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Shih Ming-teh, a former chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party, is a revolutionary at heart. He led the World Human Rights Day demonstration in Kaohsiung in 1979 to demand an end to President Chiang Ching-kuo's autocratic rule of Taiwan. Of course, he was arrested, tried and sentenced to life in prison for treason. He was pardoned by President Lee Teng-hui, who later had the criminal code amended to exculpate anyone who just talks about a revolution but does not try to start one.
An escalating ambassadorial war of words between Japan and China has descended into a kind of "pot calling the kettle black" situation. In an opinion piece published in the Daily Telegraph last Monday, Tokyo's envoy to the United Kingdom Keiichi Hayashi compared China to Voldemort, the fictional evil wizard from J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.
Ker Chien-ming, Democratic Progressive Party legislative caucus whip, proposed to freeze the Taiwan independence clause in the party's charter on Dec. 26. The proposal was made at the last of a series of meetings the party held in an attempt to achieve consensus on its China policy. The charter was written in 1986 while Taiwan was still under martial law and the clause proclaims that the ultimate purpose of the party is to create a republic of Taiwan.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo last Thursday, outraging China and South Korea as well as disappointing the United States. He paid the controversial visit exactly a year after he took office. During his first term as prime minister in 2006-07, he did not pay homage in person to Japan's war dead, including war criminals such as Hideki Tojo and Kenji Dohibara.
Last week I graded close to 100 test papers submitted by candidates for English-Chinese translation licenses at the Taiwan University English Training and Testing Center. I was shocked to find nine out of every ten examinees did not know the difference between "few" and "a few." They wrote "few" Internet addicts have mental disorders, though the Chinese text they translated pointed out clearly that "a few" do.
Last Sunday, South Korea announced its decision to extend its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the East China Sea in response to China's similar move on Nov. 23, completing the circle of Northeast Asian countries with ADIZs in the East China Sea.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye proposed on Nov. 14 that Northeast Asian countries work together to write history textbooks for their young students, as Germany has done with France and Poland in the past. She made the proposal at a ceremony celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Korea National Diplomatic Academy. In particular, she hopes South Korea, China and Japan would write a joint history textbook. She didn't mention Taiwan and North Korea, though.
Beijing declared its maritime ADIZ, or air defense identification zone, over the East China Sea on Nov. 23.
I heard Emperor Hirohito's gyokuon hoso (玉音放送, Jewel Voice broadcast) on Aug. 15, 1945. But like almost all of us in Taiwan who listened to what our emperor said, I didn't know the Divine Country of Japan surrendered to end the Great East Asian War. We believed Hirohito was urging us to do more to win the unwinnable war.
There has never been a caste system in China, though the "Middle Kingdom" used to have four classes of people. They were scholars (士), farmers (農), artisans (工), and merchants (商). Unlike in India, there were no untouchables in China, but in pre-modern Japan, where the same four characters were used to describe the four classes of people, the scholars were replaced by warriors, while lower classes of untouchables known as hinin (非人) and eta (穢多) existed.
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