Translated Excerpts from Lung Ying-tai's Melbourne Speech
You may know that certain of my more important essays are submitted for publishing to six different places. That is to say, I will send the same essay to a newspaper in Taipei, a newspaper in Hong Kong, a newspaper in Malaysia, a newspaper in Singapore and a newspaper in the USA. To the extent that it is publishable, I will also send it to mainland China's Southern Weekend or similar newspapers. After coming to Melbourne this time, I wonder if I can send the essays to seven places, with Melbourne Daily News being the seventh target. However, I charge a royalty!
Sending one essay to six different places represents a very strange phenomenon. At a minimum, it shows that wherever there are Chinese communities, then there are common points of attention. But it also represents the opposite meaning, which says that these six Chinese-language communities are isolated from each other. When I was in Europe, I could write in English and then send it to a newspaper in Frankfurt (Germany), and in turn it gets translated into Scandinavian languages. But I could not possibly submit the same essay to a newspaper in Zurich, a newspaper in Frankfurt and a newspaper in Vienna. Those three cities are connected without any obstacles because they are in the German-language world. People in Frankfurt can read the Zurich newspapers, and the people in Zurich often read the Frankfurt or Vienna newspapers. Therefore, I cannot submit the same essay to multiple newspapers, because those newspapers will not allow it.
In the Chinese-language world, you can obviously submit the same essay to different places. On one hand, this shows that they have common points of attention. On the other hand, one fundamental reason why this is possible is that these places are isolated from each other. The mainland Chinese readers do not read Taiwan newspapers and the Taiwan people do not read mainland Chinese newspapers. Hong Kong people do not read Taiwan newspapers and Taiwan people do not read Hong Kong newspapers. Even more peculiar is the situation of Malaysia and Singapore. They shared a certain common history, and Singapore only became independent in the last forty years. What is separating them? They are on the same peninsula, but the newspapers of Singapore and Malaysia do not reach each other. They are not allowed to be sold. You cannot buy the other side's newspapers on this side. If Lung Ying-tai's essays are treated as a standard, then their appearance in six difference places actually highlight the isolation of the Chinese-language communities from each other and the barriers that have been deliberately erected to cause this. This is a very peculiar phenomenon. This means that there is very little understanding among these six places about each other; instead, there is a lot of political sub-texts and overtones. Just as we are reaching into the era in which globalization is achieving its greatest impact, these six places are still isolated from each other.
Next, I want to talk about why I want to write essays.
When the same essay is published in six different Chinese communities, it will gradually reveal that the reactions are different, because the communities have different understandings of their histories and their values are also very different. When your understanding of the word 'motherland' are always different from each other, you will have different feelings about an essay. For example, in 2004, there was the so-called "shooting incident" during the presidential election. One might say that the world was stunned, they thought Taiwan democracy was a joke! how can democracy be like this? this is really awful; the so-called democracy in Taiwan is a fake, etc. One month after the shooting incident, I wrote an essay in defense of Taiwan democracy. There was one section that I want to use as an example to show the different reactions. In that section, I wrote that I once felt that I was a kidnapped citizen and the dictatorship of Chiang Kai-shek made me unable to raise my head when I studied in the western world. But Chiang did not make me 'endorse' him. People from mainland China may not understand the meaning of the word 'endorse.' 'Endorsement' means that I give you my signature to attest that you are doing right. How shall I explain? When you sign your name on the back of a check, that is called 'endorsement.' Even though they did not have my endorsement, they still represented me to the world. At the time, I had not imagined that I would still be a kidnapped citizen even after democracy arrived in Taiwan. For four years, Chen Shui-bian used the opposition to China to consolidate his own political power and used ethnic confrontation to grab votes. Everything here is against my understanding of the principles of democracy. But still this government represented me in the world. While it does not feel good to be kidnapped by politicians, at least this made us aware of what had happened. Chen Shui-bian truly manipulated the Chinese demon card to win power, but he did have popular support. No matter how you count the votes, he had enough votes. But even as Chen Shui-bian manipulated populism, we must remember the roots of the problem and they are the totalitarian rule of China, the military threat against China and the international pressure. Those are the true sources of pain for Taiwan. Chen Shui-bian may have totally messy accomplishments, his credibility may be clouded with doubt, his policies may be dishonest and inconsistent, and national development may be stuck in the same place for long periods of time, but as long as the threat from the totalitarian Chinese Communists exists, the people feel that they must unite under Chen's will to confront the common enemy. Meanwhile, questions about accomplishments, credibility, policy uncertainties and democratic progress are considered to be treason. Therefore, the reason why I was successfully kidnapped by Chen Shui-bian was due to the threat by the totalitarian Chinese Communists against Taiwan democracy.
