NGOs like hers are an integral link in the cross-strait campaign, as they create opportunities for Chinese and Taiwanese to learn more about each other — and to devise the best strategies for communication.
“We try to have themed events based on special traits of Taiwan, like democracy, media culture, the environment and social movements,” Hou said.
Last year, for “democracy,” she brought students to the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) headquarters in Taipei.
“Someone who worked there used zhongguo (China, 中國) instead of dalu (mainland China, 大陸). As in ‘Welcome, friends from zhongguo.’ And a [Chinese] student raised a hand and said, ‘Could you please stop saying that?’” she said.
This friction occurs with varying degrees of heat at some other events hosted by the NGO, as well as in college classrooms, on the streets and at other points of contact in Taiwan. Hou herself is still learning ways to approach the situation.
At the DPP headquarters, the staffer had reacted quickly.
“He said in a kind and civil way, ‘We are talking about the same thing. We just use different names for it.’ And the student was civil, too,” said Hou.
“It will take patience, and it will take time,” she said, referring to cross-strait communication. “But I think what happened that day was right.”