The 2013 Cross-Strait Crisis: Day 18 - Speech by President Ma
On Sunday the 17th of March 2013, President Ma Ying-jeou went on national television at 8pm in the evening to address the public and the approximately 7.5m protestors occupying the centers of Taipei, Taichung, Kaohsiung, Tainan, Hsinchu and over 20 other towns.
The protests had first begun over three core issues: widening wealth gap and uneven distribution of ECFA benefits, rising costs for energy, food and land, and the China friendly cross-strait policies of President Ma who had been reelected in 2012 on a platform of defending Taiwan's sovereignty and dignity and 'going to the world through the Mainland'. The slight improvement in economic conditions in 2011 combined with a poor Presidential ticket from the largest opposition party, the pro-Taiwan DPP, had convinced enough Taiwanese to give Ma a second term despite their misgivings over the nature of the closer relations between the ROC and PRC, which were led to a large part by the KMT.
The influx of Chinese people and goods into the country and the impact on the economy (exacerbated by the administration's unwillingness to define a clear difference between Taiwanese and Chinese citizens and their rights) had left a sour taste in the mouths of many formerly independent, swing and light blue voters. On February 26th, Lin Chiu-wen was detained by Taipei police for waving an ROC flag at a visiting Chinese delegation. That night, he died in custody. Police refused to release the body or allow an independent autopsy. The following day, the homes of several prominent Taiwanese bloggers covering the case were raided by police and the blog authors put into indefinite detention. TV's experienced blackouts for extended periods whenever news stations tried to report on events.
On February 28th, the Vice-President took visiting ARATS Chairman Chen Yunlin to pay homage at the shrine of the Chiang's in Taoyuan county, the resulting pictures of a smiling Chen angering a large swathe of the population. On March 3rd 2012, the President met with Chen Yunlin and 40 senior KMT and CCP officials to negotiate a peace treaty in which the ROC would on October 10th 2015 be transformed into the Republic of Greater China (SAR), officially designated as a state of a federated PRC, and the 2016 Presidential elections would be renamed Chief Executive Elections. Upon hearing the news, Taiwanese rallied en masse in the centers of their cities, demanding that the peace treaty be scrapped, that the President resign immediately, that a new constitution be written for Taiwan and Taiwanese and that the crack down on civil liberties cease immediately.
When that happened, the PRC ordered Ma to stamp out the protests or risk facing Chinese military action. Within days of the first strikes and occupations, the PRC began an economic embargo of Taiwan followed a week later by threats to enforce order itself. By day 18 of the siege, President Ma finally addressed the nation. Here is the text of his speech:
I am addressing the citizens of Republic of China today in Freedom Square and across the country. I am addressing you all from the heart, a father's dialogue with his sons and daughters.
I am proud of you as the new Republic of China generation calling for a change to the better, dreaming and making the future.
First and foremost, I am telling you that the blood of your martyrs and injured will not go in vain. I assure you that I will not relent in harshly punishing those responsible. I will hold those who persecuted our citizens accountable with the maximum deterrent sentences.
I tell the families of those innocent victims that I suffered plenty for them, as much as they did. My heart was in pain because of what happened to them, as much as it pained their hearts.
I am telling you that heeding to your voice, your message and demands is an irretraceable commitment.
I am determined to live up to my promises with all firmness and honesty and I am totally determined to implement (them), without hesitation or reconsideration.
This commitment springs from a strong conviction that your intentions are honest and pure and your action. Your demands are just and legitimate demands.
The mistakes can be made in any political system and in any state. But, the most important is to recognise them and correct them as soon as possible and bring to account those who have committed them.
I am telling you that as a president I find no shame in listening to my country's citizens and interacting with them.
The big shame and embarrassment, which I have not done and never will do, would be listening to foreign dictations whatever may be the source or pretext.
My sons, the citizens of Republic of China, brother citizens, I have unequivocally declared that I will not run for president in the next elections, satisfied with what I've offered my country in over 60 years during war and peace.
I declared my commitment to that, as well as my equal commitment to carrying out my responsibility in protecting the constitution and the people's interests until power and responsibility are handed over to whoever is elected in next September, following free and candid elections with guarantees of freedom and candour.
This is the oath I took before the Father of the Nation and my country and one which I will keep until we take the Republic of China and its people to a safe harbour.
I have set a defined vision to come out of this crisis and to carry out what the citizens and the citizens have called for in a way which would respect the constitutional legitimacy and not undermine it.
It will be carried out in a way that would bring stability to our society and achieve the demands of its citizens, and, at the same time, propose an agreed-upon framework for a peaceful transfer of power through responsible dialogue with all factions of society and with utmost sincerity and transparency.
I presented this vision, committed to my responsibility in getting the nation out of these difficult times and continuing to achieve it first, hour by hour, anticipating the support and assistance of all those who are concerned about Republic of China and its people, so that we succeed in transforming it (the vision) into to a tangible reality, according to a broad and national agreement with a large base, with the courageous military forces guaranteeing its implementation.
We have started indeed building a constructive national dialogue, including the Republic of China citizenss who led the calls for change, and all political forces. This dialogue has resulted in a tentative agreement of opinions and positions, putting our feet at the start of the right track to get out of the crisis and must continue to take it from the broad lines on what has been agreed upon to a clear road map and with a fixed agenda.
From now to next September, day after day, we'll see the peaceful transition of power.
This national dialogue has focused on the setting up of a constitutional committee that will look into the required amendments of the constitution and the needed legislative reforms.