That was a very long essay, whose words drew two types of extreme reactions. I would like to share them with you. This essay drew a large number of emails. I will read some of them of you. First, there is a letter from a reader in Taiwan. He said: Professor Lung, I'm almost 40 years old. When I was small, my deepest memory was when a group of men wearing dark suits barged into my home and took my father away. He returned a month later but he was a changed man. Until I was thirty years old, I still had nightmares. In the nightmares, I was being chased and hunted. In the dream, I kept running away, I did not know when I stopped and I did not know what I did wrong. I have been a lover of books when I was young. When I entered society, I worked very hard and I have achieved something. When I look back at myself, I refuse to jump into the China mess. This is a hypocritical society in which people don't say what they mean, people fight each other and people put on the best exterior pose. I have not cried for a long time. When Chen Shui-bian was elected, it was the first time that I cried in twenty years and I cried like a baby. Ms. Lung, Chen Shui-bian did not kidnap me. He is me. We are all sons of Taiwan and we want to create a society without fear. He signed his name as "Your former reader fan XXX." That was one reaction.
The second reaction from a Taiwan reader was: "Ms. Lung, I read from your <Wild Fire Collection> to <One Hundred Years of Reflection> but nothing moved me like your essay in defense of Taiwan democracy. Tears were streaming out. I used to think that the Chinese people are unfit for democracy. At one point, I practically hoped that things would be fine under the system of Chinese Communism in which China would be united, the Taiwan people would not have to fear war and live under American oppression. But is there any hope if Taiwan abandons its imperfect democratic system for Chinese Communist rule? I have my doubts. When I was young, I was poor. I am wealthy today. I do not want my children to go through hardship again. I cannot emigrate and I do not want to emigrate. If hardship cannot be avoided, then it cannot be avoided. You saw how many people died during the Cultural Revolution. We may go through war again, but it would be fate if that happens. We only want to live in peaceful times. Who cares what kind of system it is? This is practically a desperate call from me. A reader in Taiwan."
And then there is the reaction from the last Taiwan reader: "I do not think that there is anything good coming from Taiwan independence, but it is emotionally impossible to unify. The issue is best handled by maintaining the status quo. I only want to see the people live peacefully. They say that we will get international respect when Taiwan goes independent. I don't feel that this kind of respect is all that important. After I traveled overseas, I saw how big the world was and I felt even more so that it was unwise to create tensions in cross-strait relationship with our small area, the constrained circumstances and the brash people. I know from my heart that this piece of land is inseparable from the warm love for Chinese culture. From when I was young, I learned Chinese history, I memorized the classical essays and Tang poems, I loved the novels of Jin Rong, and I look outwards towards the three mountains, five peaks, Yellow River and Yangtze River without anyone forcing me to love them. You say that this was Kuomintang propaganda? But they are my natural interests. I loved to read books since I was young. My bookshelves are filled with Chinese history books, folklores, Tang and Song dynasty poetry. I have never doubted that I am Chinese, that I used the Chinese language, that I am immersed in Chinese culture, that I have the blood of the Chinese people who work hard and accept their fates. I can do pretty calligraphy, I can write fluent prose, I like to use traditional characters. But I was also born in Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan, I speak the Minnan dialect, I return to watch my uncle's crop-sowing each year. I love every blade of grass and every tree here, because this is where I was born and these are the people that I know. Two years ago, I went to work in Shanghai. There are many places and people that I can be close to in Shanghai, and I can communicate with them. After knowing them for some time, we began to discuss the poets Li Po and Su Shi. I like their forthrightness, but in the end I feel that there is still some kind of barrier between us because we came from different places and we grew up differently. In my heart, I am always proud to be Taiwanese. I feel that compared to them, we have a free life, an open mind, democratic qualities and a promising future." This was the response from another Taiwan reader. Three very typical ones.
