Seanad Éireann - Volume 146 - 03 April, 1996

Situation in Taiwan: Statements.

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs (Mr. G. Mitchell): I am delighted to have the opportunity to [2142] make this contribution to this important debate. Ten days ago, on 23 March 1996, the people of Taiwan went to the polls to elect their President by direct universal suffrage. This was the first time they had the opportunity to do so. This direct election represented the final stage in the development of democratic institutions in Taiwan, a development that can only be welcomed.

It was, therefore a matter of grave concern that The People's Republic of China should have conducted so-called war games in the Taiwan Straits and in the mainland province of Fujian for a period of 18 days last month, including the firing of missiles and military exercises, with the apparent aim of influencing the election in Taiwan and of intimidating the electorate.

Taiwan was the subject of an Adjournment debate in this House as recently as 27 March 1996. On that occasion I informed the House that on 8 March 1996, the day of the commencement of the testing of missiles by The People's Republic of China in the Taiwan Straits, a declaration on behalf of the European Union, including Ireland, had been issued on this matter by the current Italian Presidency in Rome and Brussels.

This EU Declaration, within the context of the Common Foreign and Security Policy, regretted the firing by The People's Republic of China of missiles into test zones in the Taiwan Straits. Further, the declaration stated that naval and military exercises which had also been announced could lead to further tension in the region and increase the possibility of any miscalculation eventually leading to confrontation. In addition, the European Union recalled the repeated pledge made by The People's Republic of China that it would stick to its fundamental policy on the Taiwan issue, that is, the seeking of a peaceful solution to the problem, called upon The people's Republic of China to refrain from activities which could have negative effects on the security of the entire east Asian region and urged an early resumption of the cross-straits [2143] talks, which had been suspended in June 1995 following the private visit to the United States of America by Taiwanese President Lee Teng Hui.

I have noted the subsequent resolution of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, which was passed on 13 March 1996, and which called on the Government to condemn in the strongest terms the war games being carried on by The People's Republic of China which were seen as an attempt to threaten and intimidate the people of Taiwan and to express to the Chinese authorities, both bilaterally and through the European Union, the concern felt in this country and worldwide at the latest threat to the stability of world peace. It will be seen quite readily from the contents of the EU Declaration of 8 March 1996, which I have just outlined, that the sentiments contained in the resolution of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs were brought home to the Chinese authorities without delay and in the clearest of terms.

No Member of this House can be in any two minds with regard to the depth of feeling on the subject of Taiwan which is held by the current leadership in Beijing. On Friday last, Vice-Chairman Tian Jiyun of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress of The People's Republic of China met with the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs in Leinster House. In a fairly robust response, he rejected criticism of the recent Chinese military exercises. He maintained that the recent Chinese military build-up and exercises near Taiwan were a “normal phenomenon” which were necessary to upgrade the capability of the armed forces. He underlined the fact that the exercises “demonstrated the determination of China to safeguard its territorial integrity”. Mr. Tian went on to say:

As for our policy regarding Taiwan it is always clear that it is peaceful reunification and one country, two systems. This principle remains [2144] unchanged. However, should anyone declare Taiwan's independence or separate Taiwan from the motherland so as to create one China and one Taiwan, the entire Chinese people will not tolerate it. China has never committed itself to the non-use of force. Should the above mentioned case take place [that is, independence], China will use all means possible, including military means, to safeguard its unity. This is very clear. No matter who is in power in China, he will surely pursue this policy. Anyone who surrenders on this issue will be surely overthrown. You must understand that China regards the integrity of its sovereignty as a sacred thing. Any other country will do the same.

I have quoted Vice-Chairman Tian so extensively to try to bring home the stark reality of the depth of feeling regarding Taiwan held by The People's Republic of China, as indicated so recently to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs.

I have already indicated the serious concern which was expressed at the Chinese war games which were conducted last month. The Government were no less concerned at the announcement by Taiwan last weekend that three sea-air military drills would be held this month from 7 to 10 April, including the use of live ammunition in the front-line island group of Matsu. It is the Government's view that such exercises at this moment would not be conducive to the reduction of tensions in the region and should be reconsidered. The best possible way to defuse tensions between Taiwan and China is the resumption of direct talks at the earliest possible opportunity. I am glad to learn that Taiwan's Premier Lien Chan yesterday ordered the proposed military exercises to be suspended in order to alleviate worries over escalating tensions with China and to maintain regional peace and stability.

The outcome of the election on 23 March 1996 was a victory for the incumbent Taiwanese President Lee Teng Hui with 54 per cent of the vote; 10.7 million [2145] votes were cast, representing a turn out of 76 per cent. His closest rival, Dr. Peng Ming Min of the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party, polled 21 per cent, while former Taiwan Provincial Governor of the pro-unification with China New Party received 15 per cent and the independent, Mr Chen Li An, achieved 10 per cent.