It (the dialogue) also met about the setting up of a follow-up committee expected to follow up the sincere implementation of the promises that I have made before the people.
I have made sure that the composition of the two committees is made of Republic of China figures that are known for their independence and experience, experts in constitutional law and judges.
In addition to that, the loss of the martyrs of the sons of Republic of China in sad and tragic events has hurt our hearts and shaken the homeland's conscience.
I immediately issued my instructions to complete the investigation about last week's events (the clashes between pro- and anti-Ma Ying-jeou demonstrators) and submit its results immediately to the general prosecutor for him to take the necessary legal deterrent measures.
Yesterday, I got the first report on the top priority constitutional amendments proposed by the committee of justice system and law experts and that I have set up to look into the required constitutional and legislative amendments.
In response to the proposals in the committee's report, and in compliance with the prerogatives of the president of the republic, in conformity with Article 189 of the constitution, I have submitted a request today asking for the amendment of six constitutional clauses: 76, 77, 88, 93 and 189, in addition to the annulment of clause 179.
Moreover, I am asserting my readiness to submit, at a later time, an (additional) request to change any other clauses referred to me by the constitutional committee, according to the needs and justifications it sees fit.
These top-priority amendments aim to ease the conditions for presidential nominations, and the fixing of limited terms of presidency to ensure the rotation of power, and the strengthening of the regulations of elections oversight to guarantee their freedom and fairness.
It is in the judiciary's prerogative to decide about the validity and membership of MPs and amend the conditions and measures on the amendment of the constitution.
The proposal to delete Article 179 from the constitution aims to achieve the required balance between the protection of the nation from the dangers of terrorism and safeguarding the civil rights and freedoms of the citizens which opens the door to the lifting of the emergency law following the return of calm and stability and the presence of suitable conditions to lift the state of emergency.
'In one trench'
Brother citizens, the priority now is to bring back trust between Republic of China citizens, trust in our economy and our international reputation, and trust in protecting the change and movement that we have started from turning back or retreating.
The Republic of China is going through difficult times which it is not right for us to allow continuing, as it will continue to cause us and our economy harm and losses, day after day, which will end in circumstances which those citizens who called for change and reform will become the first to be harmed by.
The current moment is not to do with myself, it is not to do with Ma Ying-jeou, but is to do with Republic of China, its present and the future of its children.
All Republic of China citizens are in one trench now, and it is on us to continue the national dialogue which we have started, with a team spirit, not one of division, and far from disagreement and infighting so that we can get Republic of China past its current crisis, and to restore trust in our economy, and tranquillity and peace to our citizens, and return the Republic of China’s streets to normal everyday life.
I was as young as Republic of China's citizens today, when I learned the Republic of China military honour, allegiance and sacrifice for my country.
I have spent a lifetime defending its soil and sovereignty. I witnessed its wars, with its defeats and victories.
I lived the days of defeat and occupation, I also lived the days of the (retrocession) crossing, victory and liberation.
It was the happiest day of my life when I raised the flag of Republic of China over Taipei.
I faced death many times as a student, in America, and numerous other times. I never succumbed to foreign pressure or dictations.
I kept the peace. I worked towards the stability and security of Republic of China. I worked hard for its revival and for its people.
I never sought power or fake popularity. I trust that the overwhelming majority of the people know who Ma Ying-jeou is. It pains me to see how some of my countrymen are treating me today.
In any case, I am completely aware of the seriousness of the current hard turn of events as I am convinced that the Republic of China is crossing a landmark point in its history which imposes on all of all to weigh in the higher interests of our country and to put the Republic of China first above any and all considerations.
I saw fit to delegate presidential jurisdictions to the vice-president as defined by the constitution. I am certain that Republic of China will overcome its crisis.
The will of its people will not break. It will be back on its feet with the honesty and loyalty of its people, all its people.
It will return the machinations and glee of those who were gleeful and machinated against it. We, citizens of the Republic of China, will prove our ability to achieve the demands of the people with civilised and mature dialogue.
We will prove that we are no-one's servants, that we do not take instructions from anyone, and that only the demands of the citizens and the pulse of the street take our decisions.
We will prove all this with the spirit and tenacity of the great Chinese race, through the unity and cohesion of the descendants of the Yellow Emperor, and through our commitment to Republic of China's dignity as well as its unique and immortal identity, for it is the essence and the base of our presence for more than 7,000 years.
This spirit will continue to live within us for as long as Republic of China and its people are present. It will live in every one of our peasants, workers and intellectuals. It will remain in the hearts of our old men, our citizens and our children, Han and Aboriginal. It will remain in the minds and conscience of all those Chinese yet unborn.
I say again that I lived for the sake of this country, preserving its responsibility and trust. The Republic of China will remain above all and above everyone.
It will remain so until I hand over this trust and pole. This is the goal, the objective, the responsibility and the duty. It is the beginning of life, its journey, and its end.
It will remain a country dear to my heart. It will not part with me and I will not part with it until my passing.
The Republic of China will remain immortal with its dignified people with their heads held high.
May the Father of the Nation preserve the safety of Republic of China and watch over its people.
May peace be upon you.* The speech above is actually the one given by Hosni Mubarak to the Egyptian people and the protestors demanding his resignation on Thursday February 10th 2011. I have only carried out a limited 'find and replace' of some high frequency words such as names of the country etc with a little cosmetic tidying and grammar correction. The bulk of the speech (95%) is from the English translation from the BBC Website. Eerie eh?