Sun Yat-sen (孫逸仙) was not the nation’s founding father, and statutes stipulating that the president and lawmakers must salute Sun’s portrait at inauguration ceremonies and legislative sessions should be nullified to end the party-state dogma indoctrinated by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), academics said yesterday.
At a Taipei news conference, Taiwan Association of University Professors board director Chen Li-fu (陳俐甫) said that Sun, who died in 1925, was “used” as the nation’s founding father by then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) in 1940 to strengthen his rule over the KMT’s faltering regime in China.
“Why must we submit to the KMT’s will, and not the other way around?” Chen asked.
He said that the term guofu (國父, founding father) was coined by a warlord who addressed Sun that way in an elegiac couplet which he presented to Sun at his funeral, and asked if anyone would take Chinese elegiacal writing — which he said is usually exaggerated — seriously.
“If Sun were alive today, he would be perplexed to hear people call him guofu. In a way, he is also victim of all the criticism we have hurled at him,” Chen said.
Chen said that he was a “victim” of Sun’s doctrines, because, along with all Taiwanese his age, he was educated to stand at attention whenever his teachers or parents brought up the term guofu and could only continue with their business after they were given the instruction: “At ease.”
People his age were made to study Sun’s teachings and to write essays about him for their college entrance exams, he said.
“I wrote a lot of fawny essays about Sun, but it was not until I was old enough to figure out the truth that I realize how wrong my essays were,” he said.
Taiwan, as a republic, should break away from the authoritarian brainwashing in the form of a provisionally announced founding father, so that democratic values can be realized, Chen said.
National Chengchi University Graduate Institute of Taiwan History director Hsueh Hua-yuan (薛化元) said there were several individuals that were influential in the revolution that overthrew the Qing Dynasty — for example Yuan Shikai (袁世凱), who controlled Qing’s forces, and Qing Dynasty revolutionaries Huang Xin (黃興) and Zhang Taiyan (章太炎) — and Sun was but one of them, Hsueh said.
Although Sun founded the Society for Regenerating China (興中會), Yeung Ku-wan (楊衢雲), rather than Sun, was its first leader, Hsueh said.
Similarly, it did not evolve into the later-founded the Tongmenghui (同盟會), which led the revolution to victory, as the Tongmenghui was founded by a coalition of revolutionary organizations, he said.
The transitional phase between the Tongmenghui and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which Sun founded, was even more complex, as the KMT was formed by even more wings and many of Sun’s colleagues at Tongmenghui refused to join, he said.
“To understand Sun’s role in the founding of the nation, these historic events must first be put into perspective,” he said.
Although it is written in history books that Sun led 11 revolutions before the Qing Dynasty was toppled, he was overseas when the revolution broke out and he only learned about it later, Hsueh said. “I think that is an important fact.”
“You can plaster your bedroom with posters of the movie stars, singers and athletes you like. However, imposing an idol on the citizenry is unacceptable in a democracy,” association secretary-general Shiu Wen-tang (許文堂) said.
Association chairman Peter Chang (張信堂) said that although president-elect Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Wednesday spoke against Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Kao Chih-peng’s (高志鵬) proposal to abolish practices to salute Sun’s portraits, the association would continue to monitor Tsai’s administration by working with other civic groups until amendments to end such practices are pushed through.
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