An air force F-16 jet piloted by Colonel Chiang Cheng-chih (蔣正志) went missing off the east coast of Taiwan on the night of Tuesday last week. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) immediately ordered an all-out search-and-rescue effort.
While the search was going on and the public was praying for good news, Taitung County Commissioner Yao Ching-ling (饒慶鈴) wrote on Facebook: “I cannot believe that we had just lost Captain Chu Kuan-meng (朱冠甍); now an F-16 has also gone missing. How do you explain this?”
Yao appeared to be implying that the president needed to provide an explanation.
The post sparked a torrent of criticism. Yao quickly deleted it and tried to mollify angry Facebook users by posting a more conventional message of support for the search-and-rescue team’s efforts and expressed the hope that the pilot could be rescued.
It is not the first time that Yao has made this kind of gaffe by speaking her mind. It follows an observable pattern.
Whenever Taiwanese pro-China politicians express a view that runs contrary to public opinion, they quickly delete the post without addressing the criticism, sit out the media storm and wait for the next opportunity to toss a bomb into the public square.
Is it not strange that when one of the nation’s pilots went missing and Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft rub salt into the wound by continuing to intrude on Taiwan’s airspace as rescuers frantically search for the pilot, Yao chose this moment to launch a broadside against Tsai, the commander-in-chief?
The underlying message behind Yao’s Facebook post was simple: to rationalize China’s behavior while blaming the government for “provoking” Beijing and to cast the upholding of Taiwan’s sovereignty as agitating for independence.
Yao’s siren call to the public is that only if Taiwan’s air force would stop scrambling fighters and the two sides ceased confronting each other in the skies over the Taiwan Strait would the tensions dissolve into thin air.
Yao and her brethren in the pan-blue camp might as well call for the military to lay down its weapons and surrender to the enemy. While she has stopped short of advocating this in public, actions speak louder than words. Yao has previously obstructed the garrisoning of Apache attack helicopters in Taitung.
Yao is not operating in isolation. A Taiwanese online writer who goes by the name of “police dove” (tiaozige, 條子鴿), and claims to have previously worked as a pilot and a police officer said that the air accidents occurred because the “commander-in-chief has worn the military into the ground.”
The writer also advanced the spurious argument that the reason the air force has had to launch so many missions is due to Tsai’s mishandling of the cross-strait relationship. The unspoken message from Taiwan’s pro-China lobby remains the same: accept the so-called “1992 consensus” and submit to Beijing’s “one China” principle.
Is it any wonder that China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Deputy Minister Wang Zaixi (王在希) has expressed hope that Taiwan would follow the “Beiping model (北平模式)” of non-resistance. This refers to when Beiping — an old name for Beijing — fell to communist forces during the Chinese Civil War, with hardly a shot being fired.
Before a conflict with China has even started, certain individuals in Taiwan are already spreading a false message of appeasement to soften up the public. As the refrain goes: “There is no need for bloodshed and no need for sacrifices.”
Such defeatist talk comes from the same mold of former minister of culture Lung Ying-tai (龍應台), who once said: “No matter what, I am anti-war.”
Chen Kuan-fu is a graduate law student at National Taipei University.
Translated by Edward Jones
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