Rebuttal to a Taiwan Independence Fellow Traveler

Rebuttal to a Taiwan Independence Fellow Traveler
Originally posted at Chinese Community Forum (CCF)
Bevin Chu
February 03, 1999

Mr. Walsh’s rebuttal is rife with both factual errors and logical contradictions.

First, the factual errors.

Mr. Walsh alleged that “if the people of Quebec vote democratically for independence, they will be granted independence (the unanimous consent of the other provinces is not required).”

What can I say? Except Mr. Walsh is simply wrong.

Canada’s Supreme Court ruled in August 1998 that Quebec’s separatist government did not have the right to unilaterally declare the province independent.

“Secession of a province ‘under the Constitution’ could not be achieved unilaterally, that is, without principled negotiation with other participants in Confederation within the existing constitutional framework,” the court said in a unanimous decision. “Negotiations would be necessary to address the interests of the federal government, of Quebec and the other provinces, and other participants, as well as the rights of all Canadians both within and outside Quebec… there are linguistic and cultural minorities, including aboriginal peoples, unevenly distributed across the country who look to the Constitution of Canada for the protection of their rights. The court has confirmed that any possible process of independence must proceed in a manner that respects shared values that include federalism, democracy, constitutionalism and the rule of law, and respect for minorities,” Chretien said in a statement. “In particular, it has found that the government of Quebec does not have the authority in Canadian law to effect independence unilaterally nor does it have such a right in international law.”

Mr. Walsh wrote “What [Bevin Chu] says about … independence movements in the USA is simply wrong… While it is true that the CCP is not alone in using force against democratic (i.e., non-violent) independence movements, all of the other governments that do so are dictatorships.”

Dictatorships? Let me repeat what I wrote before. The United States chose to prosecute an appallingly bloody civil war rather than permit the Confederacy to secede. Mr. Walsh makes no mention of this in his “rebuttal. ” Texas and Hawaii were both annexed illegally. The “purchase” of Alaska from Russia was receiving stolen goods. Modern day challenges to federal authority are systematically and ruthlessly suppressed by Federal law enforcement. And we haven’t even gotten around to shameful history of genocide and illegal landgrabs from American Indians.

The Texas indendence radicals were probably guilty as hell of the offenses they were charged with. That does not alter the fact that the feds targeted Texas independence radicals not for writing bad checks, but for “plotting secession.” No, the feds did not cite sedition or treason as the charge when they rounded them up. They invoked the criminal codes. China bashers, does this ring a bell? It should. The feds did exactly what Beijing does with pesky organizers of opposition political parties, they prosecute them not as subversives but as common criminals.

Now for the logical fallacies.

Mr. Walsh doubts that Taiwan secessionists would deny others in Taiwan the same right of self-determination. He has not witnessed TI legislators physically assault and injure dissenting lawmakers in the Legislative Yuan or thuggish TI taxi drivers attack hapless women passengers who failed to speak the Minnan dialect as “Tai jian” or “traitors to Taiwan.” Does Mr. Walsh really believe these humorless fanatics will be content to passively watch the disintegration of their precious “Republic of Taiwan,” without “doing something?”

Mr. Walsh defends the TI’ers. My prediction as “only a statement about how any government functions.” In other words “Everybody does it. What’s the big deal?” But Mr. Walsh contradicts himself. If indeed all governments use force to enforce their laws then how unsubstantiated is my assumption that TI’ers would deny others the right to secede as well?

Mr. Walsh wonders: “Can Mr. Chu really be supporting the principle that the majority cannot determine their own form of government? Mr. Chu doesn’t acknowledge it openly, but his words clearly mean support for dictatorship of the few over the many.”

Really? China is a nation state whose sovereign territory includes the mainland as well as the offshore islands of Taiwan and Hainan. Both the PRC and the ROC Constitutions agree on this. TI’ers are calling for a “national” referendum in which 1.2 billion fellow citizens outside the TI’ers’ unilaterally defined boundary would be prohibited from participating. The TI’ers don’t want majority rule. They want their version of majority rule. They want minority rule within an electoral district defined so that they constitute a majority. Perhaps Mr. Walsh can explain to CCF readers just exactly how this is democratic? Since I defend the right of all Chinese citizens to participate in any such referendum, I could argue that I am being much more democratic. The TI’ers, by arbitarily restricting participation in their referendum to only 21 million are being anti-democratic and exclusionary.

