Former premier Hau Pei-tsun (郝柏村) caused a stir yesterday when he criticized the content of high school history textbooks over the country’s name and the 228 Incident, which he said jeopardized the nation’s founding spirit and had implications for independence.
In an op-ed in the Chinese-language United Daily News yesterday, the retired general — Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin’s (郝龍斌) father — said he was displeased after reading his granddaughter’s junior-high school history textbook, which refers to the country as the “Taiwan region” and includes Taiwan proper, Kinmen, Matsu and islands in the South China Sea as its territories.
Hau Pei-tsun said the islands were territories of the Republic of China (ROC) and that “Taiwan region” was not the official name of the country under the ROC Constitution.
In the op-ed, he questioned why a high-school history textbook continued to use a curriculum that was designed during the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration, which he said was “too Taiwan-centric.”
The textbook’s description of the 228 Incident, which says Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) troops killed more than 10,000 people in the uprising, was incorrect, he said, because a panel formed while he was premier in 1990 concluded that about 500 people were killed or went missing.
Hau Pei-tsun said the number increased to about 1,000 when he later lowered the threshold of compensation for victims’ families.
The content of the textbooks “jeopardizes the founding spirit of the ROC and has strong political undertones of the ideology of ‘one country on each side [of the Taiwan Strait].’ It also implies that Taiwan is not China and that Taiwanese are not Chinese,” Hau Pei-tsun wrote.
Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠), deputy director of the National Academy for Educational Research, which is in charge of establishing curriculum guidelines, said the institution stipulates that all textbooks should be written in accordance with the law, including the ROC Constitution and the Act Governing Relations Between the People Of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (臺灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例).
The text relating to the 228 Incident is based on research conducted by the Executive Yuan, Pan said.
“If sovereignty is involved, textbooks refer to the country as ‘the ROC.’ ‘Taiwan region’ is used to describe a geographic area,” Pan said in summing up the guidelines, adding that a meeting would be convened in two weeks to review high-school history textbooks.
Hau Pei-tsun is no stranger to history-related controversies.
In November last year, he said that martial law was necessary for Taiwan to defend itself against communists in the 1940s.
The DPP reacted strongly to the op-ed.
As a former premier and vice chairman of the KMT, Hau Pei-tsun’s remarks were “highly inappropriate” and a “distortion of history,” DPP spokesperson Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) said.
“We can only hope that the op-ed was not a prelude of a fresh round of attempts by the KMT to distort the true history of the 228 Incident,” Lin said.
Lin said the comment risked “tearing up the wound” after the long struggle by Taiwanese to piece together the facts behind the incident.
Historians reached their conclusions on the massacre after careful professional research and Hau Pei-tsun’s comments are unacceptable to the victims’ families, Lin said.