It's really an awful thing if a ruling party bases its policy decisions on its own likes and dislikes, rather than the will of the people. But that is just the way the pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration has behaved in dealing with the mainland's offer made in May to give the island a pair of giant pandas.
The DPP administration has tried every means to hamper the acceptance of the panda offer, even though most of the Taiwanese public warmly welcome the gift and hope the lovely animals will reach the island at an early date.
Out of its fear of closer cross-Straits relations, the DPP administration has described the mainland's offer as "united front tactics." To politicize the issue, it has refused to treat the offer as an internal affair, instead insisting that the issue is dealt with in line with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which regulates state-to-state trade in endangered species.
Beijing, however, has been pressing ahead with the plan as a highly symbolic gesture of goodwill despite Taipei's inaction. The process of selecting the pandas officially started yesterday as a panel of nine experts was established in Wolong Giant Panda Research Centre in Southwest China's Sichuan Province.
The group will be in charge of looking for two pandas aged between 18 months and four years that were artificially bred in the centre. They should have sound fertility so as to ensure they can give birth to cubs on the island. Once the giant pandas are selected, names will be quickly chosen and other preparations will follow so as to facilitate their early arrival at the island.
We hope the Taiwan authorities will respect the will of the Taiwanese people and reciprocate Beijing's goodwill and sincerity. In other words, politics should not stand in the way of a cross-Straits exchange programme that benefits the development of stable bilateral ties. As Beijing has said, the pandas offered to its Taiwan compatriots serve as a symbol of peace, unity and friendship.
Obviously, the DPP administration's strong political ideology and attempt to isolate Taiwan from the mainland have led to its reluctance to accept the panda offer.
Resorting to the old trick of pan-politicization, some DPP members have claimed accepting the pandas means the acceptance of Beijing's policy of "one country, two systems" that promotes the reunification between Taiwan and the mainland. In their eyes, any Taiwanese people who love giant pandas definitely do not love Taiwan.
Anyone with conventional wisdom can see how foolish and illogical this conclusion is. The Taiwanese people's love for giant pandas, as well as their travel to and investment in the mainland, has little to do with politics. By the end of May, Taiwanese compatroits had made more than 37 million visits to the mainland and Taiwanese investors had poured investment of US$40.58 billion into the mainland. Has this hurt the island?
If the Taiwanese people can visit and invest in the mainland, they surely should have the right to love giant pandas and expect the administration to accept the panda offer.
Since Beijing offered the gift in May, giant panda mania has swept through the island. According to various media polls, more than 70 per cent of Taiwan compatriots are anticipating the arrival of the pandas in the island. Meanwhile, Taipei and Taichung are competing with each other to host the pandas.
So it is time for the DPP administration to give serious consideration to the desires of the public when handling the issue.