Let’s not be politically naive. One can achieve a democratic majority on any issue under the sun, provided one gets to set the geographical boundaries of one’s electoral district. If one can exclude in advance those who would vote against one’s initiative or referendum, then the result is a foregone conclusion. This time-honored process is known as gerrymandering. Gerrymandered electoral districts have nothing to do with democracy. Mr. Walsh merely prefers TI gerrymandered boundaries to China’s constitutionally defined (by both the PRC and ROC) national boundaries.

Mr. Walsh infers that “Mr. Chu implicitly acknowledges that a Taiwan secessionist government would have the support of the majority.” Hardly. My article was a thought experiment which granted the TI’ers’ a hypothetical majority merely to illustrate the invalidity of TI moral/ethical arguments. At no time did I imply that the TI’ers enjoyed a real world majority. In fact, the latest Gallup Poll reveals that the Taiwan public’s patience with endless, shrill TI agitation is wearing thin. The DPP’s setbacks during the recent Three in One Elections provoked internal bickering over dropping Taiwan independence from the DPP’s official charter.

Mr. Walsh hurls the wild accusation that “Mr. Chu, implicitly, supports the right of the unelected government of the PRC to use force against the Chinese people.” Mr. Walsh is conflating “government” with “nation.” China is a nation. It has been in existence for five thousand years. The Taipei regime is a government. It has been in existence for 87 years. The Beijing regime is another government. It has been in existence for 50 years. Governments come and governments go. Nations, consisting of the land and the people, endure, hopefully. Opposition to national disintegration hardly constitutes endorsement of any particular ephemeral regime. When Hitler violated the cynically drafted Nazi-Soviet Pact and invaded Russia, patriotic Russians fought valiantly at Stalingrad, not for Stalin, whom many of them detested, but for Mother Russia.

The “right to self-determination” is a double-edged sword. If Mr. Walsh wishes to invoke it, he had better be prepared to accept its implications in full. He cannot restrict its application only to regimes he personally approves of. Otherwise he is merely arguing that what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander. A principled defense of the right to self-determination would authorize ever smaller political entities to secede from whatever political entity they currently belong to, stopping only at the level of the individual citizen. This means, theoretically at least, every property owner on earth would be legally and morally entitled to hold a “national” referendum, with himself as the sole voter, declare his own private plot of land a sovereign republic, and refuse to pay taxes to the nation, the state or province, the city or county in which he (formerly) resided. Not surprisingly, no government on earth is willing do more than pay hypocritical lip service to the concept.

As a libertarian and borderline anarchist I assure Mr. Walsh I on the other hand, have no objection whatsoever to such a global scenario. If this were what secessionists the world over actually advocated, I would be ecstatic.

But this is not what they want. What they want are merely smaller — but not freer — tribalist collectives tailored to suit their personal ethnic prejudices. Woe to any genuine liberty loving individualists unfortunate enough to find themselves trapped in such “independent republics.” They can look forward to being treated the way German Jews were treated by the Nazis, or the way ethnic Chinese-Indonesians are treated by rabid Indonesian bigots.

Parting Shot
March 17, 1999

Mr. Walsh alleges that my response “was… clever… but it avoids the question.”

CCF readers know better. Actually Mr. Walsh himself knows better. My original piece stuck in his craw precisely because it was impolite enough to draw attention to the widespread hypocritical application of one standard for America and another standard for China. When it comes to demanding respect for “human rights” what was good enough for the American goose is apparently not good for the Chinese gander. Fair-minded readers understood perfectly well that was my original point.

Mr. Walsh gives it one final try when he states: “In Mr. Chu’s opinion the PRC should use force to compel the people of the ROC to accept re-unification with the PRC if they refuse to do so voluntarily.”

You mean like President Abraham Lincoln’s opinion that the USA was right to use force to compel the people of the CSA to accept reunification with the USA when they refused to do so voluntarily, Mr. Walsh? You mean like “A house divided against itself cannot stand” Mr. Walsh?

The fact is that Mr. Walsh, when confronted with his (1) flagrant double-standards and (2) crude verbal sleights of hand, repeatedly pretended that nobody was alert enough to realize what he had done. CCF readers witnessed him do this with (1) huffy demands that China forswear the use of force to prevent national disintegration, even while he made excuses for the Union’s refusal to let the South go its own way, merely because it happened before his private Statute of Limitations and (2) the substitution of “PRC” for “China,” even after I took pains to remind him of the distinction between governments and countries. Did anyone miss the fact that his motive for conflating “PRC” and “China” was to milk the residue of Cold War paranoia for what it was worth?

Mr. Walsh consistently refused to deal with the issues honestly and frankly. I too, have nothing more to say to him. The old expression “playing a lute to a cow” pretty much sums up my experience with Mr. Walsh.

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