Friday, November 12, 2010

Dr Ketty Chen: Democracy Threatened in Taiwan

The amazing Dr. Ketty Chen had a potent commentary in the Taipei Times today. An excerpt:

Public outrage ensued after a notice from the Ministry of Education surfaced requesting that National Taiwan University “reflect and improve the content of its PTT Gossip board.”

Minister of Education Wu Ching-ji (吳清基) vehemently denied that the ministry was attempting to interfere with freedom of speech on the Internet. However, Wu’s refusal to retract the notice in question, after the massive public outcry, reflects the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration’s position on stifling the most basic and universally recognized human rights — freedom for individuals to think, believe, speak, publish, inquire, associate and be informed.

The notice to the university and the legal threats an Internet user faced after making a spoof of a campaign video by KMT Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強), who is seeking the top job in the to-be-formed Greater Taichung special municipality, only added to the series of civil rights violations under President Ma Ying-Jeou’s (馬英九) administration.

I blogged on the apparent assault on NTU's popular bulletin board system here.

As I have discussed in the past, Taiwan has a High Context Culture where everyone knows what is expected of them without having to be told explicitly. The Ministry letter about political speech appears to be a good example of this culture at work. A friend flipped me a few notes about that missive and graciously consented to me posting them on the blog:
1. The phrase "乾淨的園地" is used on many cleansing campaigns during early White Terror Era. The KMT saw anything that might infringe upon its legitimacy to rule as dirty. The same phrase was also used on radio and TV stations to clean-up Taiwanese TV drama as well as Taiwanese songs and replace them with Peking Opera (which the KMT labeled as National Opera) and Mandarin shows. The current administration was now aiming to create a clean and comfortable environment for citizens to enjoy. The cleansing efforts were well-documented. I don't think one should just glide over the phrase "to create a cleaner environment", since it has more serious implications knowing the history of Taiwan.

2. The command "請查照" was often used by the Garrison Command as well as other KMT law enforcement apparatus when demanding other government or civilian organizations to do what it wanted. It literally means please investigate and act accordingly. MOE wasn't reminding NTU, it is demanding something to be done.
Interesting, eh?
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Okami said...

Uh, there just now getting the message that democracy is threatened?!?!

Cue appropriate "Casablanca" paraphrase of "I'm shocked that there is gambling going on here!"

I'm sure the new immigrants from China will be good citizens however.

MJ Klein said...

"Taiwan ex-president gets 19 years in prison"

i'm confused. didn't Chen just get off because of a lack of evidence?

Scott said...


I'll be interested to see what Clinton says and does in Taiwan. But I hope bozos like Newt just stay home.

I need a little help undersdtanding this:

I followed the "high context culture" wiki link, because I don't recall seeing that term before.

So... how is TX "higher context" than NY??? Or maybe this one of those terms that means precisely what a person wants it to mean?

"...Likewise, a stereotypical individual from Texas (a higher context culture) may communicate more with a few words or use of a prolonged silence, than a stereotypical New Yorker who is being very explicit, despite both being part of a culture which is overall of lower-context..."

Anonymous said...

Well, the thing is that most of us, the Formosan and the 1949-er alike, have been through the repression, i.e. the whilte terror. Yet, this administration was elected in 2008 to have another opportunity to do it all over again.
Demoncracy needs to be learned, needs to be gudied by a mentor who's at least has gone through such experiences.
Is the Chinese regime capable of being a mentor?
Did Roosevelt, or later Truman know how these bunch of Chinese would have done such a thing to a people who's been through many a colonial power?

Marc said...


High and low context are terms created by the American cultural anthropologist, Edward T. Hall. His attempt to broadly classify cultural behavior led him to choose these concepts as a way to differentiate between densely networked and compartmentalized relationships.

These ideas were strongly influenced by his time living with the Navajo many, many years ago.

Hall's ideas are still very controversial, and some think they're too simplistic. He responded to his critics by stating that no culture is exclusively high or low, and that national cultures respond variably to given situations.

Readin said...

Regarding china's claim to taiwan, Gingrich said,"They are self-deluding. They are claiming territorial rights a thousand miles away from the Chinese border ...territorial rights in areas that clearly no one is going to recognize in the international arena. And I think it helps the Chinese in the long run for us to be firm and direct in our rejection of their pretentions."

I think I would rather see Gingrich in Taiwan.

jerome in vals said...

Anon 6:43pm wrote:
"Is the Chinese regime capable of being a mentor?

Unthinkable. In 1946, Gov. Chen Yi submited that Formosans were too unsophisticated to benefit from a newly promulgated ROC constitution. In the early 2000s, Hu Jintao told American journalists that Chinese were not yet educated enough for democracy.

If the Chinese are not ready for democracy how could Chinese leaders figure it out for themselves? Conversely, Formosans, who were civilized in a law-abiding Japanese way, helped the Chinese learn some. Or so one could have assumed until the KMT was resurected once more on Formosa in 2008.

Did Roosevelt, or later Truman know how these bunch of Chinese would have done such a thing to a people who's been through many a colonial power?"

Yes, they had inklings of it. Read George Kerr. They had at least a four-year experience of the Chinese theater of war. When asked by Eleanor Roosevelt how the KMT dealt with opponents, Madam Chiang née Song grimly drew a finger across her throat.

Many of the war-crimes blamed on the Japanese occupier, such as the blowing up of the Yellow River dykes in summer 1938, turned out to have actually been either ordered by CKS or, and I would submit, like Nanjing, abaited by him.

CKS never flinched at slaughtering his own in a war of attrition meant to ensnare the American public opinion behind him. That is the origin of Larkey Ma's "gullible Americans" quip.

But, with an eye on the Chinese market, F. D. Roosevelt and to a lesser extent, a reluctant Truman chose to pretend coddling an undeserving vassal, by rewarding him with a spoil of war.

Foreign News: This Is the Shame
Monday, Jun. 10, 1946, TIME

Is it offensive to tar the war-time Chinese leadership with war crimes blamed on the occupier?

Please read Robert Capa's autobiographical "Slightly Out Of Focus". In it, R. Capa dedicates only a paragraph or two to a stint he made on the Chinese war front in summer 1938. He saw combat at Taierzhuang and Guangzhou.

And he, who knows first hand of the things going on in a war zone, recalls his contempt at how both belligerants behaved. A French, British or American army confronted to the Chinese military would not have fared better than the Japanese. The Chinese military deserved their foe. Too bad for the civilians caught in between.