The initial reaction from Beijing was to restate its customary line: regardless of the procedures which the “rebel province” used to select its leaders, there was only one China and Taiwan is an inseparable part of that unity. In the past China had accused President Lee Teng Hui, who was born in Taiwan, of being a secret advocate of independence for Taiwan. On 25 March 1996, however, the spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry called for a meeting between Mr. Lee Teng Hui and President Jiang Zemin, as well as the opening of direct air, shipping and postal links across the Taiwan Straits. Taiwanese vice-president elect Lien Chan has indicated that Taiwan will follow a policy of détente and his administration has drawn up a tentative timetable seeking the resumption of top level unofficial talks between Taiwan and China.

Independence would not appear to be a feasible option for Taiwan. Not alone is there the overriding threat from China if such a development were to be pursued, it would also appear that those supporting independence in Taiwan are very much in the minority. Taiwan administration spokesman, Mr Jason Hu, is quoted to have stated in Washington D.C. last week, citing recent polls, that support for independence in Taiwan hovers around 12-16 per cent while support for unification with China has fallen as low as 14 per cent. He said that the lack of support for independence was highly significant at this juncture as it indicated that more and more people in Taiwan considered a declaration of independence to be a most dangerous move and that the overwhelming support for President Lee [2146] Teng Hui in the recent election meant that on a longer-term basis most people in Taiwan still envisage a reunified China one day, which would come at a time when the mainland had caught up economically, politically and socially with the rapid changes which Taiwan has already experienced.

The question of UN membership for Taiwan has been raised in certain quarters from time to time. The UN Secretary General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, in commenting upon this matter last week, reiterated the UN position that Taiwan was an integral part of China and that it would be impossible for the Taipei administration to gain admittance to the United Nations without the blessing of China. He said that the UN could not admit a member without the recommendation of the Security Council. As China has the right of veto in the Security Council, unless there was a change of mind in Beijing, there was no possibility of admitting Taiwan into the UN. Certain member states have tried to put the issue on the UN agenda, but the majority of states have refused to do this. It should be borne in mind that only 31 states have diplomatic relations with Taiwan while there are at present 185 member states in the United Nations.

Members of this House will be aware that when Ireland established diplomatic relations with The People's Republic of China in 1979, the then Government recognised the Government of The People's Republic of China as the sole Government of China, including Taiwan. Arising out of this one China policy Ireland does not recognise Taiwan as a state and consequently does not have diplomatic or official relations with Taiwan. Economic trade and cultural relations between Ireland and Taiwan are pursued within the private rather than the public sector. In Taipei, the ITI Ireland Office has been established under the auspices of the Irish Business and Employers Confederation while the equivalent in Dublin is the Taipei Representative Office.

Taiwan is one of the most dynamic economies in east Asia. It is now the [2147] 14th largest trading entity in the world with the second largest foreign exchange reserves, second only to Japan. Although Ireland has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan, it has become an important partner for us in terms of trade. There is much further potential in the fields of inward investment, educational exchanges and tourism. Ireland offers a highly attractive environment to Taiwanese companies with a highly educated, skilled and flexible workforce. Efforts are being made in the area of education and English language proficiency to attract Taiwanese students to Ireland. We also welcome an increasing number of tourists and business visitors.

Taiwan has now firmly established democratic institutions. The territory is gaining in economic prosperity. It is the firm hope of the Government that the existing differences between China and Taiwan can be resolved through peaceful means and dialogue and thus contribute to the peace and security of east Asia. I am glad to have the opportunity to put the Government's position on the record of the House.

An Cathaoirleach: Before I call Senator Lanigan, I want to welcome Mr. John Mingliang Lee and two of his colleagues from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office to the House.

Mr. Lanigan: I welcome the chance the Seanad has been given today to discuss the events which have taken place in Taiwan over the past number of weeks and, indeed, the so-called war games which have taken place in the Taiwan Straits. The situation is part of a broader picture and the Minister in the latter part of his address referred to this when he made reference to the fact that Ireland has recognised that Taiwan is an integral part of China. Indeed, it was a colleague of ours, Senator O'Kennedy, who, as the Minister for Foreign Affairs in 1979, was involved in that recognition. There is a matter of sovereignty here. Do we or do we not agree that [2148] China has a right of determination over areas within its sovereign area? Ireland has agreed with the UN that there is one China. The Chinese have agreed that there is one China but two systems. When they say two systems, they are basically talking about two systems of internal government in the province of Taiwan and, indeed, a different commercial system to date.

One must look at this whole area as one where great changes are taking place. One must look equally at the situation where in 1948 a number of people who had fought a civil war on mainland China left China and set up business on Taiwan. The people who stayed on the mainland have had a chequered history in which there have been major structural changes. People can judge for themselves whether or not those changes have been for the good. We must take the situation as taking place at a time of dramatic change in China and the surrounding area. There is no doubt but that 1997 will probably be a year in which many people will be looking at China after it takes back Hong Kong from the British. Let us be quite straight about it: the British took Hong Kong as a result of trading which we are trying to eradicate here at present, that is, as a result of drugs wars.

