Monday, July 19, 1999
Taiwans Lee sparks
threats from BeijingThe issue: Taiwan President Lee Teng-hui has announced that his government will negotiate with Beijing as a separate country.TAIWAN'S President Lee Teng-hui has angered the Chinese Communist regime again by announcing that Taiwan would henceforth negotiate with Beijing as a separate country. "We have redefined cross-strait relations as nation-to-nation," he told the German radio station Deutsche Welle. Beijing reacted with fury, calling Lee "an international troublemaker" whose "naked separatism" would bring disaster to Taiwan.
Our view: Lee is trying to redefine Taiwan's status before he steps down as president.
The disaster referred to, of course, is that Beijing might launch an invasion of Taiwan to enforce its claim that the island is part of China. That threat has existed ever since the Communists captured the mainland in 1949 and the Nationalists fled to Taiwan, and has resulted in a series of crises.
Taiwan has survived, and even flourished. But China's strong economic growth in recent years has fueled a military buildup that gives the prospect of invasion more credibility.
Still, it's hard to believe that a semantic dispute could lead to war. Taiwan has issued what it considers the official wording of its relations with mainland China: It is "one nation, two states."
The new wording is a departure from the previous "one China, two political entities" that has been in use since 1991, when Taiwan paved the way for seeking closer ties with the mainland by abandoning the previous claim to be the legitimate government of all of China.
Although Beijing has never recognized Taiwan's government, even as a "political entity," it had not objected to the use of the phrase -- as long as it was coupled with "one China."
Lee has repeatedly angered Beijing. In the most serious incident, he made a visit to the United States in 1995 to attend a class reunion at Cornell University, his alma mater.
Although it was billed as an unofficial visit, the trip spurred China into staging missile tests and amphibious drills during Taiwan elections in 1995 and 1996. President Clinton sent two aircraft carriers to the area in response, as a reminder that Taiwan is under U.S. protection.
Now in the last year of his presidency, Lee seems determined to redefine Taiwan's status before he steps down. The deterioration of relations between Beijing and Washington probably encouraged him to think such boldness would be accepted in the United States. However, he has been accused on Taiwan of endangering its security.
AN attack by the Communists seems unlikely. The Beijing leaders may gnash their teeth in frustration over Lee's remarks, but they are in no position to launch an attack on Taiwan. They know it could mean war with the United States -- a disaster all around.
The day may come when such an attack will be feasible, but by then, we hope, China's leaders will have realized that Taiwan should be won by persuasion, not force. For the present, Washington should continue to make it clear that an attack would trigger a U.S. response.
Court ruling against
three prison officialsThe issue: A federal judge has ruled in favor of a prison doctor who accused three prison officials of retaliating against him for exposing abuses of inmates.A ruling by a federal district judge in favor of a former Hawaii prison doctor should encourage more government employees to speak out when they uncover abuses. Judge Alan C. Kay ruled that three prison officials conspired to retaliate against Dr. Terence B. Allen for exposing abuse of inmates at Halawa prison.
Our view: The ruling should encourage government employees to speak out against abuses.
The three -- George Iranon, former state public safety director; Eric Penarosa, former public safety deputy director; and Guy Hall, former warden at Halawa Correctional Center -- were ordered to pay damages of $111,000 plus attorney fees and court costs.
Allen worked as a doctor in Hawaii prisons for eight years. He reported incidents of inmate abuse on several occasions but the reports were ignored.
Allen went public with charges of abuse after treating inmate Ulysses Kim for wounds caused by being kept in full restraints and by beatings. He explained that he feared there would be an attempt to cover up Kim's injuries.
The court found that after Allen spoke to a deputy attorney general and testified before a legislative committee he was subjected to abuse and harassment. He was forced to quit because of intolerable and discriminatory working conditions, the court ruled.
The case is significant because of the light it sheds on the attitude of some prison officials who seek to cover up abuse problems rather than deal with them. It is particularly disturbing that the defendants in the suit ranked at the top of the prison system.
IRANON and Penarosa have since retired. Hall is now an evaluation and compliance officer for the prisons.
The fact that a person has been sentenced to prison does not strip him of the right to reasonable treatment. Brutality by prison guards cannot be condoned.
Conditions in the prisons will not improve until officials with attitudes such as those cited in the lawsuit are removed. This decision should be followed by a shakeup of the system.
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