Chinese-American historian and Tang Prize winner Yu Ying-shih (余英時) yesterday praised Taiwan’s democratic achievements and expressed the hope that the nation would not throw away its freedom.
Over China’s thousands of years of history, Taiwan is the only democracy that has emerged, with its people able to elect their leaders every four years, Yu said at a press conference in Taipei.
“This is precious. It is because of this that [Taiwanese] are able to enjoy true human rights and the rule of law,” the 84-year-old Princeton University professor emeritus said.
Yu won the first Tang Prize in Sinology.
On Hong Kong’s current fight for democracy, Yu said he believes that the Chinese Communist Party would rather sacrifice its economy than compromise its authoritarian rule.
The Chinese government was tolerant toward Hong Kong because it wanted to convince Taiwanese that it would be alright to become “another Hong Kong,” he said.
Yu, a critic of the Chinese government, cautioned Taiwanese against Chinese infiltration, saying “China can buy your newspapers.”
He said that he hopes Taiwanese will not “absentmindedly throw away” freedom.
Meanwhile, commenting on the proliferation of Confucius Institutes, which promote Chinese language and culture, Yu said Taiwan does not have to compete with China by establishing similar institutes.
“You should be yourself,” said the China-born academic, who quoted a news report alleging that Confucius Institutes engage in political and intelligence activities.
Asked about his views on the Sunflower movement, Yu said he approves of the student-led opposition to the cross-strait service trade pact, as the nation runs the risk of being exploited by China.
However, he stopped short of expressing full support for the demonstrations, saying that he is against violence because it is an undemocratic approach.
He said protesters in a democratic society should try to bring about changes by persuading people to vote differently.