Mon, May 15, 2000 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Culture and politics inseparable

Lung Ying-tai (龍應台), founding director of the Taipei Cultural Affairs Bureau, called for letting "culture be culture and politics be politics" at a press conference given six months after she took her current post and subsequently came under fire for forcing several cultural officials who where held in high public esteem to quit while Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was still mayor of Taipei City.

Since then, a conflict has been brewing between Lung and Lin Mun-lee (林曼麗), director of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum, which has been fueled by disputes over the opening of the second fine arts museum and Lin's museum renting out space for banquets celebrating Chen's presidential inauguration on May 20.

Before the dispute, Iap Phok-bun (葉博文), director of Taipei's 228 Memorial Museum, wrote a long article describing how Lung was unsuitable for her post and that she was always "saying one thing and doing another," forcing the Taiwan Peace Foundation (TPF, 台灣和平基金會) -- the museum's present managerial body -- to return management of the museum to the Cultural Affairs Bureau.

These problems didn't surface with the Taipei City government after Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) was elected as the city's mayor in December of 1998, but became media headlines after he invited Lung from her home in Germany to head the new bureau on Nov. 6 of last year.

And so it seems that politics don't exist without culture and culture is actually a response to politics.

Take Lung's "half year press conference" as an example. Held on May 4, the anniversary of the "May Fourth Movement (五四運動)" -- China's cultural revolution of 1919 -- it was not simply a press conference, but a "political action" reminding the public of the "cultural links" that exist between Taiwan and China. Not coincidentally, the conference echoed themes of her recently published book.

When then-Taipei Mayor Chen tried to install his colleague, Lo Wen-chia (羅文嘉), as the culture bureau's founding director, KMT and New Party members of the Taipei City Council boycotted the move. Thus, politics can never hide its shadow in cultural affairs.

Even if it is possible to let "culture be culture and politics be politics," Lung should be very careful to do her job, for she is the first woman to decide who can and should share more resources.

But Lung seems to not be paying attention to this. That was the reason she was criticized for not giving sufficient weight to Taiwan as having its own culture, but for being a famous writer with a "greater China complex."

Lung once penned an article criticizing President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) for lacking "Chinese consciousness" and not admonishing Japan over the Nanjing Massacre as forcefully as China had.

On Jan. 24, this newspaper ran an editorial saying that Lung was not suitable to be a governmental official.

The editorial said that "Lung's independent working style, weak personal skills and self-centered attitude have made her hard to work with. Worse still, her pride as an intellectual and, dare we say, her perception that, as a mainlander, she is culturally superior show through her words and actions."

One example of this, Lee Min-yung (李敏勇), president of the TPF, said that he was "forced to quit." Moreover, Lung said she will decide within the next 10 days wether Lin is suitable to be the director of the Taipei Fine Arts Museum.

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