Many in Taiwan were appalled by the news that a statue honoring Japanese engineer Yoichi Hatta in Tainan was found decapitated early on Sunday morning.
China Unification Promotion Party member and former Taipei city councilor Lee Cheng-lung (李承龍) yesterday turned himself in and confessed that he and a female accomplice were responsible for the vandalism.
Some commentators, pointing to previous cases of vandalism to statues of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), asked whether the Hatta statue was targeted by anti-Japan or pro-unification supporters in a bid to take “a head for a head.”
Any form of vandalism or hateful act ought to be condemned, irrespective of the national or political identity that inspires it.
However, to equate the philosophy behind the erection of the Hatta statue with what led to the proliferation of Chiang statues around the nation is a serious error.
In addition, anyone trying to criticize Taiwan’s honoring of a Japanese as an act of “Japanization” that fawns on the nation’s past colonial rulers has failed to understand history and is interested only in inciting ethnic conflict.
To examine Hatta and Chiang from a purely historical standpoint, the two are worlds apart: Hatta never killed anybody. Chiang, on the other hand, was perceived by many Taiwanese as a murderer responsible for the bloody 228 Incident during which thousands of Taiwanese and Mainlanders perished; Hatta contributed to Taiwan with his planning and overseeing of the construction of Tainan’s Wushantou Reservoir (烏山頭水庫), whose irrigation network benefited the farmers of the Chianan Plain (嘉南平原); Chiang’s Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) took over properties belonging to the former colonial government and private properties as party assets when the Japanese colonial government and settlers left Taiwan in 1945.
It is also worth noting that Hatta’s statue came about as a result of a public initiative; it was built and financed by his subordinates, whereas the countless Chiang statues around Taiwan were erected using taxpayers’ money and without the public’s consent.
A critic might say that Hatta’s construction of the Wushantou Reservoir was motivated by the then-colonial government’s concern over a stable rice supply. However, that Hatta’s engineering achievements helped lay the keystone of Taiwan’s modernization is indisputable.
Hatta, dubbed by Taiwanese as the “Father of the Chianan Irrigation System,” is remembered not only because of the reservoir — which dramatically increased the annual production of crops in the 150,000 hectare Chianan Plain which spans from Tainan through Yunlin and Chiayi counties and greatly improved the lives of tens of thousands of households in the region — but also because despite being an official of the colonial government, he showed humility toward the welfare of Taiwanese and did not oppress or exploit them as other colonial officials did.
The values behind the statues of the two are strikingly different: Hatta was apolitical and he earned the respect of Taiwanese via his selfless deeds; Chiang’s statues were erected to idolize the leader of a totalitarian regime.
The US intelligence community’s annual threat assessment for this year certainly cannot be faulted for having a narrow focus or Pollyanna perspective. From a rising China, Russian aggression and Iran’s nuclear ambitions, to climate change, future pandemics and the growing reach of international organized crime, US intelligence analysis is as comprehensive as it is worrying. Inaugurated two decades ago as a gesture of transparency and to inform the public and the US Congress, the annual threat assessment offers the intelligence agencies’ top-line conclusions about the country’s leading national-security threats — although always in ways that do not compromise “sources and methods.”
Let’s begin with the bottom line. The sad truth of the matter is that Beijing has trampled on its solemn pledge to grant Hong Kong a great deal of autonomy for at least fifty years. In so doing, the PRC ignored a promise Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) made to both Great Britain’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the wider world back in the early 1980s. This was at a time when Beijing, under Deng and his successors, appeared to be seeking an equitable accommodation with the West. I remain puzzled by China’s recent policy shift. Was it because Hong Kong was perceived
The recent removal of items related to Japanese Shinto culture from the Taoyuan Martyrs’ Shrine and Cultural Park has caused an uproar. The complex was built as a Shinto shrine by the Japanese during the colonial period, but was transformed into a martyrs’ shrine commemorating veterans of the Chinese Civil War after the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) retreated to Taiwan in 1949. Figurines of the Japanese sun goddess Amaterasu Okami were allowed into the shrine for a cultural event last year, attracting throngs of visitors to see the Shinto decorations and practices. However, some people accused the Taoyuan City Government of
The recent meeting in New Delhi between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov — the first such high-level interaction since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine — suggests that diplomacy might no longer be a dirty word. The 10 minute meeting on the sidelines of the G20 gathering occurred after US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan reportedly urged Ukraine to show Russia that it is open to negotiating an end to the war. Together, these developments offer a glimmer of hope that a ceasefire is within the realm of the possible. The