It must be said that in 1948 a huge amount of money was taken out of mainland China to Hong Kong by Chiang Kai-Shek and his supporters. It is equally certain that possibly the best museum in the world is in Taipei. The artefacts there are from every province in China. There is a possibility that had those artefacts not been taken to Taiwan, they may have been destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. I did not hear anybody suggest that all these artefacts should be brought back to mainland China. However, they were taken from every Chinese province and the museum there may form one of the best profiles of any country in the world. That is no mean feat when one considers the size of China.

[2149] China has major population problems. There are 20 million people in Taiwan. However, the population of China is currently growing at a rate of 16 million people, or four times the Irish population, every year. Its other major problem is in trying to change from an agricultural to a modern industrial society. While this change is being carried out, it has created internal problems. There will be conflicts in changing from a Government controlled society to an open commercial one. There are also major upheavals involved in changing from a rural to an industrial environment. Some 600,000 hectares of Chinese land was taken from food production last year to cater for industry. When one remembers that China makes up approximately one quarter of the world's population, and it is still growing, there will be problems in feeding its people when it is changing its society from a predominantly rural to an open industrial one. Some 70 million Chinese people live on the poverty line, who are not even up to basic Chinese standards of living.

The accommodation necessary between Taiwan and China is similar to that between Hong Kong and China — “One country, two systems.” If the Hong Kong system is a success, there is no doubt it can also work for Taiwan. There are even no absolutes in trade between China and Taiwan. Much of their trade is carried out through intermediaries. Many Chinese exports are contingent on Taiwanese traders working out of Singapore or Hong Kong and vice versa. We hope this trade will continue to grow.

We do not want to see conflict between a small island and its motherland. It would be similar, in terms of size, if Rathlin Island produced a Government and president and tried to dictate to the rest of the country. Taiwan received a lot of economic assistance from the American economy in the late 1940s to the 1960s. America pumped an enormous amount of money into its economy at the time.

[2150] The people living in Taiwan and on the Chinese mainland are kind and hardworking. Since it is opening up its society, we must take into account what is happening there. We should get them to agree to a peaceful resolution. We do not want to see the United States becoming involved as a policeman in the area. As China opens its society, we must ensure it defends civil rights and overcomes its problems with Taiwan and hope that democracy will prevail.

I thank the Minister for coming to the House. While this complex matter will not be resolved by what we say today, some intervention should take place.

Mr. Enright: I thank the Minister of State and the Minister for Foreign Affairs for agreeing to this debate. It is important that it takes place. We have asked for such a debate for some months and, while we were not optimistic of its coming about, we are pleased it has.

I take this opportunity to wish the new democratically elected President of Taiwan, Mr. Lee Teng Hui, every success in the difficult and onerous job he now faces. He was elected in a free and open election and that strengthens his position. He now presides over a full democracy in a free country.

Ireland and a considerable number of other countries were requested by the Taiwanese Government to send observers there to see that its election was carried out in a free, fair and open way, and in a totally impartial manner, and that people were given the opportunity of exercising their franchise. If only such opportunity was afforded in many other countries.

I was given the opportunity to go to Taiwan to observe its elections. However, because of other business in the House, I was not able to go. Two senior Members of the Houses did attend and they were satisfied that the election was carried out in an open and fair way. They were further satisfied that the will of the Taiwanese people had been fully expressed through the ballot box.

[2151] The conduct of The People's Republic of China in carrying out military exercises just off the coast of Taiwan was a serious matter. An election was taking place there, yet mainland China tried to interfere with and influence that election. The military exercises, including aircraft sorties and the launching of missiles with live ammunition, were condemned by our Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and by Members of this House. That conduct was wrong and had to be condemned.

At the time, a statement issued on behalf of the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Boutros Boutros Ghali, referred to the military exercises conducted by China. The Secretary General hoped that all concerned would exercise restraint so as not to interfere with the rights of other states under international law and to avoid tensions in the area. Dr. Boutros Ghali said the issue of Taiwan was “an internal one”, but the UN should have made a strong statement. By claiming the issue was an internal one when an election was under way and military force was being used off the coast to bully and intimidate the Taiwanese, the UN statement could not have done other than make The People's Republic of China believe it was supportive. Indeed, many people might feel it was an invitation to continue this type of military aggression.

We must be clear and unambiguous in condemning this type of conduct which can only be described as military aggression. Senator Lanigan described the activities as war games, but when live ammunition is used that is hardly the way to describe them. That type of military activity is highly dangerous and could plunge the whole area into a blood bath, engulfing many people and leading to much loss of life.

