Arts & Culture 
 Human Rights 
 U.S. Asian Policy 

Home > East Asia > 

Mainlanders, cast off your shackles
Paul Lin

Advertising On Oct. 12, former president Lee Teng-hui, speaking to legislative candidates of the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU), said they should both sympathize and empathize with Mainlanders in Taiwan. He said people should help them throw off their constraints and obtain greater benefits. In this way, they would then be more favorable to both Taiwan and the TSU. Lee's greater goal is to have a population with at least 75 percent having a "Taiwan consciousness."

Lee's concern for second-generation Mainlanders in Taiwan is founded upon his desire to promote unity -- in effect mitigating the efforts of other politicians trying to fan the flames of ethnic division. The TSU can be considered a "deep green" in its political orientation; their local awareness is stronger than that of even the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

This is not, however, to say that they are being ethnically divisive. When we say "deep green" here we are referring to their deep conviction that China and Taiwan are separate entities. They are not trying to differentiate between ethnic identities within Taiwan itself.

The TSU are further to the green side of the spectrum than the DPP simply because the latter is currently in government and has to balance considerations deriving from cross-strait relations and relations between Taiwan and the US, as well as other domestic and international issues.

Unlike the TSU, the DPP is not free to look on these matters from a purely idealistic standpoint.

Certain politicians and public figures misrepresent the TSU's and Lee's ideas, but this is not necessarily because they are Mainlanders. It is because they see the "Taiwan issue" from China's perspective. In other words, the problem does not derive from ethnic relations within Taiwan, but from the relations between China and Taiwan.

Lee's concern for second-generation Mainlanders is indeed well founded. When Lee mentioned that Mainlanders are in need of throwing off their constraints to achieve more for themselves, I believe he is referring to the people who followed the late president Chiang Kai-shek to Taiwan after China's civil war, and -- with the exception of a number of high-ranking individuals -- underwent many hardships.

They worked hard for Taiwan, making a considerable contribution to its development, and so it is not only the second generation that needs to be considered, it is also the first generation, who still have a profound love for Taiwan.

I would particularly like to emphasize the question of helping them throw off their constraints. The constraints referred to here are for the most part psychological in nature. Certain politicians have accused Mainlanders and their children of "original sin," which naturally puts lots of pressure on them. They also use them as cannon fodder in their scramble for political advantage. This also puts a lot of pressure on them.

As a result we have seen that, in elections, many Taiwanese actually vote for pro-China politicians who have little or no local awareness, whereas some first and second generation Mainlanders actually cast their votes for pro-Taiwan candidates.

In many cases these people are looked upon as "heretics" -- Chen Shih-meng being a perfect example. I imagine that many second-generation Mainlanders who support the pan-green camp get little support from their families. It must be especially hard for them, and as a result they are all the more deserving of our concern.

Both my wife and I are well aware of this situation. I am from China, and my wife is a second generation Mainlander. Taiwanese in New York generally assume that we both support the pan-blues. In the last election we voted for the greens and, in addition to receiving threatening phone calls, we were also reproached in the streets for this. Just as I was branded a traitor by the Chinese communists, so was I condemned by some Taiwanese pan-blue supporters. Naturally, I find it very strange that they see eye to eye with Beijing on this.

So what did I actually turn my back on? I turned my back on the inhumane dictatorial system of the Chinese Communist Party.

After I arrived in Hong Kong, despite never specifically supporting independence for Taiwan, I never actually opposed it. During my 21 years in China I learned the real meaning of the fact that human rights are more important than who controls a country.

After I got to Hong Kong, I was against the return of its sovereignty to China, and the reason I respect Taiwan's right to choose its own future is that I would hope that others respect my right to do the same for myself.

So why did I finally choose to support the green camp? First, when China fired missiles into the seas off Taiwan in 1996, and with their subsequent threats of military force, it became clear to me that they had cut off their own route to achieving a peaceful unification.

Taiwan, however, wants to survive, and must therefore seek to be internationally recognized as a sovereign nation. Second, after losing the 2000 presidential election, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan, in an exercise of self-preservation, turned his back on Lee's drive toward localization and started seeing things the same way as China.

If we had supported them, we would not only have been traitors to the people of Taiwan, but also to the democratic movement within China.

It was for these reasons that I came out as a supporter of those who represented peace and a democratic transition within Taiwan. In order to face the increasing threats from China; to prevent Taiwan's democratic, political and economic achievements being trampled on; and how to stop these dictators from swallowing up Taiwan is not only the responsibility of the people of Taiwan, it is the sacred duty of the people of China and of Chinese living abroad.

In the legislative elections the blue camp is naturally fielding Mainlander candidates. The fact that the greens have a number of second-generation Mainlanders has special significance. In addition to the DPP's Tuan Yi-kang seeking another term, the TSU is putting up Yin Ling-ying, Ling Tzu-chu and Liu I-de. If these candidates are elected it will be a great blow for the politicians who are trying to use ethnic differences to their advantage. It will also be a new development for the political scene in Taiwan, following the establishment of the Goa-Seng-Lang Association for Taiwanese Independence, and will be good for ethnic integration.

Taiwan's food production feeds its 23 million inhabitants, and its mountains, rivers and blue skies provide spiritual nourishment. If Taiwan is to have a bright future, the Mainlanders living there have to remove their psychological shackles, join hands with us, and welcome a new beginning.

Paul Lin is a political commentator based in New York.

© Copyright 2002-2007 AFAR