Yeh Chin-chuan's Tears vs. the Youth Corps Member's Lap Dog
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
May 21, 2009
Yeh Chin-chuan wept. Why he wept involves a complex political tale. But the plot of this complex political tale that unfolded in Geneva is actually quite simple. It was merely a noisy debate between two political groups.
One Huang Hai-ning and several other students organized a heckling team. They interrupted a dinner in Geneva hosted by Yeh Chin-chuan for the Ministers of Health of allied nations. They harangued Yeh Chin-chuan, demanding to know, "Under what name are you participating in the WHA?" Behind this rhetorical question however, was a prescripted agenda. Yeh must use the name "Republic of China" or "Taiwan" when participating in the WHA, otherwise he is "selling out Taiwan." That is why Huang continually screamed, "Yeh Chin-chuan, don't sell out Taiwan!" Yeh Chin-chuan was eventually driven to tears by her accusations.
Huang Hai-ning and others offered no logical arguments. They were perhaps adopting an all or nothing, do or die stance regarding participation in WHO activities. Failure to join using the official name of the nation constituted a national humiliation. It meant loss and defeat, even betrayal. The tune sung by Huang Hai-ning and others was full of solemnity and pathos. She was a former DPP Youth Corps member and the daughter of a retired DPP party worker.
Meanwhile, Yeh Chin-chuan was playing a different tune. He provided a dramatic counterpoint to Huang Hai-ning. He offered an entirely different logic. He adopted a low-keyed approach. His reasoning was that it is not necessary to join using the official name of the nation. After one has joined, the meaning of one's nation will become clear enough. Only then will one have the opportunity to proclaim what one is. Only then can one look forward to achieving one's goal.
Two entirely different ways of thinking collided in Geneva. It wasn't really a debate. It was merely a one-sided shouting of verbal abuse. But this is a serious topic worthy of serious thought. It should not be concluded amidst the smoke and confusion of whether to file a complaint and whether to step down. If it is given serious thought, then Yeh Chin-chuan's tears will not be wasted. Whereas the Youth Corps member's travel expenses from France to Switzerland will be.
These Youth Corps members' tune is something even Chen Shui-bian never took seriously. Chen Shui-bian once threatened to push for a "plebiscite on WHO membership." But he never followed through. Last year, he sent a letter to WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan, demanding "admission to the WHO in the name of Taiwan," and participation in WHO activities as an observer. Both of Chen Shui-bian's registered letters were eventually returned, unread. These lap dog wielding Youth Corps members, couldn't achieve anything more than Chen Shui-bian. Perhaps they were merely putting on a show. Perhaps they were making what they knew to be impossible demands upon Yeh Chin-chuan, demanding that he do what the Democratic Progressive Party couldn't do.
The interaction between the two groups was not a genuine debate. It was merely political theater, staged for domestic consumption. Its real significance was revealed the next day, during staged protests. Yeh Chin-chuan sat in the World Health Assembly as an official observer. Mainland Chinese Minister of Health Chen Zhu walked over to Yeh Chin-chuan, and was introduced. Yeh Chin-chuan and Chen Zhu greeted each other and conversed. The two men bridged a thirty-eight year gap, and made history.
Yeh Chin-chuan's four-minute speech received a full minute of applause. The scene carried real weight. In 1971 the United Nations General Assembly, at Albania's behest, adopted UN Resolution 2758, expelling Taipei from the United Nations, and replacing it with Beijing. Thirty-eight years later, Republic of China officials met for the first time with officials of the other side, at the same time, in the same room, inside a UN organization. Both sides used official titles while addressing each other. The scene was loaded with historical and political significance. If it turns out to be no match for a handful of noisy Youth Corps members, is that not Taiwan's loss?
Twice Chen Shui-bian sent letters applying for WHO membership. Twice they were returned. If they hadn't been, the first Director of Health to become a WHA observer might have been Twu Shing-Jer, instead of Yeh Chin-chuan. If Twu Shing-Jer had attended the WHA under the name of "Chinese Taipei," would the Youth Corps member armed with her lap dog still have rushed fto Geneva from Paris to heckle him?
If Twu Shing-Jer were still President Chen Shui-bian's Director of Health, would Twu Shing-Jer say that the new strain of influenza is best gift he could give President Chen Shui-bian? Six years ago, when Twu Shing-Jer was Director of Health, the public never heard him say SARS was a gift for President Chen Shui-bian.
The Youth Corps member asserted that Yeh Chin-chuan and Taiwan had been humiliated. But we hardly need Youth Corps members to remind us of that. Most of the public on Taiwan is aware of the humiliation involved in attending the WHA under the name "Chinese Taipei." Our nation is near suffocation. Yeh Chin-chuan wants to give it a chance to take a deep breath. Yet these Youth Corps members accuse him of enduring humiliation merely for the sake of survival. In the debate over national identity, haven't these always been the two views?
2009.05.21 05:18 am