During the 16th and 17th centuries, Galileo Galilei, a remarkable scientist, proposed a great many groundbreaking theories in physics and astronomy and he once again proved that the Earth revolves around the sun.
However, heliocentrism seriously contradicted Christian doctrine and Galileo therefore repeatedly suffered oppression by the Catholic Church and was sentenced to imprisonment by the Inquisition. He was even forced to recant his claims under threat of capital punishment.
Despite his recantation, Galileo’s followers knew that he did not truly mean it. The truth of his science gave in to the might of the church only temporarily. During his imprisonment, prison guards advised him to give up heliocentrism for his own sake, to which he responded: “I can say that the Earth does not move. And yet it moves. What on earth can I do about that?”
Scientists work with facts. Why should politicians be any different? What exists, exists; notwithstanding the enormous pressure the authorities might apply to claim the contrary. What cannot be, cannot be — regardless of what the authorities might do to try to force it into being.
Heliocentrism, which belongs to the realm of science, is just one example. The so-called “1992 consensus,” which falls within the domain of politics, is no exception.
Former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) were all in a hurry to pressure President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) into mentioning the “1992 consensus” before her inaugural address.
The problem is that in 1992, when a cross-strait meeting was held in Hong Kong, Ma held the opinion that there was no consensus.
Ma, then-deputy chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council, has said: “China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits knew very clearly that on the matter of the interpretation of what ‘one China’ means, the two sides had not reached any consensus.”
On Nov. 6, 1992, the Central Daily News quoted him as saying that China’s dogged persistence with the “one China” principle is a form of political extortion against Taiwan.
Since no consensus was reached in 1992, is it not strange to ask Tsai to recognize what never was?
Unfortunately, politics is not science. When scientific truth is distorted by the authorities, science can still win in the long run, whereas if political truth succumbs to the authorities, it will be engulfed in non-truth and cease to exist in the end.
Galileo knew that even if he recanted his claims and disavowed his own theorem superficially, the scientific truth would be passed on by his students and scientists to future generations.
One of his students said to Galileo: “Why don’t you recant your confession? The Earth will go on moving anyway.”
However, the same cannot be said to Tsai: “Acknowledge the ‘1992 consensus’ and there will be peace across the Taiwan Strait.”
Once Taiwanese accept the “1992 consensus,” a fabrication by the KMT and the CCP, they will in effect be allowing democratic Taiwan to be tied with a hanging rope called “one China,” to borrow a phrase from Ruan Ming (阮銘), former national policy adviser to former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).
Scientific development can be sustained through research by future generations, but democracy might face total destruction if compromises are made with the authorities.
Over the past eight years, Ma based his policies on the fabricated “1992 consensus,” which led to his single-digit approval rating and consecutive election routs.
However, before he stepped down, he once again teamed up with the enemy to try to coerce Tsai into accepting the “1992 consensus,” something that had long been abandoned by Taiwanese. That is not democracy.
Autocratic China also tried to force Tsai, a democratically elected president, to recognize the fictional “1992 consensus,” completely ignoring Taiwanese public opinion. China does not seem to feel ashamed of itself at all when it compares itself with Taiwan’s democracy. All of the above is evidence of the anti-democratic nature of the KMT and the CCP.
“Mr Democracy” and “Mr Science” are the ideals that Chinese intellectuals have been pursuing since the 1919 May Fourth Movement. Mr Science has more or less survived in modern China, but Mr Democracy kicked the bucket a long time ago.
Fortunately in Taiwan, both are alive and kicking, and making good progress. Hopefully the Tsai administration bases its policies on Taiwanese public opinion and does not give in to intimidation from China’s autocracy.
Lee Hsiao-feng is a professor at National Taipei University of Education’s Graduate School of Taiwanese Culture.
Translated by Ethan Zhan
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