Sun, Sep 28, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Chiang was Mr. No Democracy

The pan-blue camp was on the defensive last week after a research fellow of the Academia Sinica, Wu Nai-teh (吳乃德), during a seminar entitiled Taiwan's Democratic Development in the Twentieth Century, made a vigorous attack on the reputation of Taiwan's last dictator, Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國).

For far too long it has been an orthodoxy in Taiwan -- the result, like so many orthodoxies here, of the blue camp's need to cover up its fascistic suppression of democratic tendencies and four decades of human-rights abuse -- that Chiang was the instigator of democratic reform.

This is rubbish. Chiang was a former secret policeman with possibly more blood on his hands than more notorious and universally reviled figures such as Ferdinand Marcos. His one aim, after his father was justifiably kicked out of China, was to make sure that Taiwan could survive as a haven for his refugee clique and everything he ever did was calculated to that end, be it the jailing or murdering of Taiwanese democracy activists, the co-opting of those Taiwanese prepared to collaborate with his criminal regime, strengthening Taiwan's economy or lifting martial law.

The latter, usually cited as the proof of Chiang's democratic tendencies was in fact a panicky reaction to the overthrow of Marcos the year before in 1986. Chiang realized that the KMT's rabid anti-communism for which the Chiang dynasty had received so much support from the US -- and which had supplied them with a convenient label for Taiwanese democracy activists that allowed the activists to be imprisoned or liquidated without US complaint -- was no longer enough. In the new age of human-rights awareness, Chiang had at least to pretend to care, especially after having just outraged US opinion by having a personal critic murdered on US soil in 1984 -- Henry Liu (江南).

Due to the 13 years of KMT government after Chiang's's death and the reactionary pro-blue camp nature of Taiwan's media, a proper understanding of Chiang Ching-kuo has not filtered down to the public at large. He is still thought of much as he tried to project himself at the time -- an affable father figure prepared to listen to the little man's complaints. The kind of bright light Wu shone on Chiang's murky past needs to be far better known.

This is important because there is no doubt that the blue camp wants to use this mistaken impression of Chiang among voters as part of their election campaign. They have dissociated themselves completely from Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and everything -- including democratization -- that he stood for in his 13 years in office. Given that the inept and stupid Lien Chan (連戰) and the devious and crooked James Soong are poster boys for nothing but failure and political opportunism, where is the alliance to turn for its symbol? Evidently to Chiang, whom apolitical middle-of-the-road voters tend to associate with the economic prosperity of the 1970s and 1980s, rather then the thuggery of the Kaohsiung Incident, the Taiwan garrison command and extra-judicial killings.

The blue camp does not want its icon sullied, so it rose to Wu's criticism with a rabidness that Chiang himself would have sanctioned. Naturally, one of the most vociferous defenders of the reputation of "Mr. Ching-kuo" as the KMT so obsequiously likes to call him, is his bastard son, the legislator John Chang (章孝嚴), who claims that the attempt to tell the truth about his father is simply a ploy to mislead young people into voting for the Democratic Progressive Party. We see it more as calling a spade a spade. We also point out that the Chiang family and the blue camp has a huge blood debt to pay to the Taiwanese people. Isn't it time to present the bill?

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