Saturday, July 22, 2006

Lee 等会 (Lee Wait a Minute)

There is a fascinating documentary on the Taiwan Art Channel about former Taiwanese President, Lee Teng-hui, and the democracy movement in Taiwan. Unfortunately, I can't understand much of it since it is mostly in Taiwanese. Looks like the eighties and nineties (before I came) was an exciting period in Taipei and elsewhere in this island nation. But, then again, what period hasn't been (including now)?

About the title of this post: it comes from a joke. Apparently, when Chiang Ching-kuo was on his death bed and had to choose a successor, he said, "You wait a minute" (你等会) and everyone took him to mean: "Lee Teng-hui" (李登輝). The two sound alike. I doubt this was a joke told by his supporters, but the documentary played a song based on the joke.

This kind of pun on leaders' names is common in Chinese, not just in Taiwan. I was just in the 7 Eleven near where I live, and someone referred to President Chen Shui-bian as Chen Shui---pian. By changing the "b" to "p" he was in effect saying--Chen Shui-deceive. He was very clear about what he meant.

Wikipedia has an interesting description of Lee's life and career, especially this bit about the Taiwan localization movement, the predicessor to the Taiwan independence movement:
Lee Teng-hui, during his term as president, supported the Taiwanese localization movement. The Taiwanese localization movement has its roots in the home rule groups founded during the Japanese era and sought to put emphasis on Taiwan as the center of people's lives as opposed Mainland China or Japan. During the Chiang regime, China was promoted as the center of an ideology that would build a Chinese national outlook in a people who had once considered themselves Japanese subjects. Under this ideology, Taiwan was seen as a place for mainlanders to resent as they waited for the re-conquest of the Maoist mainland. Taiwan was often relegated to a backwater province of China in the KMT-supported history books. People were discouraged from studying Taiwan and old customs were to be replaced by "Chinese" customs. Lee, conversely, sought to turn Taiwan into a center rather than an appendage, a shift that was widely supported in Taiwan. However, he has stated that his actions were also based on the premise that a Chinese identity and a Taiwanese identity are ultimately incompatible, a notion that is very controversial on the island, even among supporters of localization.

Lee presided over the democratization of Taiwanese society and government in the late-1980s and early-1990s. During his presidency, Lee was followed by persistent suspicions that he secretly supported Taiwan independence and that he was intentionally sabotaging the Kuomintang. The former suspicion was proven true by Lee's behavior after his Presidency, which led to his expulsion from the Kuomintang and subsequently becoming the spiritual leader of the strongly pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union.


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