I share the Minister's concern about Taiwan's earlier announcement of army, naval and air force drills from 7 to 10 April, including the use of live ammunition on the front line Matsu Islands. I am glad, however, that Taiwan's Premier, Lien Chan, has ordered the proposed [2152] exercises to be suspended. That is important because while the Government in Beijing was rightly condemned for military exercises, the Government of Taiwan has now recognised it would have been a mistake to carry out such exercises themselves. Let us hope this type of military activity is totally halted by Beijing and that Taiwan will not indulge in such exercises either.

The election in Taiwan resulted in a clear victory for President Lee Teng Hui with 54 per cent of the vote. Beijing stated that “regardless of the procedures which the rebel province used to select its leaders there was only one China, and Taiwan is an inseparable part of that unity”. However, Taiwan cannot be described as a rebel province, especially as its leaders have been democratically elected.

Taiwan has diplomatic relations with 31 states and as the Minister pointed out there are 185 member states in the United Nations. After the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Ireland recognised a number of new states and welcomed the new democracies set up after communism was driven out of eastern Europe. We welcomed the new fledgling states in eastern Europe where people had freedom of expression through the ballot box in democratic elections. The same principles that applied to eastern Europe should apply to Taiwan.

Members of the United Nations feel they have the backing of democracies across the world. Taiwan is seeking UN membership but Beijing, which has a seat on the UN Security Council, is opposed to that. Ireland should endeavour to support Taiwan's admission to the United Nations. That would be good for democracy and for peace across the world.

Mr. Roche: The people of The Republic of China in Taiwan are a peace loving, industrious, cultivated and civilised people who are interested only in establishing full democracy. Like ourselves, they are interested only in freedom. It is clear that the people of Taiwan are no threat to The People's [2153] Republic on mainland China. President Lee himself has emphasised time and again that it is not his wish to divide the Chinese people or Chinese nation in any way.

The Republic of China in Taiwan is interested in progress, it is not interested in the barbarity of war. The Taiwanese people are interested only in developing democratic institutions and freedom. That interest is well illustrated by their generous support for emerging nations in the Third World. Their generosity in Africa and in South American states must be commended.

Against this we have the dangerous and reprehensible action by the regime of The People's Republic of China. The recent exercises in the Taiwan Straits were a crude attempt to undermine or destroy democratic progress. In many ways that attempt was unworthy of the Chinese, a great civilisation.

The historic elections on 23 March 1996 were an extraordinary hallmark in the march of a people who, for the first time in thousands of years, selected their own leadership democratically. The so-called war games did not have an impact on democratic procedures on that occasion.

The people of Taiwan and their political leaders realise that democracy is a tenacious flower. Freedom cannot be suppressed by guns, rockets, threats or the brandishments of a bully. Freedom and democracy have taken a tenacious hold on Taiwan. Senator Lanigan referred to the Palace Museum in Taipei, an extraordinary treasure house of the Chinese people and their civilisation which stretches back over thousands of years.

The Republic of China is, in many ways, like Ireland. During the Dark Ages in Europe civilisation and culture remained in place in Ireland and, in time, spread back to the mainland. It is my fond hope for the Chinese people that freedom and democracy will bloom not just in the fertile plains, valleys and hills of the island the Portuguese called beautiful — Formosa — but that the seeds will spread across the Taiwan [2154] Straits and take hold on the mainland so that the Chinese people can enjoy the democracy and freedom we take for granted.

There is another side to this issue and it is the importance of Taiwan in the economic life of the Pacific rim. It is extraordinary to think of what has been achieved on a small island. It is the fourteenth largest trading nation in the world. It is also extraordinary that democracy and the economic progress achieved through the ingenuity of the people of the Republic of China could be threatened by a regime that is surely in its last kick. The reality is that the exercises in the Taiwan Straits had more to do with an imminent leadership struggle on mainland China than with the democratic processes of the people of Taiwan.

I join other Members in celebrating the ingenuity, civilisation and industrious nature of the people of Taiwan whom I had the great privilege to visit. I hope better counsel will prevail in Beijing than has prevailed in recent times. I have no doubt they have suffered a loss of face as a result of their activities. Hopefully they will learn that democracy is not a threat but is inevitable in that part of the world.

Mr. Neville: I welcome this important debate on the frightening events that took place during the elections in Taiwan. I also celebrate the emergence of Taiwan as a democratic state and its development as a major economic entity in the Pacific region. I congratulate President Lee Teng Hui on his election and his initiative in progressing the emergence of democracy in Taiwan.

