Self-styled citizen reporter Hung Su-chu (洪素珠) used hateful language to insult elderly veterans by calling them “Chinese refugees,” shocking Taiwan. The leaders of the ruling and opposition parties immediately condemned her, showing that Taiwan’s maturity on the issue of ethnicity has grown, and that there is little room left for political manipulation of the issue.
However, there are still political forces trying to link ethnic hate speech to transitional justice.
For example, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) said: “I wonder whether the objective is to achieve transitional justice or to twist it,” while KMT Culture and Communications Committee director Chow Chi-wai (周志偉) said that the Democratic Progressive Party’s transitional justice plan was intended to cause ethnic hatred and is being used to promote tolerance of prejudice.
Such language makes it clear that some politicians are trying to turn society’s collective condemnation of ethnic hate speech into doubt over the possibility of transitional justice. The KMT is clearly using the issue to divert attention from the impending liquidation of its stolen assets.
Ethnic hate speech has always existed in Taiwan due to the island’s complicated history. In the past, the Han Chinese called Aborigines “savages.” During the Japanese colonial era, all Taiwanese were frequently referred to as “Qing slaves,” and when the KMT government took over Taiwan after World War II, bringing with it irregularities and corruption, Taiwanese complained that “the dogs [the Japanese] have been replaced by pigs [the Chinese].”
KMT officials could not get used to the Taiwanese following Japanese customs after having been ruled by the Japanese for decades, and said that they had developed a “slave mentality.”
The blood-drenched 228 Incident was a result of hatred.
History teaches us that ethnic hatred brings happiness to no one, but even after the first transition of power in 2000, people such as former Government Information Office employee Kuo Kuan-ying (郭冠英), who calls himself a “high-class Mainlander,” still exist in Taiwan.
In several articles published under his pseudonym, Fan Lan-chin (范蘭欽), Kuo wrote that former Taiwan provincial governor Chen Yi’s (陳儀) rule was benevolent and therefore gave the “Japanese pirates” a chance to rebel, a rebellion that led to the 228 Incident.
He also wrote that the KMT should learn from that lesson and never put down the gun, and that Taiwanese should be suppressed even if they submit to KMT rule. If Chinese Mainlanders were hurt, he wrote, they should crack down hard on “Japanese pirates.”
Both Kuo’s talk about “Japanese pirates” and Hung’s “Chinese refugees” are typical examples of hate speech. It now seems as if Taiwanese society, which is capable of improving itself, will sweep such hate speech into the dustbin of history.
The KMT is once again calling for an ethnic equality act, which was also suggested following Kuo’s articles in 2009. The Presidential Office responded that it would welcome such legislation, and President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has handled the incident wisely, by among other things sharing a post by Hung addressing the incident on Facebook.
The next step is to prevent all sides from using hate speech to stigmatize transitional justice and keep the initiative. Transitional justice is not about one ethnic group’s crackdown on another, nor is it a pursuit of old debts: The White Terror victims came from all ethnic groups, and the pursuit of justice goes beyond ethnicity.
Take for example the Yantai Joint High School incident in Penghu in 1949, when several hundred teachers and students from China’s Shandong Province were falsely accused of espionage. Or consider White Terror era victims such as the Tsou Aborigines Kao Yi-sheng (高一生) and Tang Shou-jen (湯守仁) who were executed for espionage.
Many political prisoners, such as the writer Bo Yang (柏楊), were jailed on Green Island, and many mothers cried themselves to sleep at night and died from grief.
These are all events that still must be addressed. Compared to this, the pursuit of the KMT’s inappropriately obtained assets is just the tip of the iceberg.
The core value of transitional justice is not about individuals or ethnic groups seeking revenge on other individuals or ethnic groups. It is a huge social project that attempts to make offenders pay the price by repenting and confessing to their crimes in order to finally gain society’s forgiveness.
If offenders continue to enjoy high positions and great wealth, and do not have to take responsibility for their actions, then how are we to stop such vicious actions from being repeated? We must not let the smoke caused by the ethnic hate issue cloud our determination to carry out transitional justice.
Eve Chiu is managing supervisor of the Association of Mainlander Taiwanese.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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