Sat, Jan 01, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Lee's visit lends Taiwan dignity

On Dec. 28, the day after he arrived in Japan, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) visited Nagoya Castle (名古屋城) for the first time in 60 years. Although Lee is in his eighties, he walked through the castle vigorously. Many Taiwanese seniors would probably think of their youth during the Japanese colonial rule if they saw him on TV. Many middle-aged people would probably think of their own parents, and the story of Taiwanese people meeting with the Japanese in a certain historical time and space. While Beijing repeatedly claims that Taiwan is part of China, the world remembers that from 1895 to 1945 the island was in fact part of Japan.

Lee was very lucky compared to many other outstanding young intellectuals during the colonial period. He joined the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) early, and successfully displayed his talents within the party system.

Not everyone was so lucky. Most Japanese-educated Taiwanese intellectuals were deprived of dignity and honor after China's 1945 takeover. The Chinese culture's sense of superiority replaced the values of the Japanese colonial system. The Taiwanese people were labeled as slaves of a colonial power, and overnight their knowledge suddenly rendered worthless. Many of these intellectuals became passionate proponents of Taiwan's opposition movements. For example, doctors were considered the best of Taiwanese intellectuals during the colonial period, and often represented the social conscience of the people. But they were massacred by the KMT during the 228 Incident and the following White Terror. The medical establishment became a lighthouse for "Taiwan consciousness" after the KMT took over Taiwan.

What are former president Lee's feelings as he travels in Japan at this time? Are his feelings turbulent when he thinks how history has toyed with Taiwan's fate? Most people don't understand that it is Lee's experience during the occupation by both the Japanese and the KMT that makes Lee such an effective spokesman for Taiwan. It is the reason he is able to stand up and insist that Taiwan is Taiwan and China is China.

Taiwan has suffered from colonization by powerful neighbors. When the Manchus invaded China in the 17th century, Koxinga used his fleet to drive out the Dutch from Taiwan and made it his base for the retaking of China. But that's history.

Lee's life shows that Taiwan is part of no other country. If any country echoed China's belief that Taiwan is part of China, this simply reveals their ignorance of history. By so denigrating Taiwan's dignity, any such country is an accomplice to China's imperialism.

Lee's visit to Japan should provide consolation to numerous elderly Taiwanese who grew up under the Japanese rule and suffered much in spirit during their youth. Lee's visit is an indication that Japan has rejected pressure from the Chinese government, and it also returns a small measure of dignity to the Taiwanese people.

It is unfortunate that the Kyoto University, Lee's alma mater, has prohibited him from visiting the school. A university should be a bastion of academic freedom. How can a school that bows to the slightest political pressure teach its students? And what can we expect of these students when they graduate? Will they ever become independent members of the intellectual elite? Or should the Kyoto University's motto be "take the lead from the most powerful?"

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