On Jan. 27, century-old Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published a satirical cartoon that swapped the five stars of China’s national flag with 2019 novel coronavirus virions. The image expressed the resentment Danes harbor against China for covering up the outbreak in Wuhan and its culpability for the global panic.
The Chinese embassy in Denmark issued a statement saying that the cartoon “is an insult to China and hurts the feelings of the Chinese people” and “has crossed ... the ethical boundary of free speech.”
“We ... demand that Jyllands-Posten ... publicly apologize to the Chinese people,” the statement said.
However, Jyllands-Posten chief editor Jacob Nybroe refused, saying: “We cannot apologize for something that we don’t believe is wrong.”
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen appeared to support the paper’s stance when she said: “We have a very, very strong tradition in Denmark not only for freedom of expression, but also for satire drawings and ... we will not change that.”
How could China understand freedom of expression when it goes out of its way to restrict and control its citizens’ freedom of speech?
Does Taiwan understand freedom of expression? There are some people who were born in Taiwan but approach every issue from the standpoint of the People’s Republic of China and base their ideas on its interests. They ceaselessly demean Taiwan and praise China while using freedom of expression as justification.
For example, China Unification Promotion Party (CUPP) Chairman Chang An-le (張安樂), who calls himself a “fellow traveler of the Chinese Communist Party,” said that if China tried to unite with Taiwan by military force, he would help its troops to march in and take over without bloodshed.
Young troublemakers from the CUPP frequently hold illegal gatherings in Taipei and a party supporter even poured red paint over Hong Kong singer Denise Ho (何韻詩) at a march on Sept. 29 last year supporting Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests.
And New Party politician Chiu Yi (邱毅), as a guest on two programs broadcast by state-run China Central Television in December last year, talked about the number and locations of missiles developed by the Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology.
In August last year, while investigations into a Chinese espionage case involving another New Party politician, Wang Ping-chung (王炳忠), were still under way, Wang said that anyone who does not want to be Chinese should get out of Taiwan.
Freedom of expression in Taiwan does not have “Taiwan’s sovereignty” as a common core value.
That explains how someone like retired lieutenant general Wu Sz-huai (吳斯懷), who went to Beijing to listen to a speech by Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) and stood while the Chinese national anthem played, could become a legislator-at-large for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
Denmark has demonstrated the true essence of the freedom of expression, which is founded upon a citizens’ consensus and puts the “right” side foremost.
That is why Danes share the anger of Taiwanese over Beijing covering up the outbreak and putting the world in danger.
However, confusion in Taiwan over national identity and ideology blurs distinctions between right and wrong. Even the question of whether Taiwan should donate protective masks to China has been maliciously hyped.
Taiwanese should think hard about how to counter “Taiwanese moles” who seek to subvert the nation’s sovereignty in the name of freedom of expression.
Lin Han works in education.
Translated by Julian Clegg
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