Not so long ago, as he strutted the world and spearheaded the drive to carve out for Taiwan international space commensurate with its weight, former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was accused by Beijing, other detractors and a handful of news outlets of being “provocative,” and his firebrand approach to politics was blamed for many ills, real and imagined.
With Chen no longer in office, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and its supporters — who can be found as far as the White House and Foggy Bottom in Washington — have been sighing in relief, confident that “provocations” are a thing of the past. For a while, President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) “peace overture” to Beijing also seemed it would obviate the need for such “provocations.”
But then something strange happened: The KMT started using the P-word on its own people, such as when Cheerleading Squad for Taiwan captain Yang Hui-ju (楊蕙如) was denied entry into Beijing by Chinese immigration authorities. While some in the Cabinet made mild remonstrations at the treatment Yang received, others, including KMT legislators Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) and Justin Chou (周守訓), used language that made them sound more like Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials than members of a Taiwanese political party.
Wu described Yang’s approach to publicizing her upcoming trip to Beijing as — yes — “provocative,” as if it were abnormal for cheerleading teams at the world’s gaudiest quadrennial media splurge to seek a little publicity. Wasn’t the Sudanese nationality of the US flag bearer at the opening ceremony “provocative”? If the US can get away with touching such a sensible chord, surely Taiwan’s cheerleading team, which had vowed to keep a low profile, should have been allowed in.
What KMT legislators like Wu and Chou are trying to do, as are others who remain silent about how Yang’s (and others’) rights were denied by Chinese authorities, is silence the Taiwanese who seek to express their pride for who they are and the land they come from.
Such people could become more vociferous, as the KMT’s “peace” efforts are increasingly starting to look like a naive reading of Beijing’s intentions or, worse, an abject sellout, with China’s military posture remaining unchanged amid minor humiliations here and there that, by dint of repetition, threaten to whittle away at Taiwan’s sovereignty.
The removal of the Democratic Progressive Party from office did not mean that Taiwanese stopped caring about their identity, or that they were ready to abandon the freedom won through blood, terror and long prison sentences during the Martial Law era.
While many have shown patience as Ma promises “peace in our time,” if this pie in the sky threatens to fall on our heads, or if the KMT’s efforts come to be interpreted as an attempt by either side of the Taiwan Strait to change the “status quo” and engineer annexation by China, Taiwanese will not remain silent for long, and the KMT will find itself with a large “provocative” population on its hands.
The real test, then, will be whether the KMT acts like a Taiwanese political party by respecting those voices, or sides with the CCP in calling them “provocations” and seeking to silence them.