Tue, Dec 23, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Taiwanese people's 'pa-biang' spirit

By Hu Yuan-hui 胡元輝

The people of Taiwan are facing an important choice: whether or not to hold a referendum expressing to the entire world their will for self-determination.

Today, regardless of whether one likes the ruling party, and regardless of whether one agrees with the current leaders, the referendum issue is no longer a dispute over whether Taiwan has a legal right to hold a referendum, or whether doing so is good or bad. Rather, it is simply a choice that the people of Taiwan must face.

At first, they could delay this choice and take a low profile. But in fact there is no longer any room to wiggle or take a low profile, as both the ruling and opposition parties have tightened the political screws. Even the US, the pillar of international support that Taiwan relies on, has taken a stance by issuing a warning. The people of Taiwan must make a choice.

Like other political reforms in Taiwan, the passage of the Referendum Law (公投法) was a "miraculous" breakthrough, with much commotion and many twists and turns. From the establishment of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to the power reshuffle in the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), the abolishment of Article 100 of the Criminal Code, the reform of the National Assembly and the transition of political power to the DPP, which one of Taiwan's democratization and localization processes did not face a dead end at some point before succeeding?

Sometimes there are no terms for this sort of phenomenon. It must be attributable to the abundant vitality of the Taiwanese people.

Recently, I was invited to participate in a discussion with fellow journalists with the title A Study of Taiwan's Vitality. In my speech, I used a phrase from Hoklo, commonly known as Taiwanese, to describe the Taiwanese people's abundant vitality: pa-biang (打拼, strive).

If we look at Taiwan's history, didn't we get where we are today by means of this pa-biang spirit? This has been the case in politics and in economics and culture.

We can even make a loose analogy between the ubiquitous pa-biang spirit and Taiwan's natural history. The island of Taiwan was created more than 100 million years ago by compression between the Eurasian Plate and the Pacific Plate.

Of course, we do not necessarily have to force such a personification onto nature, but how can we not marvel at the similarities between Taiwan's natural and civilizational evolutions, faced as we are with the formational process of the island of Taiwan, full as it is of change and vitality?

Embracing this pa-biang spirit, Taiwan has finally passed a referendum law this year, despite everything. One step has finally been taken, even though the law is full of holes.

Just a few months ago, people concerned about this referendum legislation found it difficult to imagine that such a law would be passed in the short term.

The problem is that the evil curse on referendums has not been lifted even though a referendum law has been passed.

A referendum in the name of defense and with self-determination as its essence has presented itself along the historical path of the Taiwanese people -- no matter if it was driven by the election or pushed forward by democracy, and no matter if it is a sudden change of concepts or an impromptu decision.

For the first time, the people of Taiwan will have to take a stand on their own future. What is even more remarkable is that they will have to do it under the Chinese regime's inevitable threats and without support from the US government.

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