Sunday, March 19, 2006

Family, Censorship and the Culture of Silence in Taiwan

A sensitive article from a Taiwanese about how censorship affected her family.

After the Chinese Communist Revolution in 1949, the Nationalists enacted martial law in Taiwan. Much in the same way that the Chinese government censors topics such as Tiananmen Square and Tibet, the Nationalist government of Taiwan repressed the 228 Incident in history books. Two generations of Taiwanese -- including my father and me -- were taught little about Taiwanese history. No one I knew seemed to care.

Fearful that this information would bring retribution, my grandfather kept silent for many years. A few years before he died, my grandfather tried to tell my father about the 228 Incident, but because it was censored in the media, textbooks and literature, my father refused to believe him.

"I didn't want to listen to him," my father later told me. "Our school education made me very patriotic, so I had no interest in hearing about that kind of criticism of the government at all."

The election of a pro-independence president in 2000 led to an active effort to change textbooks in Taiwan and open discussion about Taiwanese history. Only then did I realize how censorship had caused an irreparable rift in my family.


Kanwa-Kyudai said...

You should be very careful when things swing from one extreme to the other. A new regime surely throw some light on dark side in the past but often rewrite, distort and exaggerate its history in favor of the present authority.

In case of Japan, the postwar democratic regime denied almost all the values in the older generation whether they were good or not. It wasn't bad for Japan to reconstruct, but its people lost something such as Samurai spirit at the same time.

Tim Maddog said...

Great find, Michael, especially with it being behind a headline reading "Censorship Affects Families, Not Just Google’s Bottomline in China" and with the author conflating Taiwan with China. From the middle of the 11th paragraph on, I thought I was reading a different article.

Taiwan's Other Side said...

Amazing - you actually managed to find a person that thinks that the rewriting of textbooks was a good thing. That couldn't possibly be because the author is living outside Taiwan, could it?

Surely it's a great thing to rewrite textbooks based upon political ideology, lower textbook standards and create a windfall for connected publishers and hitting parents' pocketbooks? I mean, how could you possibly disagree with that?