By Joe Hung
Wang Dan, the most visible student leader in the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, is leaving for the United States next month after teaching Chinese history at two of Taiwan’s most prestigious national universities for eight years. Before saying goodbye, he warned on the eve of the 27th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre that Taiwan shouldn’t talk about independence unless the people are ready to die for the cause.
“If not ready to shed blood, don’t talk about independence,” he wrote in his Facebook home page, adding: “It’ll be nothing but trash talk. The braver Taiwan is, the less the Chinese Communists will dare to attack, because the cost will become too high to bear.”
As a matter of fact, Wang’s view on the problem of Chinese unification versus Taiwan independence is just one-dimensional. That’s why he has been criticized for provoking anti-brotherly emotional sentiments of the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to the extent that he is charged with cursing “other people’s children (Taiwan’s youth) should die innumerably.”
Most of the people of Taiwan haven’t experienced war, but somehow know the cruelty of war and fear it. That has been reflected in the results of public opinion surveys on unification versus independence since President Lee Teng-hui started a brief entente between Taiwan and China in 1992. Support for independence is always low, while a great majority of the people wants to keep the status quo and expects the cross-strait political disparities to be peacefully solved in the future. War has never been an option. Wang’s view is out of touch with reality. As the people of Taiwan have been baptized by democratization, it is only natural that they want to be the masters of their own country. It’s a problem that is on the different plane with Taiwan’s independence. Those people who place Taiwan’s interest above all else do not necessarily support its de facto independence. Isn’t it possible that Wang Dan has been misled by a few people with an ulterior motive to believe peaceful coexistence with the People’s Republic is equal to Taiwan’s submission to Beijing’s pressure? To love Taiwan, one has to take an extraordinarily hard-line stance vis-a-vis China. The fact is that Wang gets “Taiwan identity” and the “call for Taiwan independence” all mixed up. Hence, he has a fantasy about independence of Taiwan. He is convinced that if Taiwan becomes independent, Beijing’s claim of legality to rule Taiwan will be automatically annulled — so much so that he ignores the irreplaceability of peace across the strait. Moreover, Wang has misinterpreted the history of Taiwan. He emphasizes the Feb. 28 Incident of 1947 and the subsequent “White Terror” as the starting point of Taiwan’s democratization but ignores other important historical facts to tell the truth of Taiwan’s history. The massacre of thousands of innocent people 70 years ago sired a new Taiwan independence movement but it isn’t the only historical fact that tells the truth of history. There are other historical occurrences from 1945 to 1949 to mark the beginning of Taiwan’s democratization. One of them is Taiwan’s first ever island-wide local elections during the same period.