Minister of National Defense Feng Shih-kuan (馮世寬) yesterday sparked controversy at a meeting of the Legislative Yuan’s Foreign Affairs and National Defense Committee by saying that he does not support Taiwanese independence.
Responding to questions by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Huang Chao-shun (黃昭順), Feng stumbled into a political minefield with his comments on Taiwanese independence, saying: “I also have not heard President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) speak about [advocating] Taiwanese independence.”
Huang was questioning Feng on the US Pentagon’s latest report on China’s military developments, which was released on May 13. The report reiterated Washington’s position on maintaining the “status quo” on both sides of Taiwan Strait.
Huang cited parts of the Pentagon report that urged Taiwan to increase its defense spending, before asking Feng if he supported Taiwanese independence, adding that she felt distressed that she saw more bananas than Republic of China (ROC ) flags being handed out at Tsai’s inaugural ceremony on Friday.
Feng said that the most important thing for Taiwan’s armed forces is that they become a nationalized military so it can safeguard the nation’s 23 million citizens.
Later in the session, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said that Feng’s comments on Taiwanese independence were inappropriate, even if they were just his personal opinion.
Saying that a recent national survey showed 23.8 percent of the population supported Taiwanese independence, Kuan added: “It is the duty of the Ministry of National Defense and its troops to defend our nation, which also includes this 23.8 percent of citizens.”
“Regarding President Tsai, it is correct that she did not mention her support for Taiwanese independence, but she also did not say that she does not support Taiwanese independence,” Kuan said, adding that Feng should retract his statement.
Feng said he would like to retract his statement, adding that he had learned some valuable lessons at the legislative session.
The minister was also chastised for tabling a seven-page report that outlined the ministry’s agenda and goals for the coming years.
Lawmakers said the report contained no new ideas, did not deal with important issues and was nearly identical to a report submitted in March by Feng’s predeccessor Kao Kuang-chi (高廣圻), adding that only a few modifications had been made.
They demanded that Feng submit a more detailed report in the coming weeks, which should have contents of real substance and on urgent issues facing the armed forces.
Feng was also questioned over his personal religious affiliation with Wusheng Gong (武聖宮), a prominent Taoist temple in New Taipei City’s Tamsui District (淡水), where he was chairman of the temple’s management committee and had joined in Taoist rituals to communicate with deities and the spirit realm for guidance.
The Chinese-language Apple Daily yesterday reported that Feng and temple officials worshipped Taoist deity Ji Gong (濟公), a mischievous monk whom folklore says is fond of eating meat, drinking liquor and engaging in other whimsical behavior, while not worshipping Guan Gong (關公), the deity of war and martial arts.
It also reported that Feng had been on trips to China for cultural and religious exchanges with Chinese groups who were also Ji Gong followers.
When asked about the issue, Feng said: “That is my personal belief and it is a matter of freedom of religion, which is a universal value for humanity.”
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