Sat, Sep 08, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Not all of the Chinas are benign

By Lubomyr Luciuk

Recently, I visited the Republic of China, Taiwan, and what is officially known as the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China. The former is still free, the latter less and less so. Lately, Beijing, or “mainland China,” has been bullying both. I went to see why.

In Taiwan I found a society that, painfully and gradually, undid the domination of Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) Nationalist forces, who retreated to Formosa in 1949 and whose Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), also known as the Kuomintang, imposed martial law until 1987.

Today it is a flourishing democracy of 24 million people.

Without exception, everyone I spoke to, from waitresses to tour guides and diplomats to young sailors, expressed understandable pride in their ethnic Chinese heritage, yet insisted they want nothing to do with the Communist-dominated political system of the “mainland.” They are free and want to stay free.

They also know their country’s history, including less salutary episodes, particularly the 228 Incident, a massacre that began on Feb. 28, 1947, metastasizing into a White Terror with tens of thousands killed or imprisoned, many the most highly educated people of their day and most innocent of disloyalty.

Once a taboo subject, this injustice is recalled at Taipei’s 228 Peace Memorial Park. I watched citizens posting notices there remembering specific victims, while reminding passersby of the importance of remaining vigilant in defense of liberty.

In contrast, over on the “mainland,” and only after Chinese leader Mao Zedong’s (毛澤東) death in 1976, his successor, Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平), proclaimed Mao’s legacy was 70 percent positive and only 30 percent negative, a formula still prescribed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Appallingly, the image of a man responsible for the death of tens of millions of Chinese — dwarfing the genocidal furies of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin combined — remains on that country’s banknotes.

This monstrous Maoist past remains ignored largely because the CCP insists seven themes “shall not be discussed” — universal values, civil society, a free media, civil rights, capitalism, judicial independence and, revealingly, the party’s “historical errors.”

Coupled with those no-nos are five additional things that “shall not be done” — pluralizing the existing “guiding ideology,” privatization, creating a multi-party state or federal system, and providing for a separation of powers within the state.

Given what the Forbidden City forbids, it is obvious why millions of Chinese who identify as Taiwanese or Hong Kongers — not to mention Tibetans, Uyghurs and others — want nothing to do with the authors of these 12 communist Chinese commandments.

Will the “other Chinas” survive? With the Taiwan Strait as a defensive moat, an increasingly professional military and the promise of US intervention if attacked, Taipei’s sovereignty is probably secure.

However, in Hong Kong I sensed a quiet desperation, a premonition of the imminent end of freedom.

Culturally, of course, there is only “one China.” Not a single person I spoke with in Taiwan or Hong Kong doubts it, nor do I. Yet there are at least two Chinese states.

In 1992, cross-strait discussions were held, supposedly reaching a “consensus” on this very point, both sides agreeing there is “one China,” while recognizing “two systems.” Comforting, perhaps, but no accord really exists. Beijing has repeatedly proclaimed it plans to reclaim the “renegade province” of Taiwan, through military force if need be.

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