Agreement on Trade in Services was submitted to the Legislative Yuan in July 2013. Between then and March 10 of this year, the legislature held 20 public hearings. According to Article 5 of the Act Governing Relations between the People of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area, the executive is required only to inform the Legislative Yuan of what it intends to do. Yet KMT legislators consented to a line item review and line item vote. This was a public hearing, public review, and public vote, conducted entirely within the glare of the public spotlight. How can anyone accuse the Cross-Strait Agreement on Trade in Services of being a black box operation?
We know the students are opposed to more than black box operations. We know they are opposed to matters other than the Cross-Strait Agreement on Trade in Services. They are more concerned that the Ma administration's cross-strait policy is leaning too far toward the Mainland. They accuse the government's negotiating team of failing to obtain the best terms, and of allowing Taiwan to get a raw deal. Others of course, are indeed motivated by deep-seated Sinophobia.
Former National Security Council Secretary-General Su Chi best summed up the problem. He says the struggle over the Cross-Strait Agreement on Trade in Services is a continuation of an ongoing internal struggle inside Taiwan, over three issues: policy, reunification vs.independence, and the system. The Cross-Strait Agreement on Trade in Services by itself has no bearing on reunification vs. independence. That is why President Ma repeatedly emphasized that the legislature must pass the Cross-Strait Agreement on Trade in Services "solely for the sake of of Taiwan's economy." Taiwan's trade liberalization and Taiwan's membership in the TPP and the RCEP, are merely "policy" issues. But for the DPP and the protesting students, they are reunification vs. independence issues. Some students even argue that the trade dispute proves that the legislative process no longer works, and that therefore the "system" of political representation needs reconsideration. Enormous cognitive differences exist regarding all three issues. This is why after President Ma held his March 23 press conference, the protesting students accused President Ma of being "a broken record."
We hope President Ma and the student representatives can meet and talk without preconditions. We hope they can break the current political impasse. First, the president must demonstrate sincerity. The dialogue must be open and transparent. The Presidential Office may wish to televise the process in toto. This would prevent students from accusing him of merely giving them a "pat on the head." The students, meanwhile, must not attempt to turn the dialogue into a public inquisition. They must not issue all sorts of demands about the venue and the program.
The president must consider the fact that the students have already made various demands. Student representatives proposed "convening a citizens' constitutional convention." In terms of political reality, this was a jarring suggestion. But six large business groups have also suggested convening a similar "national conference." This suggests a social consensus. Presidential staffers must respond to society's expectations. They must make comprehensive plans and preparations. They must ensure that the students and the community feel the president's sincerity. He must not sound like a broken record.
We would like to caution the DPP. You know and we know that the negotiations over the Cross-Strait Agreement on Trade in Services were not black box operations. Yet you deliberately created a false public perception. DPP political leaders, including Tsai Ing-wen and Su Tseng-chang should issue public vows regarding the Cross-Strait Agreement on Trade in Services. This is the only attitude proper for any politican answerable to history.
中國時報 本報訊 2014年03月26日 04:10