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ARATS man jostled, jeered at in Tainan

CRUTCH ATTACK: Pro-Taiwan activists took exception to Zhang Mingqing’s tour of a local temple and he ended up on the ground, while his vehicle was stomped on

By Ko Shu-ling, Jimmy Chuang And Flora Wang
Wednesday, Oct 22, 2008, Page 1


“Such violent behavior not only infringes on human rights but also runs against the wish of the peoples on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Only uncivilized people do such a thing. A civilized society governed by the rule of law would never allow such violence to happen again.”— Zhang Mingqing, Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait vice chairman

Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Vice Chairman Zhang Mingqing loses his glasses and falls as he is jostled during a scuffle with pro-Taiwan protesters during a visit to the Confucius Temple in Tainan yesterday.



Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Vice Chairman Zhang Mingqing (張銘清) was jostled and jeered by pro-Taiwan politicians and activists yesterday morning during a private visit to the Confucius Temple in Tainan City, ending up on the ground before he was hustled into his car and his car attacked by protesters.

Zhang announced last night that he would leave for home this morning, two days ahead of schedule.

TV footage showed Tainan City Councilor Wang Ding-yu (王定宇) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) shouting “Taiwan wants independence” and “Taiwan is not part of China” during a shoving match with Zhang, who fell to the ground, losing his glasses. But it was not clear if Zhang tripped or was pushed down.

A protester wearing a green headband and black T-shirt with green letters and characters reading “Taiwan Team” and “Save Taiwan” then climbed onto the roof of the car Zhang was in and began jumping up and down. He then dropped to the hood of the car and began banging on it.

Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Vice Chairman Zhang Mingqing lies on the ground after falling during a confrontation with pro-Taiwan protesters at the Confucius Temple in Tainan yesterday.



Two more protesters followed his assault while an older woman tried to smash the windshield with her crutch as another man looked on, clapping his hands.

The Presidential Office, Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄), Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Chairwoman Lai Shin-yuan (賴幸媛) and Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) all expressed regret over the incident at the temple and condemned the harassment and violent behavior.

Democratic Progressive Party Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen, center, joins taxi drivers protesting against falling government subsidies outside the legislature in Taipei yesterday. Tsai urged the drivers to join a major anti-government demonstration scheduled for this Saturday.



Zhang arrived in Taipei on Sunday at the head of a 21-member academic delegation to attend a forum in Tainan. After protests at the forum on Monday, Zhang’s scheduled public appearances yesterday and today were canceled. He was on a private tour of the temple when the brouhaha erupted.

He had been targeted earlier at another historical site in Tainan by protesters led by DPP City Councilor Lee Wen-cheng (李文正).

Zhang later told reporters: “Those who commit violence do not get what they want, but instead drop a rock on their own feet.”

“Such violent behavior not only infringes on human rights but also runs against the wish of the peoples on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. Only uncivilized people do such a thing. A civilized society governed by the rule of law would never allow such violence to happen again.”

Zhang said the incident might scare off some potential Chinese tourists, but he would encourage Chinese to visit Taiwan, including ARATS Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), because they might be better protected.

“Then my sacrifice would be worth it,” he said.

When asked to comment on President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) comment that there would not be a war in the Taiwan Strait in the next four years, Zhang said there will never be war in the Strait if there is no Taiwan independence.

Zhang filed assault charges with Tainan police over the incident.

Wang Ding-wu, who was summoned for questioning after the charges were filed, said that Zhang fell because he stumbled over a tree trunk.

Presidential Office Spokesman Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) denounced the “violent behavior of a few individuals” but declined to comment on whether the incident would affect a planned trip to Taiwan by Chen.

“We should demonstrate the democratic bearing of the Taiwanese people and treat our guests with peace and sanity,” Wang Yu-chi said. “It is not our way to treat guests with violence, nor does it conform to the core values of the Taiwanese.”

Describing the incident as an isolated case, Wang said that he did not think it “would affect the development of cross-strait relations.”

He said the government would ensure Chen’s safety during his visit, which will reportedly take place at the end of this month or early next month.

“It is our responsibility,” Wang said. “We will not let it happen again.”

However, he said that there was no plan to ask the National Security Bureau (NSB) to protect Chen during his trip.

Although some people have demanded that Zhang apologize for China’s tainted milk powder scandal, Wang said it was “unbelievable to demand that Zhang apologize under such circumstances” and that “the public will be the final judge of the matter.”

Meanwhile, the premier said that “any use of violence should be condemned” during a question-and-answer exchange with DPP Legislator Hsueh Ling (薛凌) at the legislature.

“Civilized Taiwanese should not treat guests this way,” Liu said.

“Zhang came to Taiwan to participate in professional exchanges. [His visit] should not be politicized,” he said.

In response to Hsueh’s demand that the government rethink the planned meeting between Chiang and Chen, Liu said the government would pay extra attention to Chen’s safety.

“We hope the Chiang-Chen meeting will be smooth and successful,” he said, adding that the meeting would be arranged with reciprocity and dignity.

