President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration quietly changed the English version of the name of a government agency to the “Overseas Chinese Affairs Council (OCAC)” from the “Overseas Compatriots Affairs Commission,” a move that drew ire from Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers.
The change in the name translation, effective from Sept. 1, when the restructuring of the agency took effect, went unnoticed until yesterday when some DPP lawmakers brought it up at a meeting of the legislature’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee.
Bombarded with questions from DPP lawmakers as to why the change was made, OCAC Minister Wu Ying-yih (吳英毅) said the idea was initially proposed by the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission (RDEC).
“We [the OCAC] found it acceptable after a long and thorough deliberation,” said Wu, who was invited by the committee to give a policy address at the question-and-answer session.
When reached by the Taipei Times for comment, RDEC Minister Sung Yu-hsieh (宋餘俠) rebutted Wu’s comments, saying the OCAC proposed renaming the agency about two years ago, when the government restructuring plan was being formulated by the Cabinet and when the nomenclature used in naming government departments was under discussion.
Sung said the RDEC, in charge of the government restructuring plan, respected all agencies’ right to decide their names and acronyms, both in Mandarin and English.
In the meeting, Wu engaged in a fierce exchange of words with DPP lawmakers as he said that the OCAC did not change its name, but “restored” its original name.
The name of the agency was previously designated in English as the Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission until the word “Chinese” was replaced with “compatriots” by former minister Chang Fu-mei (張富美) in 2006 during the former DPP administration under former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), Wu said.
The move by the DPP administration, along with the removal of the word “Chinese” from the name of the OCAC’s overseas missions, was part of then-president Chen-Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) efforts to remove symbols associated with China or the regime of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), a policy the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) referred to as a “de-sinicizing campaign.”
DPP Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) said the name change “deeply hurt the feeling of Taiwanese.”
“When I was abroad, what I disliked most was that I was called Chinese. Why do you want to make the people of Taiwan always present a negative image to the world?” she said.
Hsiao said the word “compatriot” was neutral, while the name “Chinese” catered to the ideology of pro-unification supporters.
DPP Legislator Chiu Yi-ying (邱議瑩) said the new English name of the agency made it look like a government department of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
“The PRC has an agency called the Overseas Chinese Affairs Office of the State Council. Can anyone, especially foreigners, distinguish the two? If Chinese people go to overseas missions of the OCAC and seek your help, do you help them?” Chiu asked.
DPP Legislator Mark Chen (陳唐山) demanded a reversal of the name change.
Chen, who was Presidential Office secretary-general in 2006, said the decision to replace “Chinese” with “compatriots” that year was meant to ensure the safety and dignity of Taiwanese when traveling abroad.
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