On Tuesday, a brawl broke out between a group of Hakka protesters and some ethnic-Hakka opposition legislators at the Legislative Yuan over the pan-blue camp's plan to freeze 80 percent of the budget for the Cabinet-level Council for Hakka Affairs. An explanation from two ethnic-Hakka legislators -- Chun Jung-chi (鍾榮吉) and Chung Shao-ho (鍾紹和) -- saying the opposition had withdrawn the motion to freeze the budget, did little to allay the anger of the Hakka protesters. According to media reports, the two received a few punches and kicks from the protesters.
Everyone knows the machinations of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-People First Party (PFP) alliance. Hakka voters have long been staunch supporters of the pan-blue camp. Now, worried about an apparent shift in their support, the KMT-PFP alliance tried to freeze the Hakka council's budget in an attempt to cut off the council's resources so that the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) would have no Hakka card to play in the election campaign.
Their action reminds us of one of the pan-blue camp's biggest campaign slogans: ethnic reconciliation. Speaking in Taoyuan, one of the Hakka strongholds, KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) on Saturday accused the DPP of discriminating against Hakka people. His remarks were a stark contrast to the opposition camp's attempt to freeze the council's budget. The KMT-PFP camp apparently thinks Taiwanese voters are dumb.
Only disadvantaged groups and victims of discrimination are qualified to talk about "ethnic reconciliation." It is laughable that the KMT, after exercising White Terror and authoritarian rule for decades, is now suddenly espousing ethnic reconciliation in the election campaign.
The KMT has been very good at creating taboos and using them as their protective umbrella. In the past authoritarian era, under the "everyone is Chinese" assimilation policy, people were distinguished by their "provincial ancestry" from cradle to grave, but they were not allowed to discuss ethnic issues. Today, the authoritarian system is gone, but the KMT continues to mobilize the local media, most of which is controlled by mainlanders, to create another ethnic taboo. Whoever dares to challenge this taboo is a sinner.
Ethnic issues involve vested interests, the power to interpret history, the power to guide culture and the power to allocate resources over the past half century, as well as Taiwan's ultimate problem -- a review of national identity. A political party which committed crimes in the past is now calling for "ethnic reconciliation" and wants everyone to love each other and forget about past grievances. This political party is still very good at propaganda and political manipulation.
Recently, we saw the establishment of an "Ethnic Equality Action Alliance" led by internationally renowned film director Hou Hsiao-hsien (侯孝賢). At a press conference to launch the group, National Taiwan University professor Hsia Chu-joe (夏鑄九) quoted the words of Lee Hsing-chang (李幸長), a dumpling franchise operator, accusing pro-DPP voters in southern Taiwan of boycotting his shop and causing his income to fall by 15 percent because he had opposed the DPP government's education reforms. Hsia used those remarks as proof that the DPP was engaging in ethnic mobilization.
Hsia and Lee's accusations are low and shameless. Most people in southern Taiwan do not know Lee, who is not that famous. Their accusations only proved that some people with a strong ethnic consciousness are trying to hide it and accusing others of harboring ethnic consciousness. This has got to be what is most hypocritical and most laughable about the opposition alliance and this ethnic equality alliance.
To our readers: Because of the Lunar New Year holiday, from Saturday, Jan. 21, through Sunday, Jan. 29, the Taipei Times will have a reduced format without our regular editorials and opinion pieces. From Saturday to Tuesday it will not be delivered to subscribers, but will be available for purchase at convenience stores. Subscribers will receive the editions they missed once normal distribution resumes on Wednesday, Jan. 25. The paper returns to its usual format on Monday, Jan. 30, when our regular editorials and opinion pieces will also be resumed.