Chiang also said that the temple incident would not affect Chen’s trip and that Chen told him that the incident would not sway the effort by the SEF and the ARATS to advance cross-strait peace.

Chiang sent Tseng Chun-liang (曾淳良), director of the foundation’s Planning and Information Service Department, to visit Zhang.

The MAC also urged the public to treat guests with respect and promised to strengthen protection for Chen.

The National Police Agency (NPA) also promised to boost security for Zhang.

“It will be carried out immediately,” NPA Deputy Director-General I Yung-jen (伊永仁) told a press conference, although he did not provide details.

He said there had been a leak in security arrangements for Zhang and that the police agency would investigate.

He said that there were three plainclothes officers at the temple.

“Apparently they [the plainclothes detail] did not ask for back-up from local police. They did not react properly. We will figure out why they did not try to protect Zhang,” he said.

He said the police would ask prosecutors to summon those who allegedly attacked Zhang and damaged his vehicle.

Tainan City Police Department Chief Chen Fu-hsiang (陳富祥) also offered his apologies.

“I am so sorry for what happened and can promise the same mistakes will not be repeated,” he said.

Chen Fu-hsiang said that the man who jumped on Zhang’s vehicle and damaged it would be the first person brought in.

“We have identified him and will summon him soon,” he said.

The police chief was later demoted to highway patrol deputy.

Meanwhile, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chang Hsien-yao (張顯耀) said NSB Director Tsai Chao-ming (蔡朝明) promised to dispatch personnel to protect Zhang.

“This is an important lesson the NSB can learn from to ensure the safety of Chen Yunlin,” Chang said.

KMT caucus whip Lin Yi-shih (林益世) accused the DPP of resorting to violence in an attempt to incite cross-strait conflict or war.

Lin said the DPP was trying to legitimize the incident by portraying Zhang as an enemy.

He urged DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) to apologize for the incident, saying that the DPP had become a “party of gangsters.”

When asked for comment, KMT Legislator Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) described the protesters as “ridiculous” and “impolite.”

“We call ourselves a society of manners, but we resorted to violence,” Hung said, adding the incident would hurt Taiwan’s image.

Tsai said that she felt sorry about what had happened to Zhang.

“I do not know what actually happened,” she said when approached for comment at a seminar. “But I would urge DPP members to follow certain rules when protesting in the future.”

Tsai said it was up to the government to protect Chen Yunlin during his visit to Taiwan, but the Chinese official might want to reconsider his plans.

“Is his coming going to create more chaos? I think he should really think about it,” Tsai said.

DPP Legislator Yeh Yi-ching (葉宜津) said she was not surprised by the incident.

Yeh said the Chinese had hurt Taiwanese with the toxic milk powder and Taiwanese felt threatened by the missiles Beijing has aimed at Taiwan. Under the circumstances, it was understandable that Zhang would be humiliated or attacked when he came to Taiwan, she said.

“No one could tolerate seeing their enemy,” Yeh said.

But DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) expressed concern that such violent behavior would damage the DPP’s image and urged members of the party to keep calm.

“I am sorry for what happened to Zhang but I would still ask him to apologize to Taiwanese people for the toxic milk powder,” he said.



Chen Shui-bian’s staffers warn of protest death plot

By Ko Shu-ling
Wednesday, Oct 22, 2008, Page 1

Former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) office said yesterday it had received intelligence indicating that a man intended to assassinate Chen during a demonstration on Saturday organized by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and other pro-localization groups.

The office issued a statement saying that it was told on Monday that a former member of the “red shirt” anti-Chen campaign, who has a police record for manslaughter and breach of public safety, had threatened to kill Chen during Saturday’s rally.

“The National Security Bureau is aware of the intelligence and the police are closely monitoring the situation,” the statement said.

The office said that Saturday’s demonstration would be a lawful assembly aimed both at opposing inferior Chinese products and protecting Taiwan’s interests. Organizers said participants would demand compensation from China, ask President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to apologize and request that Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) step down.

The statement said Chen had made it clear he would not do anything that would deviate from the theme of the demonstration, nor would he make a speech. He said he would just be there to listen.

“Please look at the event rationally and respect individual rights and freedoms. People are entitled to express their different point of view,” the statement said.

“Please try to avoid any conflict or causing any trouble,” it said.

The office urged the security and intelligence agencies to be alert and prevent any illegal behavior during the protest.

The decision by Chen, who is embroiled in allegations of money laundering, to take part in the protest has divided the DPP and organizers. Some said the organizers should distance themselves from Chen, while others argued that Chen has every right to participate.

Meanwhile, Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) Chairman Huang Kun-huei (黃昆輝) said yesterday that former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) would not attend the protest.

Huang said that Lee had another engagement that day, a forum where he would talk about his thoughts on Ma’s China policy and the planned visit of Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林).

While the protest is set to begin at five separate locations, the TSU has said that Chen Shui-bian is not welcome on its route. The former president will be at the Dinghao Plaza because it is closer to his residence.