Next we have the mainland Chinese readers. You know what kind of response that might be. (Laughter from the audience). I only chose the representative ones. My essay referred to "our Chinese-language world." His first reaction was to object to my use of the Chinese-language world to include Taiwan and Hong Kong. He wrote: "Lung Ying-tai wrote something that I completely disagree with in the first paragraph. Lung Ying-tai said that the Chinese-language world included mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Singapore and other places. Actually, only China and Singapore are independent sovereign countries. Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan have been Chinese territories since antiquity. Lung Ying-tai is deliberately evading this reality. If Lung Ying-tai does not admit that Taiwan is Chinese territory, then I say that Lung Ying-tai is a Chinese traitor and a Taiwan independence element."
The second one: "I admire Mr. Lung Ying-tai's essay but nevertheless I will have to advise her: If I were Taiwanese, if I still want to enjoy democracy in Taiwan, if I can tolerate the ascension of a politician such as Chen Shui-bian and if I still want to defend the so-called democracy in Taiwan, then I would be condemning the autocracy and lack of democracy on mainland China. Mr. Lung Ying-tai may not understand that if the people on mainland China could enjoy freedom of press and democratic governance, then when Lee Teng-hui challenged mainland China in 1996, when he spoke about Taiwan independence in 1999, when Chen Shui-bian was elected in 2000, when the claim that there was one nation on each of the strait was made in 2002 and when the referendum was held in 2003, mainland China would have sent its military forces eastwards already. Why would they have waited for the two bullets to sent Chen Shui-bian back in charge again? Lung Ying-tai would not need to defend Taiwan democracy anymore. In truth, Taiwan made it this far only because of the totalitarianism and lack of democracy on mainland China."
Another reader wrote: "If the two sides of the strait continue on like this, disaster will strike. The media say that 46% of mainlanders support unification by force. I inform Mister Lung about an even more shocking number: 90% of young people support unification by force. 99.9% of mainlanders agree with unification. This is a force of history which nobody can stop. When our generation was born, unification was etched into our bones. The mainland compatriots will pay any price to complete this historical mission."
The next one is very typical: "Lung Ying-tai, how old are you? Although I don't want to change my lifestyle, I will still ask to be sent into the battlefield if Taiwan wants to become independent. Taiwan belongs to China, not to the Taiwan independent movement. Anyone who wants to separate Taiwan from China is an enemy of the Chinese people. Old Lung, how do you think an enemy should be treated? Of course, you want to eliminate him, destroy him, and annihilate him. They can go somewhere else outside of Taiwan and clamor for independence. We don't care. When women grow old, they get silly; you are no exception."
Here is another one from a middle-school student. I can visualize a 15 or 16 year old boy with a soft voice. He wrote: "Auntie Lung, how are you? I read your essay. I agree with parts and disagree with other parts. I thank you. First of all, I am a firm supporter of unification by force. Frankly speaking, if I were the commander of the military forces, I would have chopped up the body of the scum Chen Shui-bian and fed the pieces to dogs. This is the common thought of all our students. Please do not accuse me of being too extreme. Some fellow students are even willing to give up their lives to die with this scum in order to achieve peace of mind. Secondly, concerning the reasons that was said about to love and not to love, I only have one: I will always love our Chinese people. Always." Signed: "A person with conscience."
But these are not the only voices, for there was one voice which comforted me a great deal. He wrote: "Esteemed Professor Lung Ying-tai, I read your new work at Phoenix Net today. I was immensely stunned, because many of my concepts that I regarded as obvious were totally destroyed by your commentary. As an example, I always thought that it was proper for a person to give up his life for certain ideals and there was no way to decline. In considering it again now, this is no longer the case. I would still demand myself to do so, but I will remember to ask my fellows if they are really willing to make the same sacrifice with me. I would be very elated if he tells me that he will fight by my side. But I will accept his refusal with calm and I will not hold it against him." I am quite elated about his.
But before my elation subsided, another email came in. Only these sentences: "I think that you ought to use the Taiwanese language instead, because you insult the Chinese ancestors when you use the Chinese language. When we recover Taiwan, I will massacre your whole family. Scum!"
One essay. Two places. So many thoroughly different reactions. These are the more serious and more extreme ones.
But the conclusion that I want to make is this: when contemplating how one essay can arouse different (and even completely opposing) reactions, we can see that the people on the two sides are completely opposite to each other on certain core values. If these values persist to oppose each other, there is only path for history to move down -- that is the path to war.