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September 23, 2017

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Time to stop name-calling and let bygones be bygones

Our Legislative Yuan is known throughout the world for parliamentary free-for-alls, but lawmakers in opposition turning interpellations into name-calling sessions is much less well known. Cabinet ministers and the like are so afraid of being grilled at interpellations that they sometimes describe Taiwan as a country where "it isn't the people who can't make a living (民不聊生) but the Mandarins who can't (官不聊生)." Their description is of course exaggerated; oftentimes, they forget that being grilled in parliament is part of their jobs.

The fact, however, is that some top bureaucrats are so afraid of our reviling legislators that they often choose to quit, while others pocket their pride and stay on in an all-out effort to survive the malicious name-calling sessions.

One of these people is Lung Ying-tai, the nation's first minister of culture. Taiwan didn't have a Ministry of Culture until President Ma Ying-jeou's second term in office. President Chiang Kai-shek created a Bureau of Cultural Affairs under the Ministry of Education for a Chinese cultural renaissance to counter Mao Zedong's Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in mainland China. The bureau was disbanded as soon as the Cultural Revolution had come to an end, and it was Chiang's son, Chiang Ching-kuo, who created a Cabinet-level Council for Cultural Affairs, which has evolved into a full-fledged cultural ministry now headed by a well-known author, who once served as commissioner for cultural affairs under Mayor Ma Ying-jeou of Taipei.

She was mercilessly grilled for two days in her first encounter with Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers on the floor of the nation's highest legislative organ. During the interpellation, she wasn't asked about how she plans to run the brand-new ministry, which is considered a redundancy in the first place; she was asked to give an assessment of what Chiang Kai-shek did during the bloody Feb. 28 Incident of 1947; she was also asked for her opinion on what is known as the reign of white terror that followed the 228 Incident. As a matter of fact, the opposition legislators cared little about what her ministry would do or how. They were hell bent on extorting an answer from Lung, who wrote in her books that Chiang Kai-shek didn't play the role of chief culprit in the 228 Incident or the reign of terror.

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