On Aug. 31, escaped Vietnamese migrant worker Nguyen Quoc Phi died after being shot nine times by a police officer. Before the clarification of the police officer’s responsibility, many Taiwanese were quick to give their full support to the police’s handling of the matter in order to maintain social order.
Would they have supported the police unconditionally if the victim, who only had a stone in his hand when resisting arrest, were Taiwanese?
At a news conference on Friday last week at which the international Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) — which monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child — presented its concluding opinion on Taiwan’s first Convention on the Rights of the Child report, anti-gay activists who said that they were parents made discriminatory remarks and even held up a placard with the text: “LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people] get out of Taiwan.”
In the past, anti-LGBT activists would pretend that they did not discriminate against homosexuals, but they are now showing no restraint in displaying their hostility toward minorities of different sexual orientation and gender.
Many Taiwanese are no longer satisfied with keeping their hostility toward minority groups under wraps and are openly displaying it, with a direct effect on people’s lives, such as at the meeting of the CRC review committee.
Despite Premier William Lai’s (賴清德) recent pledge that Taiwan attaches importance to human rights, many Taiwanese only attach importance to their own human rights and human rights of others that are in line with their own value system.
Many Taiwanese are friendly to “Caucasian” people, but they despise dark-skinned Southeast Asian migrant workers, even though the rapid transit systems that they travel on were built by those migrant workers and even though their older family members are cared for by migrant workers.
Although news about heterosexual couples killing each other is frequently seen in newspapers these days, many people strongly condemned the LGBT community as a whole when a murder involving a same-sex couple occurred not long ago, with some saying that “it would be best if all jia jia (甲甲, LGBT people) died.”
Many Taiwanese despise not only Southeast Asian migrant workers and LGBT people, but also Aborigines, “new residents” who are married to Taiwanese nationals, overweight people, Muslims, those with intellectual disabilities and people with a mental illness or a physical disability. It almost seems as if they were unable to maintain their own fragile values without finding someone else to look down on.
Some argue that at least Taiwan has not gone so far as to form the kind of hate groups that can be seen in other countries.
According to the FBI’s definition, a hate group’s “primary purpose is to promote animosity, hostility and malice against persons belonging to a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin which differs from that of the members of the organization.”
The Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center has divided US hate groups into various categories — such as white nationalist groups, anti-LGBT groups, anti-Muslim groups, Ku Klux Klan groups and anti-minority religion groups — and carried out long-term observation of such groups. In its annual report published this year, the center designated a total of 917 US organizations as “hate groups.”
Hate groups were not formed in Taiwan in the past because of a traditional unwillingness to publicly declare one’s stance on an issue and because of the suppression of group formation by the former authoritarian government, but that does not mean that hostility toward minority groups did not exist.
On the other hand, when there is a wide gap between mainstream values and the values of those who are being discriminated against, there is no need to form a hate group to suppress the discriminated. For example, more than a century ago, it was not necessary for white Americans to form hate groups to display their hostility to people of color, because many of them were slaves.
However, as the human rights gap between ethnic groups has narrowed, haters have started to form hate groups.
Similarly, after the grand justices issued a constitutional interpretation declaring that Taiwan’s ban on same-sex marriage violates the Constitution and that the government had to legalize same-sex marriage within two years, it substantively narrowed the human rights gap between homosexuals and heterosexuals.
This caused concern among anti-LGBT advocates, because the status of heterosexuals is no longer dominant.
Taiwan’s economic downturn and the general pessimism about the future also nurtures hate. Some vent their hostility toward migrant workers and new residents, creating a vicious cycle of the weak attacking each other.
If the government is unable to take action to stop people’s hatred against minority groups, Taiwan will become an island of hate where no one can live peacefully or work happily.
Yen Cheng-fang is a professor at Kaohsiung Medical University’s Department of Psychiatry.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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