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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times Importance of Taiwanese identity

Importance of Taiwanese identity

I once described independent Legislator May Chin (高金素梅) as a “well-paid spokesperson of dictator [Chinese President] Xi Jinping (習近平)” — a judgement some of my friends claimed to be arbitrary.

However, when it comes to character assessment, I follow Confucius’ (孔子) precepts: “Watch what they do and observe how they do it. How can they conceal their true self?”

During a questioning session in the Legislative Yuan, my suspicions were confirmed when Chin unabashedly referred to the Chinese president as “our Xi Jinping.”

While UK-US relations are amicable, it would be unfathomable for a US Congressperson to say “our King Charles III.” However, a Taiwanese legislator used “our” to express affinity with Xi — the head of a hostile state intent on annexing Taiwan.

That reminds me of a pro-unification colleague at Shih Hsin University, Wang Hsiao-po (王曉波). At a meeting in Beijing, he said: “We gave Taiwan great terms for the ‘one country, two systems’ principle, and yet they rejected it!” He was clearly taking the stance of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), as the “we” he referred to could certainly not be Taiwan.

Born in Guizhou, China, one might understand how Wang came to develop a “China complex.” However, for Taiwan-born Chin, refusing to stand with Taiwan and sacrificing the interests of indigenous peoples to the CCP is the height of hypocrisy. Perhaps personal profit or a Chinese nationalist education swayed her to it.

On a Taiwanese history general knowledge test, when asked: “During WWII, which country bombed Taiwan?” 30 percent of my students incorrectly answered “Japan.”

“Taiwan was a Japanese colony, why would Japan attack its own territory?” I retorted.

A student replied: “Didn’t we fight Japan for eight years?”

The root issue was revealed: The student’s “we” was taken from China’s viewpoint rather than Taiwan’s. This is the result of “de-Taiwanization” education policies implemented by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). With Chinese perspectives consistently prioritized over Taiwanese history, students are misled into a Sino-centric narrative.

Below are three instances of lingering Chinese nationalism:

When paying homage to the CCP, retired army general Chen Ting-chung (陳廷寵) cursed those who supported Taiwanese independence, calling them “the scum of the Chinese nation.”

Former National Defense University principal Hsia Ying-chou (夏瀛洲) said: “Both the People’s Liberation Army and the Republic of China Armed Forces are Chinese armies.”

Former KMT Huang Fu-hsing branch legislator Tsang You-hsia (臧幼俠) said: “I would rather unify with the CCP than submit to the Democratic Progressive Party [DPP].”

As “Mainlanders” who are not originally from Taiwan, their reactions are unsurprising. Entrapped in the myth of Chinese nationalism, they lack values of democracy, freedom and human rights — let alone any sense of Taiwanese identity.

However, it becomes concerning when Taiwanese share similar views. A friend recently recounted a story from a trip to Tibet, where a businessman from Tainan told the local tour guide: “[President] William Lai’s (賴清德) presidency will solidify Taiwanese identity. We must quickly reunite Taiwan with China!”

Such sentiments from profit-driven businesspeople willing to sell out Taiwan are loathsome.

Yet, there are some instances where my faith in a shared Taiwanese identity is restored. DPP Legislator Saidhai Tahovecahe (伍麗華) shared such a story with me.

During a “Patriot Week” assembly in a Pingtung County primary school, the principal addressed the students: “It’s Patriot Week, and we all love our country. And what is the name of our country?”

“Taiwan!” all students replied in unison.

“Yes, we are Taiwan, but we are also the Republic of China,” he added, awkwardly attempting to smooth things over.

Lee Hsiao-feng is an honorary professor at National Taipei University of Education.

Translated by Gabrielle Killick

Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2024/06/17

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The Transitional Justice Commission is reportedly planning on validating and announcing 85 historical sites of injustice, as well as proposing legislative suggestions for preserving them.

After consulting experts and using the UN’s International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance as reference, the commission has drafted and finished revising key points in its final report on validating historical sites of injustice, which refer to places where those in power violated human rights during the authoritarian period.