- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 3, 2007

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

July 1 marked the 10th anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong. In the troubled pre-handover negotiations between the United Kingdom and the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Beijing was able to assuage London’s concerns over preservation of Hong Kong’s autonomy and freedom by putting forward a “one country, two systems” model for unification with China. It was an “emperor’s new clothes” stratagem which allowed China to walk off with the real meat while leaving the United Kingdom with face.

What happened in Hong Kong had proven that the sole purpose of “two systems” is to package “one country.” A decade later, this old formula has been repackaged as the “1992 consensus,” characterized as “one China, dual interpretations.”

With Taiwan’s 2008 presidential election approaching, the candidate of the Kuomintang (KMT) or Chinese Nationalist Party, Ma Ying-jeou, has stressed that if elected, he will immediately resume talks with China, sign a peace treaty, end confrontation and establish a cross-strait common market — all on the basis of the so-called 1992 consensus. Mr. Ma’s vision of Taiwan’s future is premised on the two sides’ adherence to the “one China principle,” supposedly with each side entitled to its own interpretation of what is entailed by “one China.”

The KMT wields the shibboleth “1992 consensus” like a magic wand that, with a simple swish, can dispel the miasma of tensions and acrimony that has plagued Taiwan-China relations for over half a century. But exactly what does this so-called consensus really mean? In the talks conducted in Hong Kong in late October 1992, Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) and China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) did achieve a modicum of understanding, which was to put aside thorny issues and give priority to concrete, practical matters. However, by no means was any further-reaching agreement made at the 1992 Hong Kong meeting, let alone a consensus on the “one China principle.” Koo Chen-fu, Taiwan’s top negotiator in meetings with China’s Wang Daohan, stated clearly in his memoir that “1992 consensus” was coined on April 28, 2000, by Mr. Su Chi, then chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council under the KMT government. As Mr. Koo emphasized, “The word ‘consensus’ only applies to views deemed acceptable by the two sides after face-to-face discussions. In reality, during the 1992 Hong Kong talks, the two sides were unable to accept each other’s proposals. Hence, they produced no concrete conclusions.” This demonstrates that no so-called 1992 consensus has ever existed. The idea was conjured up only in 2000, eight years after the 1992 Hong Kong talks.

While Beijing pays lip service to the existence of a “1992 consensus,” the consensus it cites and has always insisted on is that of both sides’ adherence to the “one China principle.” Never has anyone on the China side indicated that “one China” can have “dual interpretations.” What they demand is “one China, no interpretation.”

From China’s point of view, then, the “1992 consensus” simply means that “the two sides of the strait both uphold the one China principle,” period. Accepting the so-called 1992 Consensus is tantamount to forsaking Taiwan’s national sovereignty and acknowledging that democratic Taiwan is a part of the authoritative PRC.

In the international community, the reality is that, be it in the United Nations or elsewhere, “China” means just one thing, the People’s Republic of China, and there is absolutely no room for “dual interpretations” of “one China.” Advocacy of the so-called 1992 consensus, therefore, is blind to the reality and can only further isolate Taiwan.

After 10 years of experiment with “one country, two systems” in Hong Kong, the public’s expectation of electing their executive chief and all legislators has not been met, the judiciary has not been able to function free of Beijing’s interference, and human rights in general have eroded, including freedom of expression through pressure for self-censorship. All of which goes to show that faith in “one country, two systems” is delusory.

We most certainly will not allow the same fate to befall democratic Taiwan. Taiwan is a sovereign, independent, peace-loving, and democratic country; its sovereignty rests in its 23 million people. We cannot accept “one country, two systems,” and we resolutely reject its twin brother, the “1992 consensus,” which dresses up the “one China principle” in the emperor’s new clothes.

Chen Shui-bian is president of the Republic of China (Taiwan).

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