Renowned historian and Academia Sinica member Yu Ying-shih (余英時) has voiced support for a months-long boycott of the Chinese-language China Times, saying he hoped that Taiwan’s intellectuals would do more to help ordinary Taiwanese break free of the shackles of communist leanings in order to protect the nation’s young democracy.
Yu, a co-winner of the 2006 John W. Kluge Prize for the Study of Humanity, made the remarks in a handwritten letter faxed to Taipei Society director Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) on Friday.
In the fax Yu reiterated his support for the boycott of China Times and expressed concern about the self-centered conduct by many pro-China politicians and businesspeople in Taiwan, saying such people pander to China’s will out of personal interests.
“Such politicians and businessmen, in possession of abundant capital and power, have conducted a full-scale infiltration of Taiwan’s society, as many people in the country are clearly suffering from a ‘China scare.’ In light of this situation, Taiwanese intellectuals should play a role in assuaging such fears and awaken the country’s people,” Yu wrote
More than 60 academics launched a boycott against the China Times in February following a remark by its owner, Tsai Eng-meng (蔡衍明), that the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre did not really amount to a massacre. The academics said they would not allow any of their work to be published by the paper.
Tsai, chairman and chief executive of the Want Want China Times Group, which owns the China Times and other media outlets, made the remark in an interview with the Washington Post in January.
According to Yu, China has worked to spread its influence in Taiwan through pro-China politicians and businesspeople, including buying off the country’s media. Yu said the political change in Taiwan has often concerned him.
“Taiwanese intellectuals must shoulder the burden of safeguarding and boosting the country’s democracy and freedom, because the slightest slackness on their part could have the nation fall into China’s trap of unification,” Yu said.
Yu also cast doubts on Beijing’s economic prosperity, saying anyone aware of China’s internal problems would not be deluded by its superficial economic boom.
Recent events in China, such as the Bo Xilai (薄熙來) scandal and Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng (陳光誠) fleeing from illegal house arrest, both provided solid proof of such problems, Yu said. While these cases were merely the tip of the iceberg, a destabilizing movement is already foreseeable, he said.
“A highhanded, decayed and ruthless regime such as the Chinese Communist Party could never achieve social stability,” Yu said.
Huang, an Academia Sinica assistant research fellow, said Yu had also telephoned him on Friday afternoon to reiterate his goal of having “Taiwanese intellectuals stand out against such self-interested politicians and businessmen.”
China Times chief editor Chang Ching-wei (張景為) said he appreciated Yu’s advice, but his rhetoric showed a number of misconceptions and that he hoped to have a chance to clarify them with Yu.
Chao Yu-pei (趙育培), special assistant to Tsai, also said he respected Yu’s remarks. However, he denied any links between the China Times boycott and Want Want’s bid for China Network Systems cable network, a NT$76 billion (US$2.57 billion) bid which could affect a quarter of TV-owning households nationwide.