Listen to the voice

Danger in playing ethnicity card

By J. Michael Cole 寇謐將
Wednesday, Oct 22, 2008, Page 8

In the last years of former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration, critics accused the government of stoking “ethnic tensions” by drawing an imaginary line between ethnic Taiwanese — those who had inhabited this land for generations — and the Chinese who arrived in Taiwan after 1945, especially after the defeat of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) forces at the hands of the Communists.

Aside from the conscious decision by some DPP members to use the Hoklo language (commonly known as Taiwanese) in public rather than Mandarin, there were precious few incidents that could substantiate accusations that Chen and the DPP were seeking to score political points by creating an “ethnic” divide or an “us” versus “them” environment based on biology. Tensions did arise now and then, but they rarely boiled over and seldom transcended differences in political views.

Ironically, the election of the KMT’s Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) as president in March, followed by his subservient peace initiative with Beijing, threatens to turn the political differences that characterized the DPP era into a clash of “ethnicities” — albeit one more grounded in the “narcissism of small differences,” as psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud put it, than in genetic baggage.

History has shown that one should be extremely careful when using the terms “racial” and “ethnic” to describe or rationalize conflict. The concepts have time and again been exploited by groups whose real motivations have more to do with greed than “ethnic” grievances.

Despite the common reflex by specialists and journalists to paint the conflicts that devastated the Balkans in the 1990s and the numerous wars that rage across Africa in terms of “clans,” “race” and “ethnicity,” the underlying causes of most of those conflicts have either been land grabs and/or the capture of precious natural resources.

Even the Rwandan genocide of 1994, often seen as the epitome of “ethnic” conflict, had at its core elements of political maneuvering, competition over resources and thirst for power.

In fact, the Interahamwe, the perpetrators of the genocide, had to go to great lengths to depict their actions as stemming from “ethnic” conflict, using pseudoscientific criteria to distinguish Hutu from Tutsi.

Still, only through an effective and carefully planned propaganda campaign fueling “ethnic” tensions could the In­tera­hamwe have managed to turn a large swath of the Rwandan population into cold-blooded murderers.

After the war, the Tutsi government of Rwandan President Paul Kagame would in turn use the “ethnic” card to justify its military incursions, this time into its resource-rich neighbor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), purportedly to defend ethnic Tutsi from Hutu groups, including genocidaires who had fled there after their defeat in 1994.

The real reason for the presence of Rwandan soldiers in the DRC — though Kigali will deny this — is the natural resources that are found there, with “ethnicity” providing convenient cover.

More recently, Moscow rationalized its invasion of Georgia in similar fashion, arguing that it was protecting ethnic Russians in South Ossetia from “ethnic” Georgians.

There, too, natural resources (an oil pipeline route) played a predominant role in Moscow’s decision-making, as did geopolitics in the face of NATO encroachment on its perceived circle of influence and the deployment by the US of missile systems in its backyard.

Valid or not, the “ethnic” card was used to justify the invasion and may have played an important role in persuading Russians and their “ethnic” brethren in South Ossetia to back the war.

It is certain to make conflict resolution in that area more onerous for years to come, and the precedent set in August has ominous resonance in Ukraine, which also has a substantial ethnic Russian population.

While tensions among Taiwanese certainly haven’t reached the pitch that turns neighbor against neighbor in the manner of Rwanda or South Ossetia, there is growing potential for things to become a bit more ebullient, especially as a growing sector of society fears that the Ma administration may be making too many concessions to Beijing, or is downright capitulating.

Again, while the differences here are to a great extent political, budding demagogues on either side of the divide could be tempted to use the construct of “ethnicity” to stoke conflict.

Given the sad display of violence among DPP members last week, pitting pro-Chen elements against those who sought to distance themselves from the former president, or the physical assault on Chen by a pro-­unification element earlier this year, it is not impossible to imagine that, should things continue along their current course — exacerbated by the financial downturn, another conflict accelerator — expressions of protest against Chinese could become more violent.

The presence of Chinese tourists in Taiwan also creates opportunities for lone individuals or small groups to conduct “ethnic” violence against them.

The real danger, however, lies not in “ethnic” conflict spiraling out of control in Taiwan — a problem that remains extremely unlikely — but rather in how Beijing interprets the situation and plays “ethnicity” across the Taiwan Strait, especially in the context of a China that is increasingly nationalistic, a phenomenon that, like anywhere else, feeds into notions of “ethnicity.”

Should the ubiquitous shouting matches that have come to define Taiwanese politics become more violent, Beijing could feel impelled to assist its “ethnic” kin in Taiwan — that is, the Mandarin-speaking, pro-KMT and pro-unification Taiwanese.

Chinese intervention could cover a full spectrum of activity, from retaliation against Taiwanese in China to covert action in Taiwan to military intervention, all under the guise of “restoring order” or protecting a minority.

The gap between the present situation and the scenario described above is wide, and there are few indications that we are headed in the direction of the “social chaos” so often invoked in the media. But the potential exists, and Taiwan should do its utmost to inoculate itself against the exploitation of ethnicity for political ends. That road leads only to catastrophe.

J. Michael Cole is a writer based in Taipei.


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