After several years in office, it is surprising to discover that Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) does not know what Taiwanese values are. A similar scenario would be inconceivable in the US — would the mayor of Washington dare say in public: “I don’t know what American values are.”
It is also surprising that Ko, who said he has visited the Deng Nan-jung (鄭南榕) Memorial Museum twice, does not know that genuine Taiwanese values are treasured at this, the place of Deng’s self-immolation.
Why, then, was Ko visiting the museum with such a solemn and respectful expression?
There is no display of Mao Zedong’s (毛澤東) quotations, which Ko recites so fluently from memory, nor are there any illustrations of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) strategic plans, which Ko went to Yanan, China, to learn. Nor is there an exhibition displaying former president Chiang Ching-kuo’s (蔣經國) “enlightened despotism” rule, which Ko has said he admires so highly.
At the museum, there is only a banner of “Taiwan spirit,” burned by flames and smoke.
What were the values that Deng, the embodiment of “Taiwan spirit,” sacrificed his life for?
Attending to a myriad of city affairs, there is no need for Ko to read every article Deng wrote. He only has to remember Deng’s passionate and proud statement: “My name is Deng Nan-jung. I support 100 percent freedom of speech and I support Taiwanese independence.”
There is no need for Ko to keep repeating the deceptive slogan that “the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are one family.” All he has to do to win the public’s respect is quote Deng’s courageous declaration.
The museum’s footage of Deng making these statements reminds me of a breathtaking scene in Mel Gibson’s 1995 film Braveheart. In the movie, William Wallace, one of the leaders during the Wars of Scottish Independence, just before before he is executed shouts: “Freedom!”
In real life, Wallace was betrayed and turned over to King Edward I of England. He was tried for high treason and was hanged, eviscerated and then quartered.
There is another famous saying by Wallace: “Everybody dies, not everybody lives.”
Ko should reflect closely on this statement.
As a political commentator and editor-in-chief of a weekly magazine, Deng valued freedom of speech above all else. The freedom of speech certainly cannot exist in isolation, but must be bound closely with other freedoms and rights, such as personal freedom, the right to property, freedom of religious belief, freedom of assembly and association, and the freedom to form political parties.
Since these freedoms have become universal values, they should also be counted as Taiwanese values.
The second half of Deng’s proclamation — “I support Taiwanese independence” — should not be overlooked, either. There is no such thing as freedom of speech if saying “Taiwanese independence” in public is prohibited.
While Taiwan’s international status remains ambiguous, Taiwanese independence forms the core of Taiwanese values, and Taiwanese should do all they can to achieve and defend it.
If Ko wholeheartedly respects and recognizes Deng and his spirit, public statements and policy implementation by the mayor’s office should be based on freedom and independence, the two significant Taiwanese values that Deng sacrificed his life for.
It is shameful to casually take advantage of Deng’s reputation and bravery, and it will only result in Ko being spurned by the public.
Yu Jie is an exiled Chinese dissident writer.
Translated by Chang Ho-ming
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