Tue, Dec 18, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Anti-ROC advocates losing their influence

By Chen Mao-hsiung 陳茂雄

In last month’s elections, the traditional Taiwanese independence camp campaigned actively against the re-election of Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) and threw its support behind a pro-independence mayoral candidate in the south. Both candidates lost. The pro-independence camp has lost its momentum and is worsening with time.

Overseas Taiwanese who think that support for independence remains strong are wrong. In their eyes, anyone who identifies as Taiwanese rather than Chinese supports formal independence, but in reality, such people only agree that Taiwan is a country and pay no attention to the political climate.

The traditional independence camp was formed under the dictatorship of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石). At that time, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime had colonized Taiwan and ruled it through the Republic of China (ROC) government. The independence movement wanted to overturn the ROC.

While overseas Taiwanese advocated independence, the domestic independence movement remained part of the democracy movement, as the Chiang family’s approach to independence supporters and communists was that it would rather kill 100 than let one get away.

Following democratization, Taiwanese joined the ROC establishment and participated in the government, but Chinese forces opposed this participation, which is how anti-communism developed into a pro-China stance and an alliance with the enemy to deal with the Taiwanese.

Many people in the independence movement have changed from working to overturn the ROC to opposing annexation by China, and although many overseas Taiwanese also oppose annexation, their focus remains on overturning the ROC.

During the dangwai (黨外, “outside the party”) years and the early years after the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was formed, politicians were respectful of members of the independence movement, because the public treated them as heroes and they were quite influential during elections.

However, their influence has waned, and by last month’s elections, Taipei Ko had decimated any remaining influence. That is because the public no longer thinks of independence advocates as heroes.

In the past, anyone who dared criticize the KMT government became a hero. Taiwanese at the time were being persecuted. While most were furious, they were afraid to speak up, and so they admired the independence advocates who did. Even though criticizing the KMT could result in a prison sentence, independence advocates still spoke up.

Following democratization, Taiwanese were no longer persecuted. If they had the right to criticize the president, then there was nothing special about criticizing the KMT. Independence advocates were no longer revered and any influence during elections evaporated.

These days, the public does not view someone willing to go to prison as a hero, but simply as a criminal, which is much lower than being considered a political prisoner.

During the former KMT regime, one could become a hero by castigating the authorities, but these days, people quickly tire of anyone scolding or yelling at others. Independence advocates sometimes even denounce each other, which looks even worse in the public’s eyes.

Times have changed, and those in the independence camp no longer understand how to behave to gain public support. They continue to live in the past, when denouncing and castigating opponents was the thing to do. It was unavoidable that their influence would wane and disappear.

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