Wed, Apr 06, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Shrine visit not as simple as it appears

By Jewel Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) Chairman Shu Chin-chiang's (蘇進強) pilgrimage to a Tokyo war memorial was a gesture meant to oppose the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) fawning over China, and people should not simply call the visit promotion of militarism, political analysts and historians said yesterday.

"I think the TSU's gesture in Japan was a direct slap at the 10-point agreement signed between KMT Vice Chairman Chiang Pin-kun (江丙坤) and chairman of China's People's Political Consultative Conference Jia Qinglin (賈慶林)," said Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明), a research assistant at the Research Center for Humanities and Social Sciences at Academia Sinica.

"It is obvious that Shu knew his visit to Japan's Yasukuni Shrine would roil Taiwan's press and political circles, which it did," Hsu said. "I think the TSU wanted to highlight that the Taiwan issue is an international issue that can't be easily settled by a cross-party pact."

The Yasukuni memorial in Tokyo enshrines the names of Japan's war dead, including 28,000 Taiwanese and 21,000 Korean soldiers, most of whom were forced into service under Japan's colonial rule. On Monday Shu visited the memorial.

Hsu said that Beijing is very concerned about Taiwan's interaction with Japan, and even the leader of a small opposition party in Taiwan enrages China if he shows his goodwill to Japan.

"I think Shu's visit would provoke people in Taiwan to think about whether Taiwan should accept China's nationalism and keep fawning over Beijing, which is what some pan-blues are doing," Hsu said.

Lee Yung-chih (李永熾), a history professor at National Taiwan University and an expert in Japanese history, pointed out that strong opposition against Shu's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine in Taiwan or in China is the result of China's inveterate prejudice toward Japan and its fanning of nationalist sentiments.

"China's strong reaction to Shu's visit [to the Shrine] is a matter of repeat occurrence when it comes to Japan. Chinese nationalism is targeted at vilifying Japan and the US," Lee said.

Lee said that the Yasukuni Shrine memorializes many different soldiers who died in World War II and other conflicts -- a few were war felons like then Japanese General and Premier Hideki Tojo, while some were also civilians from Taiwan and Korea.

"It's hard to say that paying homage to the people enshrined in Yasukuni Shrine is simply an action promoting Japanese militarism," Lee said. "I think it is normal to mourn people who died in a war, if we just temporarily put aside political prejudices."

"But I have to say that politics cannot wipe out people's feelings after all," Lee added.

"Besides, Taiwanese people had no alternative but to join in the fighting for Japan, since China's Qing Dynasty ceded Taiwan to Japan, and Taiwan was a part of Japan at that time," Lee said. He added that people showed clearer thinking when comparing the times that the pan-blues commemorated the Martyrs Shrine in Taipei or Chiang's visit to the tombs of the "72 Martyrs" in Guangzhou during his trip to China.

Chen I-shen (陳儀深), a research fellow at the Institute of Modern History at Academia Sinica, said that Shu's visit to the Yasukuni Shrine was another example of the acute social cleavage and divergent national identity in Taiwan.

"Taiwanese society is a divided society that has been immersed in political disputes. Even a petty thing can arouse a great stir," Chen said.

This story has been viewed 4910 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top