Saturday, April 23, 2005

Lee Teng Hui III

“Life is nothing but a competition to be the criminal, rather than the victim.”
Bertrand Russell

Not long ago, on the very euphoric day when a million Taiwanese took to the streets to march against the Anti – Secession Law, retired Chi Mei Electronics CEO Hsu Wen Long came out publicly in favor of the CCP's one China policy. Hsu had previously been a supporter of the DPP, but he found that his company drew the exceptionally assiduous attention of a medley of tax auditors and regulators in the mainland. At the prescribed moment for maximal public relations impact, came his auto-da-fe.

The earnest Westerner in me wants to see a statement of principles made, and suffered for, if necessary. Everybody likes a good gallows speech. It's notable, however, that neither Lee Teng Hui nor VP Lu Xiu Lian held Hsu to blame for his statement (Lu, I believe, owes singer A-Mei an apology for criticizing her for making exactly the same choice as Hsu). Taiwanese memory of 2-28, (and to a large extent, Taiwanese language) existed “underground”, as it were, for forty years before re-emerging in the 1990's. But it's not only Asians who can be patient. Conor Cruise O'Brien's masterful treatment of the life of Edmund Burke,“The Great Melody” convincingly makes the case that Burke's father (and likely Burke) were Irish Catholics who were essentially forced to convert to Anglicanism by the stringency of laws against Catholics. They lived double lives, adhering to the Anglican faith in public, while remaining Catholics in their hearts. In the meantime, they got an awful lot done. Burke endured the withering criticism of skeptics who all along suspected his family's conversion. They were correct, in precisely the way that the 1990 protesters were correct about Lee. Straightforwardness is a luxury of the empowered; remembering, and waiting, is what the disenfranchised do.

It is well to keep in mind when observing the pan-Blues go for their meetings with the CCP that an entire generation of Taiwanese grew up under a KMT martial law regime whose justification was that it was necessary to defend the ROC from the communists. People came to the notice of authorities for advocating Taiwanese identity or democracy, but when the knock came at the door at three in the morning, they were taken off to jail for the crime of supporting the communists. This lie defined the lives of Lee Teng Hui's generation. Lien Chan is coming clean on that now, just as clearly as Lee came clean on who he was after the 2000 election. It's something to keep in mind the next time you hear Lee called a liar. Maybe. But for those of us who care about a democratic future for Asia, we're glad he's on our side.