Grief grips the hearts of many in Taiwan and around the world as streams of horrific images and news continue to play back the devastation in Japan caused by Friday’s massive earthquake and the ensuing tsunami. As many in Taiwan show their concern and support by either making donations, tweeting or updating their Facebook status with good wishes and prayers, it’s dumbfounding to learn that a senior aide to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順) has instead taken to kicking the Japanese when they are down.
Chao Chih-hsun’s (趙志勳) series of posts on his Facebook page were hateful, cruel and insensitive to say the least. With comments such as: “I would even like to attack Tokyo and kill tens of millions of people,” “I don’t regard them [the Japanese] as human beings” and “I am laughing as I watch the TV [broadcasting the earthquake and tsunami in Japan,] it’s great,” blatant language of hate and racism comes into full view.
While Huang was quick to express regret and apologized afterward, saying she had stripped Chao of his title as her office director, she did not mention that she would keep him on as an assistant.
It is equally inconceivable how Huang and the KMT have both failed to react responsibly in the face of Chao’s remarks.
How does President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who doubles as the KMT chairman, expect the public to take his pledges trumpeting the signing of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights seriously when he sits idly by without uttering a word of condemnation against a hateful tirade?
People who come to Chao’s defense arguing that his freedom of expression needs to be respected should be reminded that Article 20, paragraph 2 of the ICCPR states: “Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.”
Freedom of expression is an inalienable right, but not when it tramples on another person’s rights.
The KMT and Huang’s failure to act pales in comparison with the way Christian Dior and disability insurer Aflac Inc dealt with irresponsible, senseless behavior from their associates. Dior fired its creative director, British fashion designer John Galliano, for allegedly making anti-Semitic remarks, while Aflac terminated its relationship with comedian Gilbert Gottfried for making offending jokes about the tragedy in Japan on his Twitter account over the weekend.
The swift actions from Christian Dior and Aflac, including releases of stern statements, showed their zero tolerance for highly inappropriate remarks or behavior.
The stark comparison disheartens many in Taiwan, who wonder what sort of attitude the ruling party holds to allow individuals making hateful comments to get off the hook so easily.
It is little wonder then that Chao remains unapologetic in light of the controversy he has stirred, as suggested in his subsequent Facebook comments accusing the media of going after him with communist-style “literary persecutions.”
Granted, Taiwan currently does not have laws outlawing hate speech as some other countries do, but the very fact that Ma has signed into law the two covenants after legislative approval means the president and the government share equal responsibility in taking the lead in setting a good example.