The reaction of the Chinese is a demonstration to the citizens of Taiwan that they are not the sole bosses of their destiny as long as mainland China, which is 175 kilometres across the Taiwan Straits, considers Taiwan to be a renegade province. Beijing saw the election as a conscious move by Taiwan and President Lee towards a political status independent of The People's Republic of China. Twice in the past nine months [2155] China has sent rockets in Taiwan's direction. However, the most recent rockets arrived much closer than those fired last summer and were far more dangerous. They landed only 45 kilometres away from Taiwan's two main shipping ports from where shipments of computers, VCRs and high fashion undergarments are sent to markets all over the world. Ships and planes were forced to detour from the target zones, although port and aviation activities were not seriously disrupted. That is an indication of how serious these unacceptable war games were. The test firings are proof that China can blockade Taiwan's economy for longer than a week if it wishes.

China's flexing of its military muscles provided a dangerous and stormy background to the emerging democracy in Taiwan. Nobody would have believed a few years ago that the 21 million people of Taiwan would have achieved such a material improvement in their lifestyle. The campaign to elect a president in Taiwan was fought vigorously. The general razzmatazz, campaigning and postering that is common to democratic elections were employed by the major candidates and China's unacceptable and belligerent approach did not dampen the enthusiasm of the new democracy.

China's activities warned Taiwan that it will never be independent and should not seek recognition abroad. The issue for China, however, was not independence but democracy. By electing a president the Taiwanese people are exercising their rights as a modern sovereign people. People in China will ask their regime why they cannot do the same. In Chinese culture the fact of the election and its result is profound. It raises serious questions about authoritarianism and democracy in China.

One must be concerned about the response of the Chinese when they came before the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs on 13 March. The rejection of criticism of the recent Chinese military exercises was an indication [2156] of how belligerent China is about the situation and to call the recent Chinese military build-up normal indicates how serious is the situation. Mr. Tian, Vice-Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, told the committee that it demonstrated the determination of China to safeguard its territorial integrity. He said that China had never committed itself to the non-use of force. That should send signals to the free world that this situation will be ongoing and must be closely watched. The Taiwanese democracy must be supported by the free world to ensure that its emergence can be seen as a beacon of light shining towards China.

One must also flag the deep concern everybody must have about the inhuman approach of China to its own people. There is a need for a debate on the issue of human rights in China. Despite its economic freedom, human rights violations take place on a massive scale. They range from harassment or detention for those perceived to be a threat to the established order to gross violation of the physical integrity of the person and his right to life. This is totally unacceptable. These violations are caused by official policies, repressive legislation, a system of administrative detention and an arbitrary exercise of power by officials. The activities against Taiwan, the television reports about the abuse of children and the recent elections should cause us to look closely at what is happening in China. We should have a debate on those issues in the near future.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to this discussion. I support and congratulate the Minister on the policy he has adopted.

Mr. Mulcahy: This is an important issue not only for the people of Taiwan but also for the people of the world. The question, when and in what circumstances should a nation state or a union be allowed to cede part of a member state, is not easy to answer. The American Civil War was fought on that issue [2157] and it is also an issue today in parts of Europe. According to China, it is an issue of territorial integrity. If I lived in Taiwan and I was asked to choose between Taiwan and China — I have not visited either — I would choose Taiwan because I would like to think there was some type of democratic control in my life, that there were democratic institutions to which I could aspire and that it was the will of the people which ruled my country and not the dictates of a particular party which, in China, is the Communist Party.

I am not entirely satisfied with the Minister's speech because it fails to adequately reflect what should be the ideological opposition to the bullying tactics of China, not just in this issue but in other issues as well. Nobody will have failed to notice the queues of people waiting for passports in Hong Kong a few days ago. Those people were speaking with their feet. They have no faith that they will be safe under a Chinese Administration in Hong Kong. The people in Taiwan would not feel safe under a Chinese Administration.

If China had invaded Taiwan, what would have been the response of the western nations? Only the United States attempted to show some kind of military support. What would have been the Irish position? Would we have issued a bland communiqué stating our regret and condemnation, while we continued our relationship with China?

Mr. G. Mitchell: Would the Senator prefer if we joined NATO?

Mr. Mulcahy: It is time that those of us who cherish freedom stood against the remaining autocracies in the world. I am not saying China is the only or the last one, but it is a state where normal democratic values do not seem to be cherished.

Earlier this year the women's conference focused on the issue of human rights abuses and the appalling treatment of women in particular. The people of Taiwan might be disappointed by the lacklustre content of this speech [2158] which fails to give comfort to those who feel under threat from what could be an aggressive China.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Is that a call for us to join NATO?

Mr. Mulcahy: China faces terrible internal problems in terms of its population, etc. Democracy cannot and will not be bullied away. If the Minister does not feel he has the strength of purpose to support democracy and take a strong moral stand against China——

Mr. G. Mitchell: Does the Senator want me to throw in my cap?

Mr. Mulcahy: I did not interrupt the Minister; perhaps, he could learn manners and stop interrupting me.

Mr. G. Mitchell: This has more to do with Dublin South-Central than a debate on China.

Mr. Lydon: That is a low remark. It has nothing to do with Dublin. This is a good debate.

