President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) likes to encourage others to “recognize historical facts.” However, Ma, like many in the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), has difficulty differentiating between “facts” and accepted beliefs or party orthodoxy.
Perhaps their ignorance can be blamed on selective reading habits and growing up in a segregated society. Having been educated on a restrictive diet of China-focused textbooks and “retaking the mainland” ideology, they have little knowledge of the actual land and people among which they were raised.
This was clear once again by the almost rabid hysteria on Thursday that greeted reports that former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) had taken Ma to task in an article in a Japanese-language magazine over the president’s commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War, his cross-strait policy and his support for the so-called “1992 consensus.”
Much of the furor was in response to coverage of Lee’s comments by the Chinese-language United Daily Evening News, including that Taiwanese had “fought for their motherland as Japanese” during the war. That the focus of the magazine article was Taiwan-Japan economic exchanges and prospects for future relations, not a history lesson, appears to have been lost on Lee’s critics.
Ma accused Lee of “betraying Taiwan, humiliating its people and debasing himself” by denying Taiwanese efforts to free themselves from Japanese colonial rule, while KMT presidential candidate Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) said the public should denounce Lee, who she called “a disloyal and heartless person without any virtue.”
The usual academics were quick to weigh in, with Chinese Culture University professor George Tsai (蔡瑋) saying Lee’s comments showed him to be “a man who cannot tell facts from illusions and who has gone berserk.”
Shih Hsin University professor Wang Hsiao-po (王曉波) was equally critical, declaring that the international community considered Taiwan and Korea to be former colonies of Japan as shown by the Allies’ decision to occupy Japan after the war, but not Taiwan and Korea.
Wang should read up on the Cairo Conference deliberations, where the Allies decided to occupy the Korean Peninsula to disarm the Japanese and declared that Japan was to give up Taiwan. They decided the Soviet Union was to occupy the Korean Peninsula to the 38th parallel and that the US was to occupy the southern half. In case Wang has forgotten, this occupation did occur — and it was the breakdown in talks between Washington and Moscow about Korean elections that eventually led to the Korean War and the ensuing division of the peninsula.
The Allies also considered Taiwan and the Pescadores (Penghu Islands) to be under military occupation pending a peace treaty with Japan. That treaty, the Treaty of San Francisco, was not signed until six years later between 47 nations and Japan.
Ma and his cohorts should remember that while there were many anti-Japanese uprisings, these were not part of the Second Sino-Japanese War. There were many Taiwanese, both Han and Aboriginal, who served in the Imperial Japanese Army and therefore the war invokes very different memories for them and their relatives than it does for those people who were in China.
The KMT has always sought to promote its own version of Taiwan’s history — from whitewashing the conquering army mindset of its troops sent to Taiwan at the end of the war, to covering up the 228 Incident — and is quick to accuse critics who disagree with that version of “playing the ethnic card.”
Lee did not “betray” Taiwan. It is his critics who are doing so by refusing to recognize the differences that time and place played during the Japanese colonial era and the war.
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