Martin Oei | China Change
This article was first published on China Changed web site
On January 15 a video was published online showing Chou Tzu-yu (周子瑜), a 16-year-old member of the K-pop girl group Twice, apologizing for holding a Republic of China flag in a photo shoot several months ago. The video was produced and published by the group’s South Korean management company JYP Entertainment. “There is only one China,” she says in the tape. “The two sides of the strait are one, and I have always felt proud to be Chinese.” She then apologizes for holding the flag. The video, instigated by pro-Beijing Internet users, at the tip-off of pro-Beijing Taiwanese singer Huang An (黄安), infuriated Taiwanese. People have found it difficult to watch, but we urge you to forge beyond the first 10 seconds and go all the way to the end. Try some of her soft, halting lines: “I have always felt proud of being a Chinese… I’m guilt-stricken for having hurting people’s feelings on both sides of the strait… Once again, once again, I apologize to all of you.” Try that slow and deep bow. With that, in less than a minute, you will have an education in the terror of communist rule lived and internalized by all Chinese that no college course could provide. – China Change’s Editor
All it took was for Chou Tzu-yu, a Taiwanese pop singer, to hold in her hand a Republic of China flag. For this, a has-been singer, long resident in China, decided to make an example of her, falsely accusing her of stirring up Taiwanese independence. Remarkably, she was then forced by her South Korean management firm to record an apology video: a mere 16-year-old Taiwanese girl forced to identify herself as a Chinese and admit that her holding the Republic of China flag was wrong. The sequence of events evoked public ire in Taiwan and Hong Kong, with the widespread sentiment that China’s bullying is simply insufferable.
The manner in which Chou, wearing black, face pale, read out her statement of apology, not only showed that she was forced to apologize, but also recalled in style the kind of forced confessional videos produced by terrorist organizations ISIS and Al-Qaeda, where hostages are filmed reading out prepared statements. On top of that, the incident came not long after the news of Hong Kong publisher Lee Bo’s (李波) abduction—it seemed that China’s modus operandi differs little from that of terrorists. At least, this author struggles with the question: just what is the difference between China bullying and humiliating a Taiwanese minor, and the likes of the Islamic State’s videos?
Then there was Huang An, the has-been singer who informed against her, and his self-satisfied gloating on Weibo afterwards. This not only showed his betrayal of Taiwan, and the hurt he caused Taiwan’s people, but also recalled the “Lord Haw-Haw” nickname given to broadcaster William Joyce, who spread propaganda for Germany and earned the reputation of an infamous traitor. The zealotry and fervor with which he carried on seemed to differ little from the kind of fanaticism with which ISIS zealots execute their own “enemies” or “traitors.” The way that Internet users in China mindlessly parroted Huang An’s remarks further led one to consider: What difference is there between that kind of extreme Chinese nationalism and the kind seen in the Islamic State?
China is a country with a history of nationalist extremism: for instance, the Boxer Rebellion of 1899, or the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976—both are ISIS-style outbursts of fanaticism. The less stable the regime is, the more the authorities stoke nationalist fervor in an attempt to stabilize it.
The 1899 Boxer Rebellion took place because Empress Dowager Cixi began introducing Western institutions, leading the ignorant masses to be incited with slogans about “supporting the Qing and eliminating foreigners.” The Cultural Revolution was initiated by Mao Zedong to wrest back power from then-chairman of the PRC Liu Shaoqi.
Is Xi Jinping, in order to stabilize his own power, not only conniving at, but encouraging people like Huang An to bully and humiliate Taiwanese people? Will China, to fan nationalist sentiment in order to stabilize its own regime, even use force against Hong Kong and Taiwan? These questions bear our close attention.
But we can be certain of one thing: Whether it’s Taiwanese or Hongkongers, we all need to stand firm and say “no” to this extremism. Indulging the extremists will simply whet their appetite. There is an example from history: England and France’s appeasement policies before the Second World War swelled Hitler’s ambitions, and in the end a world war was inevitable. As Taiwan faces down China’s unhinged behavior, there’s simply no room for appeasement.