An Cathaoirleach: Senator Mulcahy, without interruption.

Mr. Mulcahy: I am sorry the Minister demeans himself by introducing a matter which has no bearing on this debate.

As a small country, we cherish freedom and democracy, and we must never be bullied or intimidated by a larger country which seeks to interfere with another small country. We have a tradition of standing up for these principles. I am disappointed that the Minister's speech does not provide the type of comfort and support to which the people of Taiwan are entitled.

Mr. G. Mitchell: Am I entitled to reply?

An Cathaoirleach: The Minister will have an opportunity to reply when the debate concludes.

[2159] Mr. Norris: Senators are used to such nonsense in this House.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: I am delighted to have the opportunity to discuss this issue. I compliment Senator Enright for raising it and the Minister for coming here today. Unlike Senator Mulcahy, I am pleased with the Minister's speech.

It is important to recognise that 22 million people live in Taiwan and that they are operating an independent state. China lays its claim to Taiwan, yet Taiwan is moving towards democracy. I compliment the Taiwanese on their first democratic election for president. I also compliment the Members of the Oireachtas who travelled to Taiwan to supervise the elections. It is important that all democracies fully support emerging democracies.

The Department of Foreign Affairs adopted a resolution passed by the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs in relation to Taiwan, which was subsequently included in the EU Declaration on the activities of China outside Taiwan. China brought the wrath of the international community down on itself by its military activities around Taiwan. It was an unnecessary exercise of its military power. The Minister said that China always stated it would stick to its fundamental policy on the Taiwan issue — that is, to seek a peaceful solution to the problem.

The Minister was not at the meeting of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs when it met the Chinese delegation last Friday. At that meeting the vice-chairman, in response to questions put to him about Taiwan, stated that, if necessary, China was prepared to use military and other force to achieve its ambitions. That is a serious statement by a senior Chinese politician. When I visited China last October another senior politician stated they were prepared to use force if necessary. I suggest that in view of last Friday's statement to the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, that the Minister and the Department of Foreign Affairs would raise this issue [2160] with the Ambassador and the powers that be in China. It would appear to be a break from and to run contrary to its traditional statements that its policy is to seek peaceful solutions. This is a serious change in policy.

Some 22 million people have a right to decide their future democratically. It is important we recognise that people have a right to self-determination. The people of Taiwan have that right and the international community must speak out in this regard, particularly through democratic means. Senator Mulcahy said that democratic principles do not seem to apply in China. China is not a democracy; it is a communist dictatorship, although it pretends that it is moving towards a socialist democracy. If that happens, it will be a progressive move.

China compares very poorly to Taiwan which is moving towards instituting a democratic system which is commendable. We must support Taiwan in every way possible. At various stages China has stated that it is prepared to allow the Taiwanese to have their own administration, government, judiciary and the institutions of state. If it is prepared to do that, why was it necessary for it to engage in military manoeuvres around Taiwan prior to the elections? Was it an attempt to frighten the people of Taiwan so they would not vote in the democratic elections? If so, we must lend our voice to the condemnation of China.

Previous speakers compared the human rights situation in China to that in Taiwan. Much is left to be desired as far as China is concerned. However, despite its repressive laws in relation to women, children and individual freedom and those who speak out against the system, it must be encouraged to think about the right of the individual to self-determination. The fact that a delegation came here last week and met various interest groups and politicians will only open their minds to western ways and subject them to further pressure. We should not lose any opportunity to get them to think in that way. [2161] However, we must recognise the inherent problems in that country.

The Hong Kong problem will be shortly resolved. When in China we were told that it was prepared to use the Hong Kong model for Taiwan. It is important that people are aware of that. However, the way china has dealt with Taiwan is different to the manner in which it has operated in relation to Hong Kong. There seems to be a different attitude and approach to Hong Kong. The most significant problem is the fundamental change in policy — that it is prepared to use military force in relation to Taiwan, if necessary. If this serious situation develops, undoubtedly it will draw in the major world powers and will cause disruption to international peace, toward which we must work and contribute.

It is essential that we recognise the mentality of certain members of the political structure in China. Taiwan must be complimented on the manner in which it is proceeding, that is, towards democracy. This democratically elected institution and the EU must do everything to encourage and support Taiwan. I hope China will listen to the voices of the world.

Mr. Norris: I would like to express my admiration for the Chinese people and their remarkable and ancient civilisation. When we presume to dictate to the Chinese, we should recognise the extreme significance in terms of human history of their contribution to world civilisation. In some ways they have a great deal to teach us. This was made clear recently with the uproar about the “Dying Rooms”, which was justified but, we took a particular moral line which was placed in context subsequently when we unearthed the Goldenbridge scandal. We must see this in a broad context, but that does not mean I am inclined to be uncritical of The People's Republic of China. I am merely saying that I have great respect for the people of China in order to place in context some of the sharp and perhaps even stinging remarks I may need [2162] to make about the situation which exists at present between Taiwan and mainland China.

