Although the epidemic caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus began in the Chinese city of Wuhan, the virus could infect anyone regardless of their political affiliation.
Being either pro-unification or pro-independence does not make anyone immune to infection, yet listening to what people say it is still possible to see their preferred national identity all too clearly. In other words, different attitudes and remarks reveal different national identities.
Former Singaporean prime minister Lee Kuan Yew (李光耀) once said: “I am no more a Chinese than [former US] president [John] Kennedy was an Irishman. Slowly the world will learn that the Lees, the Tohs, the Gohs, the Ongs, the Yongs and the Lims in Singapore, though they look like Chinese in appearance and speak Chinese, are different from the Chinese. They have Chinese blood, and they do not deny it. But most importantly, they think in terms of Singapore and Singapore’s interests, not of China and China’s interests.”
Similarly, people identifying with Taiwan will take a Taiwanese perspective and care for Taiwan’s interests. This is why President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration and the Cabinet, led by Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌), prioritized Taiwan by banning the export of masks for one month over fears that local supply would run low. Every national government prioritizes its own citizens, as is the natural way of things.
However, there is a group of people born and raised in Taiwan, but who do not think in terms of Taiwan’s benefits and interests, and so they attacked the government’s ban on mask exports.
To cite a few instances, former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅) blasted the government for “its malicious intention,” which he said “makes one’s hair stand on end”; media personality Joyce Huang (黃智賢) called Su “cold-blooded and merciless”; Taoist master Shih Hui-gu (釋慧固) from Kaohsiung’s Fo Guang Shan Monastery in a Facebook post said that the government’s action borders on “inhumanity”; China-based Taiwanese singer Huang An (黃安) used swear words to smear Su; and KMT Deputy Secretary-General Alex Tsai (蔡正元) said in a Facebook post that since the Tsai administration has imposed a ban on mask exports to China, “Beijing should do something to return the favor.”
These people say these things because they stand on the side of China and care for China’s interests. Because of that, they do not consider China “cold-blooded and merciless” or “inhumane” when it blocks Taiwan’s participation in the WHO. Seeing Taiwan as a part of China, these people find no reason for Taiwan to participate in the global organization.
If people criticized them for ignoring human lives and putting aside humanitarian medical care for political purposes, they would strike back by accusing these people of obstructing humanitarian aid by prioritizing politics — Taiwan’s sovereignty — over human lives.
The question is: Who exactly is disregarding humanitarian aid for political purposes? The reality is Taiwan is not a province administered by the People’s Republic of China. Seen in this light, it is the Chinese authorities who are attempting to change the so-called “status quo” by exploiting medical care and using it as leverage to achieve its political goals.
Oddly, a small group of people in Taiwan stand on China’s side and consider its interests. This would be abnormal in any normal country in the world.
Faced with the threat posed by the Chinese epidemic, we have seen the true face of the moles in Taiwan.
Lee Hsiao-feng is a professor at National Taiwan University of Education’s Graduate School of Taiwanese Culture.
Translated by Chang Ho-ming
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