This year has already proved to be very strange. Three major international news events have occurred that should cause Taiwanese to think deeply about their future.
The first is the incident surrounding a Hong Kong newspaper, the Ming Pao. In early January, Kevin Lau (劉進圖), the paper’s editor-in-chief, was relieved of his duties. Most people in the industry believed this was because Ming Pao’s new owner, Malaysian media tycoon Tiong Hiew King (張曉卿), was trying to please authorities in China. The paper’s staff opposed the change and people outside the paper supported them.
However, Tiong did not change his decision to replace Lau and merely found a replacement editor to cool things down momentarily. By the time the new editor took over late last month, Lau had been stabbed on the streets of Hong Kong and ended up in a hospital fighting for his life.
Fifty-two years ago, Mao Zedong (毛澤東) said: “Anyone wanting to overthrow a political regime must create public opinion and do some preparatory ideological work.”
The Ming Pao is Hong Kong’s most credible newspaper and as journalistic credibility in the territory as a whole is regressing, it remains a source that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) seeks to control.
This was not just a personal attack against Lau; it was also an act of oppression against dissent within Hong Kong’s entire media industry, saying: If we cannot do it by peaceful means, we will resort to outright violence.
Eliminating Taiwan’s pro-localization elites — including the media — required the 228 Massacre. Will a similar atrocity happen in Hong Kong? Will Taiwan see a second 228 Massacre?
The second group of notable events is the ongoing conflicts between Uighurs and Han Chinese in China’s far western region of Xinjiang. While some questions still surround the Kunming train station attack on March 1, Chinese authorities claim to be certain that the perpetrators were Uighurs. Uighur resistance to the CCP’s cruel oppression is often aimed at the Chinese police and government officials, but in the heat of the moment it is often difficult to avoid having an effect on civilians.
Before the Kunming attack, riots broke out in the capital of Xinjiang, Urumqi, in July 2009, and in October last year, an attack occurred in Tiananmen Square that was described as a terrorist suicide attack. However, these few incidents are nothing compared with how the CCP has indifferently butchered Uighurs.
Now that Beijing has “reclaimed” Hong Kong and discarded the idea of “one country, two systems,” Hong Kong is set to follow in the footsteps of Xinjiang. Xinjiang was sinicized before Hong Kong, but in the same way. Will Taiwan first be turned into a second Hong Kong and then into a second Xinjiang?
The third thing worthy of attention is the current relationship between Ukraine and Russia, since it is somewhat similar to the relationship between Taiwan and China. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Ukraine has been trying to move away from Moscow and closer to Western Europe. This ongoing process has led to bloodshed recently.
Pro-Russia Ukrainian former president Viktor Yanukovych was forced to flee Ukraine and try to set up a political presence elsewhere and Russia has sent troops and is inciting Ukraine-ruled Crimea to become independent. Russia could then also incite the eastern part of Ukraine, which is mostly populated by ethnic Russians, to make moves toward independence to split western and eastern Ukraine.
These incidents present Taiwanese with two important questions. First, if President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) continues to insist on unification, are Taiwanese determined to spill blood to push him out of office? Second, are Taiwanese prepared for a situation in which China interferes in local affairs and even deploys its military and conducts mass killings here?
There are a number of reasons why the US cannot go to war with Russia. Given the protection Taiwan has from the US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, the situation here is somewhat different from Ukraine’s. However, is the US resolute enough on this front? What about Japan’s attitude? Just how long can Taiwan hold on?
These are all important questions. It must not be forgotten that China has already shown that it is prepared to go to war with Japan and even the US.
It is safe to say that by the next time the CCP and its partners challenge the free world, the world and Taiwan will not have a lot of time left to make any decisions.
Paul Lin is a political commentator.
Translated by Drew Cameron