Taiwanese-Americans Protest U.S.’ Stance On Taiwan’s Presidential Elections
The community urges the Administration to maintain political neutrality and give stronger support for self-determination
In a joint letter to President Obama, dated February 10th 2012, the Formosan Association for Public Affairs, along with 11 other Taiwanese Americans organizations, expressed disappointment with recent statements and actions by the Obama Administration which displayed a lack of neutrality in Taiwan’s recent presidential elections.
The joint letter listed a number of instances, including statements by an anonymous White House official to the Financial Times in September 2011, a series of high-level visits by US sub-cabinet officials to Taiwan in the period September through December 2011, and the announcement, less than one month before the Taiwan elections, that Taiwan would be a candidate for the US Visa Waiver Program.
The letter stated that “[T]his series of statements and actions by your administration during a politically sensitive time led virtually all observers, American and Taiwanese alike, to reach the unavoidable conclusion that the U.S. government preferred the re-election of the incumbent administration in Taipei.”
The signatories added that “[A]s Taiwan-born American citizens who learned to cherish liberty and civil rights after we came to this country as immigrants, our community has long looked up to the United States as a model for democratic self-governance. It therefore pains us to see the U.S. act contrary to its own founding principles by choosing sides in another nation’s democratic elections.”
The signatories concluded the letter by stating: “We …. strongly appeal to you to protect the right of self-determination for the 23 million people of Taiwan, and to work toward a Taiwan policy that supports the right of the people of Taiwan to decide their own political future.”
Commenting on the joint letter, FAPA president Dr. Mark Kao, states: “”The U.S. government had clearly stated on multiple occasions that it would remain scrupulously neutral in these elections. However, despite these assurances, the net effect of the actions of the Obama Administration during the period leading up to the elections conveyed a markedly different impression and constituted an external distortion of the political playing field.”
Kao continues: “”As Taiwanese-American citizens of the US we feel deeply about democracy in our land of birth, and take the position that the United States needs to be more supportive of our hard-won democracy instead of undermining it. By implicitly taking sides in the recent election, the Administration has done a disservice to Taiwan’s democracy.”
Kao concludes: “If the US wants to support democracy in East Asia, it needs to ensure that the people of Taiwan have full freedom to choose their future, free from outside interference. Stability in the region can only be achieved if China accepts Taiwan as a friendly neighbor, and stops its unjust territorial claims and military threats.”
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February 10, 2012
President Barack H. Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington DC, 20500
Dear Mr. President:
As the presidents of organizations representing American citizens deeply concerned about the state of democracy in Taiwan, we write to you to express our collective disappointment with recent statements and actions by your administration that we feel represented lapses in the political neutrality of the United States government with regard to the recently concluded national elections in Taiwan.
On January 14, 2012, the people of Taiwan went to the polls in only the fifth presidential election in that country’s history. Despite multiple assurances from the State Department that the U.S. would work with whoever is elected through a fair and open democratic process, the actions of your administration in the weeks and months leading up to the election imparted a decidedly different impression.
In mid-September of last year, only hours after the Taiwanese opposition candidate Dr. Tsai Ing-wen met with U.S. officials in Washington, D.C., a senior member of your administration saw fit to publicly pass judgment on her policy platform, anonymously telling the Financial Times: “”She left us with distinct doubts about whether she is both willing and able to continue the stability in cross-Strait relations the region has enjoyed in recent years.”” Though the State Department quickly disavowed the statement, this unusual breach of confidence left the lingering suspicions that the sentiments expressed by the unnamed source indeed represented the views of the White House.
Then, in a span of three short months, we saw a quick succession of more visits by high-level U.S. officials to Taipei than during any calendar year in recent memory. In September, Assistant Secretary of Commerce Suresh Kumar visited Taiwan. In December Rajiv Shah, the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, also made an official visit to Taiwan. This was followed closely by the visit, also in December, by U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman, who became the highest-ranking American official to go to Taiwan in nearly a decade. The atypical pace and high profile of these visits, in the midst of an intensely competitive election campaign in Taiwan, only engendered further doubts about the U.S.’s professed neutrality.
Finally, on December 21, 2011, less than one month before the January 14 election, the U.S. State Department announced Taiwan’s candidacy for participation in the Visa Waiver Program.
This series of statements and actions by your administration during a politically sensitive time led virtually all observers, American and Taiwanese alike, to reach the unavoidable conclusion that the U.S. government preferred the re-election of the incumbent administration in Taipei.
As Taiwan-born American citizens who learned to cherish liberty and civil rights after we came to this country as immigrants, our community has long looked up to the United States as a model for democratic self-governance. It therefore pains us to see the U.S. act contrary to its own founding principles by choosing sides in another nation’s democratic elections. It is even more distressing that the apparent rationale behind the American preference seems so neatly aligned with the “”instability”” discourse which has been central to the rhetoric of fear deployed by the People’s Republic of China to undermine genuine open political competition in Taiwan.
While it will be impossible to know whether these signals of U.S. partiality exerted decisive influence on the electoral outcome, they nevertheless constitute an external distortion of the political playing field in a still-young democracy that frustrated the opportunity of Taiwan’s voters to exercise their democratic choice free from outside interference.
In your address at the State Department on May 19, 2011 you said: “”There must be no doubt that the United States of America welcomes change that advances self-determination.”” We therefore strongly appeal to you to protect the right of self-determination for the 23 million people of Taiwan, and to work toward a Taiwan policy that supports the right of the people of Taiwan to decide their own political future.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
Dr. Wang Kang-Lu Memorial Foundation
Formosan Association for Human Rights
Formosan Association for Public Affairs
North America Taiwanese Professors’ Association
North America Taiwanese Women’s Association
North American Taiwanese Engineers’ Association
Professor Chen Wen-Chen Memorial Foundation
Taiwan Hakka Association of Public Affairs in N. America
Taiwanese Association of America
World Federation of Taiwanese Associations
World Taiwanese Congress
World United Formosans for Independence – USA