I’m trying to avoid several things with this blog — I don’t want it to become the “What has Ma Fucked Up Today?” blog. Nor do I want it to become the Taiwan Democracy Deathwatch, a four year wake. So please forgive me for being massively busy the last week or so and not blogging so much (expect avalanche tomorrow), and forgive me also for putting up yet another post on Taiwan’s Tallest Invertebrate….

This week the anniversary of Tiananmen passed, and President Ma Ying-jeou, well known for critical comments directed at the leadership in Beijing in the best Catholic-criticizing-the-Pope style on this date in other years, was offered another opportunity to say a few words on behalf of democracy in China. But twice in a month Ma declined to affirm key core values in an important speech…instead offering a speech that was servile (or conciliatory, depending on one’s point of view) as Lawrence Chung reported in SCMP (paywall, sorry): Ma shifts from condemnation of crackdown to praise for reforms

Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou has praised the mainland for its reforms, in a shift from his previously harsh condemnation of Beijing over its bloody crackdown in Tiananmen Square 19 years ago.

“Mainland China has made certain progress since it started to open up and reform 30 years ago,” said Mr Ma in a statement issued yesterday through the Presidential Office website to mark the 19th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Instead of lashing out at the mainland as he did in the past, Mr Ma simply asked Beijing to “continue to promote freedom and democracy” for the sake of the 1.3 billion mainland people and “paving the way for long-term peaceful development of relations across the Taiwan Strait”.

He said since the crackdown in 1989, he has either taken part in activities or written articles annually to mark the incident.

He stressed his concern about the incident was due mainly to “my concern over whether our mainland compatriots are able to enjoy a life of freedom and democracy”.

Chung pointed out how much things have changed, noting:

In 2006, when he was still Taipei mayor, he said it would be impossible for Taiwan to talk about unification with the mainland if Beijing refused to redeem those killed in the bloody crackdown. In 2005, he said he would not relinquish his anti-Chinese communist stance until Beijing admitted the crackdown was a mistake.

Chung also listed the changes that Ma plans to make:

* Senior officials can visit mainland on case-by-case basis
* Mainland tourists can use credit cards in Taiwan by end of August
* Mainland tourists can convert yuan into new Taiwan dollars by end of next month
* Taiwanese funds to be invested in mainland shares before end of this month and mainland funds to be invested in Taiwanese shares before end of year
* Ban on Xinhua and People’s Daily journalists in Taiwan lifted before end of next month
* Policy to establish mutual military trust
* Taiwanese universities may be able to set up branches on mainland and mainland academic qualifications may be recognised
* Island’s official title, Republic of China, to be used on stamps from August

Watching Ma toadying up to Beijing like this, I am wondering if eight years of Ma is going to quietly rekindle the debate on whether democracy is possible in a society that imagines itself Chinese — and how soon those people in Singapore and Hong Kong who fondly imagined that Ma was going to be a voice for Chinese democracy are going to give up that fantasy. One also wonders how soon China is going to start screwing Ma because he is so servile. And when you reflect on Ma’s long political career and its almost total lack of stands on principle, as well as the way Ma has always inclined himself toward Power like a plant turning into the sun, well…..

Taiwan News had some tough comments for Ma, especially in that dead-on first paragraph below:

Ma’s statement included not a single word of criticism aimed at the leaders of the CCP regime on the PRC’s worsening human rights performance, the bloody suppression of “disturbances” in Tibet since mid-March, the tightening restrictions on news freedom and freedom of expression in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in August or the continued expansion of the deployment of missiles and offensive forces of the People’s Liberation Army opposite Taiwan.

It is understandable that the KMT leader might moderate criticism of the authoritarian PRC regime as part of his legitimate efforts to improve cross-strait relations.

However, the “June Fourth” anniversary offered Ma a natural opportunity to reaffirm his core values and even raise new perspectives or concerns to the PRC authorities without especially disturbing the Beijing regime, which is now accustomed to being pilloried on this date.

Moreover, a principled statement by Ma would have indicated to the CCP leaders that progress toward cross-strait peace must be founded on respect for Taiwan’s values of democracy, freedom and equity and not simply short-term interests or economic stimulation.

Ma’s decision to imitate the late CCP Wang Ming and interpret “united front” as “all alliance and no struggle” will inspire only contempt and no respect in the eyes of the Beijing authorities.

If Ma cannot not even dare to criticize the CCP regime for the Tiananmen Square massacre, how can we expect the “Chinese Taipei” leader to stand up for the national security and collective interests and democratic rights of the 23 million people who elected him on March 22?

The answer is simple. We cannot.

Sadly, the question isn’t “Will Ma stand up?” We always knew the answer to that. The question is: “When Ma doesn’t stand up, will the people notice?”

I sure hope so.