Historian warns of China and ‘united front’ tactics

HONG KONG LESSONS::Yu Ying-shih said that although Taiwanese elect their leaders and their scientific record is good, the nation’s democracy has not yet matured

By Rachel Lin  /  Staff reporter

Sat, Nov 23, 2019 - Page 2

Taiwan is facing a formidable crisis as Beijing’s “united front” tactics penetrate society, Chinese-born American historian Yu Ying-shih (余英時) said yesterday in a recorded speech, urging people to resist Chinese infiltration by improving “humanistic learning.”

An Academia Sinica academician, the US-based historian and Sinologist’s speech, titled “From scientific democracy to humanistic democracy,” was for a Sinology forum named after Chinese historian Luo Jialun (羅家倫) at National Chengchi University in Taipei.

Noting the protests against Hong Kong’s extradition bill, which has been withdrawn, Yu said that high-school students and undergraduates are the group voicing the strongest objection to oppression by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

Although Taiwanese society generally supports the protesters in their pursuit for democracy, other opinions are still heard, the 89-year-old said.

While diversity is good, people need a solid understanding of humanism to make correct judgements, he said.

Taiwanese society was subjected to the yoke of ideas imparted by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which affects conceptions of freedom and democracy, he said.

Hong Kongers know the importance of freedom, as they enjoyed it under the British government, which governed the territory until 1997, he said, adding that he had lived in Hong Kong for years.

Taiwan has fulfilled the ideal of developing democracy and science, which people of the May Fourth Movement in China in 1919 sought, Yu said.

Taiwanese can elect their own leaders and their scientific research has met global standards, Yu said.

However, despite its formal establishment, Taiwan’s democracy has not yet matured, he said.

Taiwanese should gain more understanding about the CCP through the study of politics, philosophy and history, Yu said.

Many media firms in Taiwan have become parrots of the Chinese-language Renmin Ribao (人民日報), a mouthpiece of the Chinese government, showing the lack of humanistic cultivation of Taiwanese, he said.

Without humanistic learning, it is hard to see through and resist China’s ever-present infiltration, Yu said.

Beijing has employed economic leverage to menace many nations, including in the West, which silence themselves in certain domains to protect their business with China, he said.

Democracy should be bolstered by humanistic values, otherwise it would spoil other parts of society, Yu said.

A lesson worth learning is that the Soviet Union, once looking to establish a democracy, returned to dictatorship after its dissolution, he said.