Fri, Sep 07, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Ethnic conflict' is a misnomer

During a speech to businessmen in Hualien on Tuesday, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) vice presidential candidate Vincent Siew (蕭萬長) became the latest in a string of opposition politicians to criticize the government for fomenting ethnic unrest.

Not a week goes by without some pan-blue figure attacking the government's localization efforts and accusing it of driving a wedge between the nation's ethnic groups.

But just like the accusations of economic mismanagement constantly leveled at the administration, there is very little evidence to back up these absurd claims.

In the build-up to an election, such accusations make handy soundbites, but in the end, they are nothing more than part of the opposition's campaign to vilify everything the government does.

What these pan-blue individuals are really upset about is that someone is finally doing away with the unwelcome relics of the authoritarian era that have helped the KMT retain some of its relevance -- relics that should have been consigned to the dustbin of history long ago.

For example, how can giving schoolchildren lessons in their mother tongue be considered ethnically divisive?

The things that really upset the opposition, such as the move to eradicate pro-China bias from school textbooks, the "de-Chiangification" campaign and other recent government initiatives, are not about promoting conflict. They are about Taiwanese becoming their own masters.

The fact that the implementation of many of these policies contributed to real ethnic division in the first place doesn't seem to have crossed the pea-sized brains of many opposition members.

For examples of ethnically divisive policies, one need only turn to recent Taiwanese history: locals excluded from all important government positions; schoolchildren fined for speaking their native language; the mass renaming of streets, towns, villages and landmarks after places in another country and the erection of thousands of statues in honor of a man whose regime was responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent people.

These were the high-handed policies that promoted ethnic strife and filled people with resentment. But at the time all of this went on, no one was able or willing to complain, since doing so would have led to persecution or arrest.

Whether you can call it transitional justice -- as the government likes to -- is debatable, but the localization effort is simply aimed at putting right the wrongs that were committed during four decades of authoritarian rule, nothing more and nothing less.

If that upsets the sensitivities of the few pan-blue loyalists who still believe the Republic of China is the legitimate government of China, then so be it. It is these people who need to wake up and realize that they can no longer force their bogus view of the world on the population of this nation.

The opposition should be thankful that Taiwanese have been kind enough that it has never had to endure the kind of reprisals that took place in countries like Rwanda, Iraq, or the former Yugoslavia, where one ethnic or religious group that had long been downtrodden by another exacted violent retribution -- with disastrous consequences.

Real conflicts such as these highlight how ridiculous the opposition's accusations are and show that most Taiwanese -- unlike their elected representatives -- are practical people who are willing to forgive, if not forget, while quietly striving for the benefit of this nation's future.

This story has been viewed 2917 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top