Mon, May 20, 2002 - Page 8 News List

Getting fed up with Beijing's bully tactics

By Chen Ro-jinn 陳柔縉

Taiwan's bid for observer status to the World Health Assembly (WHA) met with defeat once again. Even more disappointingly, media reports say that anyone born in Taiwan was kept from entering the UN headquarters in Geneva to sit in and listen to the WHA meeting. Even a Taiwanese holding a foreign passport was refused an entry pass if "Taiwan" or "Taipei" was given as the place of birth in their passport. Yang Tzu-hsiung (楊次雄), chairman of First Commercial Bank in New York, who hails from Tainan, was allowed entry, however, because his place of birth is given as China.

Taiwanese can feel free as long as we are in Taiwan. As soon as we pick up our passports, however, we are caught like fish in a dried-out lake, as if we can't even breathe freely -- not to mention express ourselves freely.

The passport is like a little booklet recording the original sin of the people of Taiwan. A leisurely search on the Internet turned up someone claiming to have been "questioned in detail" because customs officials were confused by the English name of the country on his passport, being unable to tell the difference between China and Taiwan. Such experiences highlight the peculiar status of Taiwan and border on discrimination that causes a feeling of being a second-class people. This difficult situation was caused, of course, by China.

China's policies are not too clever. Its government is exhausting itself trying to prevent Taiwanese independence and to make other countries do their utmost to help stop the people of Taiwan from feeling like citizens of a country. But the more the Chinese try to make the people of Taiwan settle for being called citizens of Taiwan Province, the more the people protest about becoming provincial citizens.

To the new generation of independence advocates the passport experience serves the purpose of promoting widespread identification with Taiwan.

DPP Legislator Wang Sing-nan (王幸男) wrote in a campaign pamphlet called My Choice (我的選擇): "Due to my business, I had the opportunity to see some documents regarding the 228 incident and hear a lot of criticism and accusations against the KMT. I have also experienced the feeling of being an international orphan at customs controls in various countries and the bitterness of having my passport stamped with `No Nationality' stamps. I have accumulated many questions over the years ... Waking up after having been cheated for the first half of my life, an irresistible love for a suffering Taiwan has gradually taken root."

China's suppression makes the people of Taiwan pay even more attention to their passports, asking themselves "who am I, really?" The result is that we distance ourselves even further from China's goals, since everyone hopes for the right to a dignified existence. A century ago, Taiwan suffered colonization by Japan. People longed for self-rule and so the gentry and intellectuals joined forces to initiate a petition movement for the establishment of a Taiwan representative assembly.

Some famous Japanese supported the movement, arguing that "if Japan wants to keep Taiwan, we must win the admiration of the Taiwanese people, and to win the admiration of the Taiwanese people we must hurry to establish a Taiwanese assembly." Others, however, scolded these Japanese supporters, and everyone who signed the petition was branded a traitor.

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