The Jan. 11 presidential election will give Taiwanese voters the starkest choice that they have ever had between a candidate who wants Taiwan to be its own master and another who acts as a spokesman for China.
Taiwanese are constantly being told that sovereignty is not important compared with the more practical dream of making a fortune. While they might be wondering whether they should support the pan-blue camp or the pan-green camp — or maybe one of the parties that come in shades of white and red — they should be asking themselves what would happen if Taiwan fell into the hands of communist China.
After pension reforms took effect in June, many retired military personnel, civil servants and public-school teachers joined street protests, because they were incensed that there was “only” NT$50,000 to NT$60,000 left in their monthly pensions.
This issue could be considered from the perspective of how China, under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), cares for its retirees. From Aug. 1 last year, the standard monthly payment for military veterans who returned home, some of them with illnesses, was raised from 500 yuan to 550 yuan (US$71.17 to US$78.28), while the payment for combat veterans and those who took part in atom bomb tests was raised from 550 yuan to 600 yuan.
Old-age pensions for civilians are even less adequate — as of last year, the average monthly pension was 125 yuan.
If Taiwan were to fall into the hands of communist China, why would China’s leaders, whose citizens receive a monthly pension of 125 yuan, pay Taiwanese pensioners a basic guaranteed pension of NT$3,628 a month, about 6.6 times the average Chinese pension?
When several thousand veterans gathered to protest in Zhenjiang, China, in June last year, what they got in return was repression by tens of thousands of the Chinese People’s Armed Police, with 18 veterans sentenced to jail terms.
When hundreds or thousands of veterans went to petition in Beijing, instead of getting to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), they were met by a large contingent of police.
If Taiwan were to fall into communist China’s hands, what hope would the veterans of the annexed, unified, surrendered or whatever-you-want-to-call-it Taiwan have of still receiving a monthly pension of NT$38,990, about 15 times the minimum monthly payment for veterans of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army?
If Taiwan were really under the rule of communist China, would the nation’s veteran-protesters — who call themselves the “800 Warriors” — dare take to the streets, saying that they would fight to the bitter end if they did not get their full pensions? Could they do so without facing consequences?
In today’s Taiwan, anyone who dislikes the president, disapproves of national policies, has something to say or simply wants to protest — or who wants to oppose something, or oppose someone opposing something — can freely do so.
Even if demonstrators set up camp and cook their meals on the square in front of the Presidential Office Building, what is there to be afraid of? All the more so if an immensely rich person or corporation criticizes the government. In such cases, the government is usually ready to do their bidding rather than offend them.
Street protests are almost a daily occurrence in Taiwan, but if the nation were to fall into the hands of communist China, might Taiwanese protesters not face the same fate as the 15-year-old anti-extradition protester in Hong Kong, who, despite being a competitive swimmer, turned up as a naked corpse in the sea?
Xi cannot tolerate Nobel Peace Prize winners or human rights lawyers defending ordinary citizens, and he does not hesitate to have them thrown in jail.
Would Xi allow Taiwanese to talk about him in the same way that Chinese talk about Taiwan’s president — or raise doubts about him, challenge him or tell him what to do?
If Taiwan were to fall into communist China’s hands, would local business giants dare to say things like “businesspeople have no motherland” or “my motherland is the market?” If they did, would their heads stay safely on their shoulders?
Taiwanese should think about what happened to Alibaba Group Holding cofounder Jack Ma (馬雲), Tencent Holdings chairman Ma Huateng (馬化騰) and Lenovo Group founder Liu Chuanzhi (柳傳志) after they saw the light.
Perhaps they should worry about “being succeeded,” “being resigned” and losing everything they have worked so hard for.
Many Taiwanese who are busy working, teaching or doing research might think that if Taiwan fell into the hands of communist China, it would not affect them.
They think that they would go on working, studying and researching just the same. They might even think that they could find more dazzling horizons in China. Such people, apart from being chided for their naivete, can only be wished the best of luck.
Look at what has happened in Hong Kong. The promise was that life would go on as before — horse races and nightclubs included — after the UK handed Hong Kong back to China.
In reality, the quota of 50,000 legal immigrants per year from other parts of China means that 1.1 million new immigrants are taking up Hong Kong’s jobs, maternity and hospital beds, milk powder and diapers — disrupting every aspect of Hong Kongers’ work and living conditions.
The Taiwanese who would like to go on working as before under a Chinese system, or even venture into “the interior” to realize their ambitions, are sure to — until Xi gives them the nod — spend some time in a Xinjiang-style “re-education camp.”
Taiwanese do not need a doctorate to know that in communist China, political correctness is more important than any qualification or ability. From the CCP’s point of view, no one could be more politically incorrect than Taiwanese educators and academics indoctrinated under the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) party-state system.
If such people have not abandoned their old way of thinking and replaced it with “Xi Jinping Thought,” how can they give their all to the “great motherland?”
Chang Kuo-tsai is a retired associate professor of National Hsinchu University of Education.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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