Empowered language is critical for politics

By Paul Lin 林保華  / 

Thu, Mar 19, 2015 - Page 8

Last year’s Sunflower movement was followed by a new political culture introduced by Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), and now some of the nation’s hallowed religious culture is being questioned through a direct challenge to the Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation.

Taiwan’s democratic politics must depend on a democratic culture. Last year’s peaceful revolution brought only superficial democracy, which means that it can easily be reversed, especially in the absence of transitional justice. In addition, China’s dictatorial ways pose a major threat to Taiwan’s democracy, and the party-state comprador culture and the religious industry — which has attached itself to government power — are playing along with China.

Hopefully, Taiwan will establish a culture that prioritizes the individual’s right to speak up on independence.

On Feb. 17, Hong Kong’s government issued an internal document titled: On the correct use of language, instructing government departments to use the phrase “relations between the interior and Hong Kong” and avoid the phrase “China-Hong Kong relations,” which implies that Hong Kong is independent of China.

On Feb 7, 2011, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) announced that the government would use the phrases “the other side” or “the mainland,” rather than China, with the objective of avoiding the issue of Taiwan’s independence and sovereignty.

It seems Ma is even more colonial than the colonial Hong Kong government.

The right to speak about Taiwanese identity is an issue that I have been paying attention to for many years: I say “China” instead of “the mainland”; putonghua (the common language, 普通話) instead of kuoyu (the national language, 國語); and I also do not say “Beijing language,” since that refers to Beijing’s local dialect. I also speak Taiwanese (also known as Hoklo) instead of minnanyu (閩南語) and I do not say “Taiwan province.” Since fall last year, I have also done my best to avoid the phrase liang an (兩岸), literally “the two shores” [of the Taiwan Strait] to avoid using China’s terminology.

The 1972 Shanghai Communique contains the sentence: “The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China.”

I have said before that this is the Chinese view, and not the Taiwanese understanding. Even if it were the view of the Chinese at the time, “the two sides of the Taiwan Strait” were both ruled by dictatorships, so there was no true public opinion.

The US used the phrase “the two sides of the Taiwan Strait,” and as we are protected by cooperation and a security treaty between the US and Japan, we should use the phrase “the two sides” to comply with the view that Taiwan and China are two nations, which is more in line with the view of Taiwan as an independent entity.

The Democratic Progressive Party has begun mixing up the two, and the same is true about its use of “China” and “the mainland.” The US recognizes “China,” and not “the mainland,” and although it does not maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan, it does recognize its existence as “an entity.”

Taiwanese activist Reverend William Luo (羅榮光) suggested that March 18 be commemorated as “Taiwan Youth Day.” I am strongly in favor of this suggestion, as it is a demonstration of the identity of Taiwanese youth and the best way to commemorate the day the Sunflower movement began its occupation of the Legislative Yuan.

Paul Lin is a political commentator.

Translated by Perry Svensson