Teresa Shih's Open Letter to Her Father

Shih Ming-teh is currently leading a public campaign to bring down President Chen Shui-bian in Taiwan.  Teresa Shih is the daughter of Shih-Ming-teh.  She wrote an open letter to her father.  The letter is translated below.

(Liberty Times)  October 9, 2006.

(in translation)

This is a difficult piece of writing and is perhaps the most difficult piece of writing that I have done since I began creative writing at 15.  In the midst of the roar of the red tide and the blossoming of flowers everywhere, I wondered how I can let Father understand my initial and my ultimate hopes.

I sit on a stone bench in front of the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall, with a notebook computer on my lap.  The sky is full of flying kites, and your only granddaughter is weaving through the crowd in the bicycle that she has just learned to ride.  Compared to the passions on Ketagalan Avenue, the time/space in which I am writing this seems to belong to a different world.

But is that really so?  Does bringing one's child to play in front of the Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall mean that one is not a citizen of Taiwan, or one does not care about the current situation in Taiwan?  I don't think that it should be defined this way, just as not wearing red clothes does not mean that you are opposed to anti-corruption and you support Ah Bian.  Are such simple classifications too brash?  Is Taiwan really entering a polarized world of either black or white?

Could President Chen Shui-bian be just a symbol?  Would anyone else with the title of President end up in the same way?  Could it be that the present constitutional system is the root cause of the present chaos in Taiwan?  Could it be that we have much greater hope on the Democratic Progressive Party government than the Kuomintang which hadn't changed for fifty years?

Yet, the same system did not lead to a different government!  This should be expected, but now there is causing big trouble.

When the Democratic Progressive Party first assumed power, the people were expecting a completely different and fresh new government.  But six years later, we see that the flaws in the Chen Shui-bian government were the same ones inherited from the government of the Chiang family and the Lee government.  The problems with the special funds of the Taipei City mayor also exist among all the county and city mayors across Taiwan without exception.  Perhaps the people of Taiwan can understand that the President cannot tell everybody about everything that he does, but the people of Taiwan cannot accept the Chen Shui-bian government which carried all the fresh expectations is committing the same errors.

So who then is responsible for this tragedy?  Is it President Chen Shui-bian?  Is it the Democratic Progressive Party?  Is it the Kuomintang?  Is it human greed?  Is it the stupidity within the system?  We see instead numerous Taiwan citizens suffering from this tragedy, and I believe that my pioneering father must be heartbroken as well from seeing this.

When I see the red figures on Ketagalan Avenue, time seems to rush back to the fierce fire torches in the streets of Kaohsiung twenty-seven years ago.  The fires back then lit up democracy and freedom in Taiwan, so that Father can appear as a veteran general today once again to lead hundreds of thousands of people in front of the Presidential Office to bravely express the disappointment of the people and the will to oppose corruption.

Yet when the heroic slogans are combined with the local clashes and the extreme polarization, we wonder if the democracy that was hard-earned from twenty-seven years of hard work may disintegrate in a single day?  I don't understand why wearing red clothes does not mean anti-Bian but it can only mean anti-corruption, while not wearing red clothes does not mean pro-Bian but it can also mean a fervent desire for peace in Taiwan.  These two forces ought to be conceptually similar, so why should they rip Taiwan into a life-or-death hatred?

Is it because on this piece of land, there are too many irreconcilable historical hatreds, or because people don't want to reconcile?  We can observe with seemingly no alternative that people oppose in order to oppose, resist in order to resist, corruption cases are never resolved cleanly, legislation affecting people's livelihood never gets passed, the rich/poor wealth gap is increasing, the number of suicides is rising yearly, ... what can the people of Taiwan do?  What kind of government will we elect in 2008?  Or shall I say, what kind of new government can we expect under the same system?

After Ah-Bian is gone, will Taiwan really enter a new epoch?  Does bringing down the Chen Shui-bian government solve all of the problems?  To skirt the legal and political processes to dump Ah-Bian via protests is setting up a precedent.  There is no guarantee that someone will not find reasons for dissatisfaction to do the same thing against the new president elected in 2008.  Could it be that when the next generation grows up, Ketagalan Avenue will always be filled with people demanding the president to quit?  We have naively believed that the alternation of political party rule can solve all the problems.  But after these six years, we understand with bitterness that all the root sources lead to a deeper truth -- the outcomes are determined by the constitutional system, and it is this truth that is making us unable to move.

At the level of the economy, a corrupt and rotten government is something that both farmers and laborers demand first and foremost to have reforms to clean out.  We all remember that in the past two years, the farmers and laborers have issued many condemnations and howls against the Chen Shui-bian government.  But the red tide let us see the exact opposite situation -- most of the grassroots working class are trying to use different voices to defend this government.  Can it be that they don't oppose corruption?  Do they want their hard-earned money be spent in unaccountable ways?

In the past 27 years, it has been a winding and hard journey for this land and the people who grew up here!  Their nervous fear is that the hard-won democratic rule may vanish!  Democracy, freedom and the rule of law are not exclusive rights of high intellectuals.  Democracy, freedom and the rule of law are basic spiritual values that everybody shares.   The reason why the grassroots working class wants to wave flags and cheer to oppose the red tide is not because they tolerate a corrupt government, but because they long deeply for a more complete Taiwan and they are even more afraid of losing the long-suffering mother known as Taiwan.

The revision or building of the constitution is a difficult subject to broach, because it always involves the confrontation between the opposing views of unification and independence.  We all want a beautiful Taiwan after this problem has been thoroughly solved.  We don't want to take a risk as if we are betting on a Russian roulette each time.  How much disappointment can the people of Taiwan endure with each new president and each new government?

Who can help the people of Taiwan to get a perfect and beautiful Taiwan?  Who is willing to accept the responsibility for this difficult challenge?

When I observe Father's ability to arouse response on Ketagalan Avenue, I think that if we can also calmly consider the similarities and differences among us, then perhaps this force can produce a new system for Taiwan -- a constitutional system that is excellent and fits Taiwan!  Can you please stop your footsteps and consider briefly and examine the deepest corner of our consciences?  Or perhaps you can walk a little further and ask whether you need to dump Ah-Bian or use your public charisma to help Taiwan come up with an appropriate constitutional system.  I think that this is the basic responsibility of a pioneer, and this is also what Father has previously advocated.

This is a hard step.  For Father, for the Democratic Progressive Party, for the Kuomintang and even for the people of Taiwan, it will not be easy.  But for Father and this piece of land known as Taiwan, an even more difficult road has been traversed already, right or not?  Right now, Taiwan needs more tolerance, embrace and the alertness to explore the nature of the problems.

But I am not especially alert.  From another point of view, the so-called family members of political victims are also political victims themselves.  I and many other people will carry the same burden for the rest of our lives about the years of darkness.  We have the same longing for Taiwan, for tolerance towards different groups and for absolute sensitivity about hatred.

In my life, 'Father' was always only a descriptive term, because you were never by my side.  Yet within the infinite solitude and the unaided explorations, I am proud that I have the opportunity to dedicate my father to the people of Taiwan and to democracy, freedom and rule of law in Taiwan.  It was like this twenty-seven years ago, and it is no different twenty-seven years later today.  I sincerely hope that Taiwan will once again see the blossoming of democratic flowers in Taiwan, and I hope even more that Father will assume this heavy burden at this critical moment!

Due to popular demand from netizens in mainland China, here is the original in simplified Chinese: