Fri, Jul 14, 2017 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: ‘Translational justice’ a bad idea

President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Wednesday welcomed Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes, the first head of state from Taiwan’s diplomatic allies to visit the nation since her inauguration in May last year.

A 21-gun salute was given, followed by the announcement that Paraguayans would be given visa-free entry to Taiwan to improve exchanges.

Although Cartes’ three-day visit was primarily aimed at celebrating the 60-year friendship between the two nations, it threw a much-needed lifeline to Taiwan at a time when it is facing a seemingly endless waves of diplomatic setbacks.

On Monday night, reporters were put on edge by rumors that Honduran Ambassador Rafael Fernando Sierra Quesada was planning to call a news conference to announce the severing of ties with Taiwan.

The rumors seemed credible, given that Chinese-language Mirror Media magazine earlier that day reported that some officials at the Honduran embassy in Taipei were scheduled to leave for China next month, insinuating a possible switch of diplomatic recognition by the Central American nation.

The news conference did happen, although it was to reaffirm the friendship between Taiwan and Honduras, not end ties. That was a huge relief, but it would be premature for the government to let its guard down.

Unfortunately, Cartes’ visit was overshadowed by an interpreter’s failure to translate Cartes’ three mentions of former president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) in his speech at the welcoming ceremony.

The first mention was made in the context of describing Chiang as one of the martyrs and patriots who had defended their nation’s dignity, for whom Cartes said their people are forever grateful.

The second time Cartes brought up Chiang’s name was when he talked about how Chiang led the Republic of China (ROC) government’s 1949 relocation to Taiwan, where it developed into a “free, democratic and dignified sovereign nation.”

The last reference was made when the Paraguayan president mentioned the two nations’ unwavering friendship that “started with Chiang.”

The omission, whether made deliberately or unwittingly, did not come as a surprise, given the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) long-standing ideology and distaste for Chiang.

It also conforms to the policy direction of the Tsai administration, which has been working to achieve transitional justice by disclosing classified historical documents and removing remnants of the authoritarian era.

In addition, it might be politically unwise for the government to be seen as echoing someone else’s praise of a dictator — even through an interpreter — particularly amid growing public calls for the removal of Chiang’s statues from university campuses and public spaces.

The most fundamental obligation of an interpreter is to translate as close to the original text as possible. Failure to do so, regardless of the reasons, is unprofessional.

The omission might also do a disservice to the Tsai administration, considering that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and pan-blue camp media outlets are trying to play up the incident and accusing the government of jeopardising the nation’s foreign relations by carrying out its “de-Chiangification campaign” in a diplomatic setting.

Although the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which assigned the interpreter, said it has explained the matter to the Paraguayan government and will try to avoid a repeat of the incident, it has inevitably stained Tsai’s goal of fulfilling transitional justice and plays into the hands of the pan-blue camp.

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