The development of Taiwan’s local consciousness has a long history, which already began during Japan’s reign. Local consciousness has always been the core driving force for the democracy movement of Taiwan. However, it did not become the mainstream value of the society until the 1990s, when the democratization of Taiwan started on an all-round scale.
In 1992, only 17.6% of Taiwanese identified themselves as Taiwanese rather than Chinese. On the other hand, as plenty as 46.4% identified themselves as Chinese instead of Taiwanese. However, last year, 57.7% identified themselves as Taiwanese rather than Chinese while pure Chinese identification amounted to only 3.5%, less than one-third of the former figure. The change is drastic, indeed.
Localization of Hong Kong as Daughter of Democratization
Hong Kong local consciousness did not rise until a couple of years ago. There are similarities as well as differences between Hong Kong and Taiwan in this domain. For example, in Taiwan, local consciousness has spurred on democratization while in Hong Kong, it is the other way round.
Any immigrant society cannot possibly avoid friction and even severe confrontation between early and late comers. The relationship between local Taiwanese and late comers from China is similar to that between local Hongkongers and recent immigrants from China.
Now local Hongkongers are accused of exclusion of mainlanders and “unfair” treatment of mainlanders. Taiwan in those years was caught in a similar situation, in which localists were labeled “exclusionists”.
An escape-proof net of discrimination
In reality, it is indeed absurd to pin this label on Taiwan localists. Let us begin from the beginning.
During the 38 years of martial law after the Nationalist Government’s moving to Taiwan, an escape-proof net of unfair and discriminatory treatment of local Taiwanese was cast. I call it an escape-proof net because that discriminatory system covered each and every domain, including political participation, recruitment of civil servants, cultural policies, education….. even film industry and amusement.
Discrimination in the early years was incredible. For example, in respect of personnel management, until the end of the 1970s, among the 30 chief justices in Taiwan, only 5 were Taiwanese; among the 46 High Court Judges, only 3 were Taiwanese. According to the statistical survey done by Kuo Kuo-chi, among the 116 sub-bureau heads in Taiwan, there were only 5 Taiwanese. According to the statistical survey done by Kang Ning-hsiang, among the 64 police sub-station heads in Taipei, there were only 3 Taiwanese. Recently, Chang, Chun-hung pointed out in the council that among the 124 transport unit heads, there was actually not a single Taiwanese!
Another instance. Under the “patriotic” policy of “re-sinicization” and “de-localization”, Taiwanese Hokkien was banned in radio programmes and the top-class singer Wen Hsia had to sing in a small county. And we do not have to mention the fact that in those days, you would be subject to severe corporal punishment should you dare to speak Taiwanese Hokkien at school.
These “patriotic” policies were much more brutal and high-handed than those carried out by Peking through the Chief Executive of Hong Kong, and the repercussions were of course even more radical. The armed resistance bodies both in Taiwan and overseas were organized under such circumstances.
The policy of “delocalization” has created a strong sense of shame among the locals
While resistance to the policy of “re-sinicization” and “de-localization” was so strong, was the policy effective? The effect was powerful, indeed. It created a strong sense of shame about “Taiwan as native land” among the locals of Taiwan. In 1992, having been ruled by the Nationalist Government for around half a century, only 17 percent of the Taiwanese society, 88 percent of which had a local origin, deemed themselves Taiwanese.
However, although the effect was powerful, “a handful of people” persistently and publicly continued Taiwan consciousness through democratic movements. The Nationalist Government politically persecuted these democratic activists in a number of ways, accusing them of prejudice and discrimination against new immigrants. Thanks to their perseverance, Taiwan local consciousness has finally grown quick and strong upon democratization.
Having comprehended this process, it will be easy for us to understand why the ultra-Rightist conservative members of the Nationalist Party hate Lee Teng-hui so intensely. Because as President of the Nationalist Party, Lee complied with the demand of democratic activists and brought about the all-round rise of Taiwan local consciousness and the rapid fall of Great China consciousness, and even the disintegration of the privileged ruling system supported by Great China Consciousness.
Since the overall election of the parliament in 1991, 25 years have passed. Taiwan politics is still a mess, but what is messy is just the political circle on the upper level. The lower level of the society is already liberalized and democratized, and the second generation of mainlanders (immigrants from China to Taiwan at the end of the civil war between the Nationalist Party and the Communist Party) localized.
Once, a right-wing professor, who moved to Taiwan from China in 1949, told me indignantly, “My son has actually said to me, ‘You Chinese’!” Since localization is already the mainstream of our society, the early structural and institutional tension between the ethnic groups of Taiwanese society is cleared up. Hence the present Taiwanese society that tourists from Hong Kong and China often praise for being peaceful and courteous.
Time will eventually resolve conflicts between the local and the foreign
The story of the right-wing professor is so sad, but from the story, I learn that democracy, freedom and time will eventually resolve conflicts between the local and the foreign. I also realize that the process is for sure turbulent instead of smooth. At least, it will not be without sadness, and in the process, countermeasures have to be dealt with carefully.
Presumably, localization will eventually become the main way for Taiwan and Hong Kong. At least, up till now, it has not been reversed under the “patriotic pressure” from the colossal empire. And the anti-brainwashing movement of Hong Kong and the Sunflower Movement of Hong Kong illustrate that pressurizing will only bring about strong resistances to Peking.
Thus Peking should pragmatically consider about changing its policy and finding a better way to deal with the local consciousness of Taiwan and Hong Kong.
by Lin Cho-shui