There is no doubt in mine or in other people's minds but that Taiwan is part of China. Geographically, historically, culturally and linguistically it is part of China, but not politically. The Chinese Government, which has wonderful phrases for everything, appears to be recognising this by stating “one country, two systems”. However, that raises the question of the difference between the two systems on which I will concentrate.

The Chinese Government has raised the question of the difference between the two political systems. The international community has a right to express a view on this, a right which the Chinese Government does not accept. Instead of answering criticism, looking at its system and into its heart and attempting in the interests of its survival and the welfare of its people to ameliorate the situation, the Chinese Government has consistently deflected criticism and rejected accountability to the international community.

I received a briefing from Amnesty International which I read carefully and with which I concur. I would like to place some of the significant points on the record. After discussions with Amnesty International we feel there are five specific things which the Government could usefully do. It should urge the Government of The People's Republic of China to invite the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention to visit China. This is a fairly modest demand which the Government, as it moves towards Presidency of the EU, could legitimately and powerfully make. After all, we are in a good position as regards China in that we sponsored what was then known as Red China in the United Nations. We have demonstrated our flexibility there.

We could ensure the regular and effective monitoring of the human rights situation in China by the United [2163] Nations human rights bodies. We could urge the Chinese Government to allow independent domestic and relevant international organisations to monitor the human rights situation in China. We could encourage the Chinese Government to sign and ratify the ICCPR, its optional Protocols and the ICESCR and to recognise the competence of the United Nations Committee Against Torture to receive individual complaints and hear interstate complaints. We could ensure that asylum seekers are not forcibly returned to China if they risk serious human rights violations and that the claims of all asylum seekers, including those in detention, are fully and impartially assessed.

It is a matter of shame to me that a Government of Ireland should have attempted to return to China one of those who was heroically involved in the demonstration for democracy at Tiananmen Square. We have much with which to reproach ourselves in terms of democracy and China before we start preaching to the Chinese authorities themselves.

I would like to turn briefly to the question of Tibet. I have been to China on a number of occasions. It is a wonderful country and they are remarkable, courteous, cultivated and industrious people. They will also be an extremely important party in terms of the development of the politics and economy of the world over the next quarter of a century.

While I was there we were talking about James Joyce and one of my colleagues had a wonderful intellectual convection about Ulysses being a post-colonial text and so on. He illustrated this with the crimes of Britain as an empire towards its colony, Ireland. I said that was very comfortable for us and asked why not look at the analogous situation obtaining in Tibet. If nothing else I said drew attention that certainly did. It was so successful in provoking discussion that I repeated it in every university I visited.

[2164] We must make a strong human rights case with regard to the situation in Tibet. It has been appalling and it continues with the utmost cynicism on the part of the Chinese authorities who, having for long maintained a position of atheist materialism, now presume to intervene in the determination of the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama for political reasons. In pursuit of this they have kidnapped a six year old boy and accused him of crimes. I would say to our friends in the Chinese Embassy that this kind of material is very disturbing to those who see themselves as friends of China.

We must ask what is the nature of these crimes. The Dalai Lama's designated reincarnation has been accused of being cruel to a dog, a heinous crime in the eyes of Buddha as if the people in Beijing gave a damn about the eyes of Buddha. His parents are described as notorious for speculation, deceit and scrambling for fame and profit and as not being pious, honest and kind people. I ask the Minister to take up the case of this missing six year old boy who, whatever the religious ramifications, is but a pawn in a detailed political programme.

I have to draw attention to the increasing arrests, in Lhasa for example. In early 1990 about 400 people were known to be in military detention; the figure is now over 600. We are entitled to know what is happening to these people. Why have they been arrested? Let us have some justification if China wants to take its rightful place in the community of moral nations.

Amnesty International is concerned about over 50 monks and lay people detained as a result of the reincarnation controversy. Eight further detentions believed to be associated with the reincarnation dispute have been reported. On 2 September 1995 two lay women from a carpet factory run by the Tashilhunpo monastery were detained and on 4 November 1995 six monks were arrested for demonstrating outside the monastery.

May I put on the record some of the names because I know this is effective? [2165] When I was in Canberra I listed people like Gendun Richen, who we had the honour of receiving here and who was a victim of the violation of human rights. I know that the Chinese authorities prick up their ears when people's names are placed on the record. I would like to read some of these names onto the record: Chadrel Rimpoche's assistant, Champa Chung, Samdrup, a business from Shigatse, Gyatrul Rimpoche, a lama from the Tashilhumpo monastery. Others reported to have been detained include Shepa Kelsang, Lhakpa Tsering, Ringkar Ngawang, Ngodrup, Tenzin, Tendor, Sherab, Tashi Dondrup, Tsering Phuntsog, Chungdag, Pema, Penpa Tsering, Buchung, Sonam Phuntsok, Tenzin, Gendun, Lobsang Tseten, Wangchuk, Pema Dorje, Lhakpa Tsering, Lobsang Dawa, Tsering Gonpo, Dorje Gyaltsen and Sil Zhi.

