Members of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan have written an open letter to President Barack Obama asking that his administration review US policy to China and Taiwan and reiterate the need to respect the island's independence - writes Chris Herlinger.
"The future of Taiwan and our destiny as a people in Taiwan may be in jeopardy," said the recent letter, which comes as Obama plans a visit to China in November 2009, his first as president. The unsettled status of Taiwan is likely to be an issue of discussion between the president and his hosts, including Chinese President Hu Jintao.
Taiwan has in effect functioned as an independent country for 60 years but Beijing views the island nation as a renegade province of China.
The Taiwan Presbyterians declared that "human rights are God-given" and that the right of self-determination is a principle supported by the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They asked the US president "to recognise that Taiwan and China are two separate countries and cooperate with all peace and justice loving countries in the world to prevent China from taking over Taiwan by force or any other means".
The letter also appealed to the international community, "to be attentive to the wishes of Taiwanese people, assisting Taiwan to participate in international affairs as an independent country, so that the people of Taiwan will be given an opportunity to contribute to the justice, peace and welfare of the whole human race."
The letter, approved by the general assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, comes at an uncertain time in US and China relations and the relationships between Beijing and Taiwan.
In a 27 August column, analyst Frank Ching of the New Straits Times, a Malaysian newspaper, wrote of the complexity of current relations. He noted that tensions between China and the United States over military and security issues have eased recently because of efforts by Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou, to improve ties between China and Taiwan.
Still, "many Taiwanese remain suspicious of China's intentions" toward Taiwan, Ching noted.
The Presbyterian letter to Obama notes such concerns, saying, "Under the daily threat of over 1300 Chinese missiles, the yearly expansion of its military forces and its constant obstruction of Taiwan's participation in the international organizations, the people in Taiwan feel the threat to our personal lives, the violation of our national sovereignty and basic human rights.
"We are concerned that if Taiwan were taken over by dictatorial China, not only would the hard earned democratic system in Taiwan be destroyed, but the welfare of people here would be sacrificed and the peace and stability of [the] Asian Pacific region would be threatened."
A second letter to Obama distributed by the church notes, "We strongly believe and fear President Ma's concessions and collaboration with China's government is destroying Taiwan's democracy and sovereignty."
It stated, "China continues to demean Taiwan's international status, identity, selfhood and dignity. We are not products, we are peace loving people, an independent nation, with dreams, hopes and aspirations; we are people who adhere to the UN charter and desire to contribute to the global community of nations as equal partners."
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]