A Dubious Pro-Beijing Letter

April 11th, 2005


In an open letter run by newspapers, Taiwanese industrialist Hsu Wen-lung has expressed support for Beijing’s antisecession law, saying both Taiwan and the mainland belong to “one China.” Taiwan’s United Daily News has since reported that China dictated the contents and the publication date of the letter. Last year, Hsu was reportedly targeted for harassment by Chinese authorities in connection with the Taiwanese presidential election. Executives of his company’s mainland subsidiary were held in custody.


This time the truth about the publication of Hsu’s letter is unknown, but speculation is rife. Hsu reportedly has gone into seclusion at his home and refuses contacts.


There are rumors that the lives of Hsu’s mainland executives were threatened and that his mainland operations were paralyzed because of harassment by Chinese authorities.


In my opinion, Hsu is not one who would have said what he purportedly wrote in the letter. In all likelihood, he was forced to sign a letter written by somebody else. Moreover, he would not have signed the letter if only his life were in danger. I suspect that his subordinates’ lives were threatened.


In past articles, I have expressed doubts about the proposition that a deepening of China-Taiwan economic ties will eventually lead to China’s unification. In world history, there has never been a case of economic considerations taking precedence over a country’s security and independence.


Meanwhile, economic intimidation, harassment for political purposes and other unfair practices are possible at a lower level where politics and business are deeply interrelated.


In international economic relations, acts of intimidation or harassment are illegal or at least unfair. The international community should openly condemn such acts and have them stopped.


Regarding the Hsu affair, the Wall Street Journal, on June 2, 2004, criticized China for disregarding business rules, saying China should understand capitalism, if not democracy.


I believe that the Taiwanese government should have dealt more sternly with China’s harassment tactics last summer. The international community would have supported Taiwan, helping to prevent the latest incident.


The whole episode should be a matter of considerable concern for Japan. Recently China has resorted to some outrageous tactics against Japan, including making a thinly veiled threat to shut Japanese companies out of international bidding for Chinese projects because of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s visits to Yasukuni Shrine. Taking advantage of close ties with some Japanese business leaders, China has applied pressure on Koizumi to mend his ways.


Japan should respond firmly to the Chinese actions. Otherwise, China could escalate its tactics. The latest episode involving Hsu is a good example.


I have strong doubts about China’s recent conduct. It was extraordinary for China to have kept secret the contents of the antisecession bill until its enactment last month. Chinese officials argue that premature disclosure of the contents would have stirred criticism, but that is what a proposed law is expected to do.


The National People’s Congress is supposed to debate legislation. If the government won’t allow the congress to debate legislation, then it should only issue executive orders.


But what is the use of establishing executive-order-style laws by enacting what the government is saying all the time anyway in its official statements? And what is the use of having Hsu sign a document that he clearly never wrote? It would only damage China’s reputation.


I am under the impression that some Chinese government officials are resorting to strong-arm tactics that ordinary civilian governments with common sense try to avoid.


I have strong sympathy for Hsu. Words written under threat have no legal power. No one should think that the contents of his letter reflect his true intention. An obvious lie is not a lie, according to general principles of semantics. In other words, Hsu’s letter should not cast doubts on his integrity.