At least 628 political prisoners are reported to be detained in Tibet as late as 1994. This figure includes 182 women and 45 people who were aged under 18 at the time of arrest. This compares with a figure of only 400 two years ago. If I had time we could look at the details of those who are under age and are detained by the Chinese military authorities. I say this with respect to an ancient great people. Their Government must move towards a situation where we can all respect them and they can operate to the benefit of their own people. On that basis I would support the reintegration of the territory of Taiwan with mainland China where it clearly geographically and historically belongs.

Mr. Lydon: Whenever I see a big boy bullying a small boy I feel that the big boy is in some way afraid of the small boy. This is what we are seeing at the moment with The People's Republic of China looking across the Taiwan Straits at another country's development. They are one nation and I have great respect for the Chinese people. They taught the world an immense amount and are probably one of the two nations which [2166] have a decent cuisine — the other being the Italians.

They look across and see the development in Taiwan. They are not afraid of its economic strength, although it has the fifteenth largest economy in the world, but of the development of democracy. As Senator Norris said some of the abuses they have perpertrated, particularly in Tibet, are appalling. I remember a motion in the Seanad on the Chinese invasion and what they were doing in Tibet. We were not strong enough in our condemnation of it and I believe we should not be afraid to say these things.

The development of democracy frightens authoritarian regimes because these people belong to one nation. If the large part looks across at the small part, it is not the people at the top but the people at the bottom who begin to ask why they cannot have democracy and freedom of movement such as people have in Taiwan. That is what frightens the Government. Anybody who read the statement of Mr. Tian will be frightened, as Senator Taylor-Quinn said. It was frightening because it could very quickly precipitate a war that would involve America and many other nations and we do not want that.

I would like to see the reintegration of the two parts of China but only when democratic reforms are put in place in The People's Republic of China. I would look at how they will reintegrate Hong Kong first and see what model they use there. If that is successful there may be a case for the other. The Chinese people I have met here, whether from Taiwan or mainland China, have always been nothing but courteous and lovely people. It is a pity this has developed. One part of the nation has succeeded while the other has remained almost in the Middle Ages. I can see how the people living in Taiwan would not want to be integrated but I can also see how the Government of The People's Republic of China is afraid of what the Taiwanese have put in place. I hope we can support Taiwan.

[2167] Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs (Mr. G. Mitchell): I thank the Senators who made constructive contributions to the debate. It is useful to attend in the Seanad to hear the contributions. This is my second occasion in a short period to speak to the House on the Taiwan issue. The current session of the UN Commission on Human Rights is dealing with the matter of human rights in China, including Tibet, and the question of arbitrary detention. The draft EU resolution on human rights in China is being pursued at the UN. The House is making statements on the situation in Taiwan and it is in that regard I wish to contribute. I welcome the democratic developments in Taiwan and I note the welcome given by the Senators.

It would appear from the contribution of one Senator that he wishes us to support the US exercises in the area while a former Minister for Foreign Affairs from his party, Deputy Andrews, recently described himself as “flat earth” on the issue of neutrality. It is extraordinary that, when a debate on this issue is facilitated and I attend to take information from the debate that may help to form policy, provocative comments are made. I reject them as petty and pursuing a separate selfish agenda.

I hope the Seanad will continue to monitor this issue. When I spoke in the House on 27 March last I indicated that the EU called on The People's Republic of China to refrain from activities which could have negative effects on the security of the entire east Asian region and urged an early resumption of the cross-straits talks. I also said that “The naval and military exercises had all the appearances of being gratuitously provocative”. I do not know what a certain Senator would have me do. Would he have me go and “beat them with my cap”, to quote a former Fianna Fáil Minister? Would he have us take an extreme stand? There seems to be a view that while the Americans react as they do we should react by sending faxes.

[2168] We can influence the situation most with a balanced response. We should try to influence The People's Republic of China towards opening up its country, towards the Taiwanese model which involves more democracy and towards accountability and human rights. The Government has adopted that approach and will continue to do so. Since the Irish Government recognised The People's Republic of China in 1979 we have had to pursue the one China policy while recognising the amazing developments that have taken place in Taiwan and to try to ensure that the democratic traditions which have taken root in Taiwan can be spread throughout the rest of China.

With regard to the missing six year old Tibetan boy, the named successor to the Dalai Lama to whom Senator Norris referred, the Government has raised this matter and expressed its concern. I look forward to participating in debates such as this from time to time. They are useful to the Government and to me as Minister of State with responsibility for European Affairs. I found today's debate by and large informative and useful.

Sitting suspended at 4.25 p.m. and resumed at 4.30 p.m.