Tue, Sep 12, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Shih Ming-teh's big opportunity

By David Ming 敏洪奎

Many years ago I had the opportunity to see former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德) at several small gatherings, and to listen to his impromptu speeches. The thing that made the deepest impression on me was his composure when talking about his past hardships. The way he spoke without a trace of agitation or hatred made me feel that he was a truly incredible person. During his speeches, my admiration for him only increased when he said that the only way he would enter China was with a regular visa, and never with a "Taiwan compatriot travel document" (台胞證). It seemed to me that he had suffered more than even Zhu Shunshui (朱舜水), the Chinese patriot who preferred to flee to Japan at the end of the Ming Dynasty and die in exile rather than bow his head to the Qing rulers.

I've recently heard Shih announce to the media that he wouldn't visit China if it refused to give up the use of violence against Taiwan. Although his stance seemed softer than it had been before, he retained a fortitude that his pan-blue and pan-green supporters and critics were incapable of. His words should have made many officials hang their heads in shame.

Many of the heavyweights who held important party, government and military posts during Taiwan's authoritarian era and constantly admonished the public to resist China now happily cross the strait to buddy up with the same people they used to condemn as communist bandits. For these people, it doesn't matter how many missiles China aims at Taiwan, nor how many of them are retired generals from the Whampoa Military Academy founded by Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石). They all still go in droves to China and look mockingly back at Taiwan, having completely forgotten what it was that Chiang taught them.

In comparison, Shih doesn't come from their same outstanding background, nor does he have particularly distinguished academic credentials to be haughty about. But when it comes to facing down a powerful neighbor, the steadfast moral fortitude that Shih displays far outshines many of those same political bigshots who used to condemn China. He indeed seems to be a copy of the beggar from a poem about the collapse of the Ming dynasty, where the beggar says that "the moral standards are only preserved in the lower classes" (綱常留在卑田院) as ministers abandoned the imperial court when the country began to fall.

However, as much as I respect Shih for his determination in facing China, I'm afraid I am also disappointed by his campaign against President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

In his early years, Shih stirred up dissent in his fight for Taiwanese independence. Although he seems to have abandoned this approach in recent years, localization, freedom and democracy should still be at the core of his ideology. Shih needs to take a step back and consider: Do the people who support his anti-Chen campaign share the same convictions and values as Shih does, or has he become their puppet?

Let's put aside supporters with a gangster background for now. Other supporters of Shih's anti-Chen sit-in protest include people from all walks of life: retired professors, popular and unpopular entertainers, esteemed artists and senior citizens. However, do these people really have even the most basic belief in freedom and democracy? Did they struggle for democracy and human rights in the past? What do they think about this land and its people deep down in their hearts? Is it a source of pride or of sorrow to have such supporters?

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