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Challenge is to bring freedom to inherited land not expand repression


HONG KONG (SE): “It seems their strategy is to win the hearts of the people by proving that they love their country more than the Communist Party does,” Martin Chung Chi-kei, a doctorate in philosophy candidate in European Studies at the University of Hong Kong, says of the group from Hong Kong that erected a Chinese flag on the disputed Diaoyu Islands, or Senkaku Islands as the Japanese call them, in August last year.

Chung quotes Fang Xiaosong, one of the members of the group, as proclaiming, “Diaoyu Island is the Holy Land for the Bao Diao people” (Ming Pao, 21 August 2012).

Fang was on board the Bao Diao ferry that carried the group from Hong Kong to the island territory, sovereignty over which is currently being disputed by China and Japan.

Two other members of the group, Yang Kuang and Koo Sze-yiu, both demanded “strong measures from the Chinese side” (Ming Pao, 20 August 2012).

Interestingly, Chung notes that their patriotic fervour does not extend to support of one party rule, as all are democrats who admit they have difficulties with non-democratic China.

Chung likens their attempt to prove their paramount love for China as being similar to the desire to redeem the Chinese guilt for not protecting the people of Nanjing against the massacre perpetrated by the Imperial Japanese Army in 1937.

Chung describes his argument as a negative one. “As a supporter of democratisation in China, I argue that for democrats in China to support the territorial expansion of the non-democratic Chinese regime is a grave contradiction.”

However, he describes his bottom line in this way. “As Chinese, if we are serious about learning from history, then our fight should be against the emergence of state religion, more specifically in this context, sacralisation of national territory.”

Chung says that the big worry is that China may establish a military foothold close to two democratic territories, Taiwan and the Japanese province of Okinawa.

“If the current People’s Republic of China succeeds in exercising sovereignty over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, militarily it will mean another foothold in the close vicinity of the democratic peoples of Taiwan and Okinawa for the People’s Liberation Army, an army that has neither undergone nationalisation nor the purification needed after the Tiananmen Massacre.”

He then asks if this is really the message that democratically minded people in Hong Kong want to send to the populations of Taiwan and Okinawa.

He questions the logic of making a statement like, “We wish to be like you, able to select a local governor who can publicly talk back to the central government, but we are sending you an army that we do not control.”

He further asks if this could in any way be interpreted as an act of love towards our neighbours.

He asks, “Is this what mainland democrats would like to tell their Taiwanese counterparts. We love you, brothers and sisters, but we are sending you an army that got away with murdering children and students.”

Chung quotes the Financial Times of 23 July 2012 as saying that nationalists in China, as well as generals in the People’s Liberation Army, are not just eying the Diaoyu Islands, but also Okinawa, both of which territories were returned to Japanese rule at the cessation of the United States of America Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands in 1971.

“Can we pretend to be deaf?” he asks. “Yang Kuang should know better. If we cannot protect a Chinese woman, Liu Xia, from state violence, what moral right do we have to extend the reach of this selfsame might further across the seas?”

He cited a former premier of China, Zhao Ziyang, as knowing better. Zhao was often critical of Maoist policies and supported Deng Xiaoping in his push for a more open market.

Chung cites Zhao as saying that communists are not more preferable to democrats, just because they are Chinese and democrats are foreigners.

Chung claims that is the reason why Zhao said, “It is better for the United States of America to lead humanity, rather than the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics or China” (Zong Gengming, Zhao Ziyang: Captive Conversations).

He further quotes from Zhao, “(In China), nationalism is used to suppress democracy,” which Chung describes as the same line taken by Nobel laureate, Liu Xiaobo, who is well known for his anti-nationalism stance.

Chung argues that that it is a patriotic duty to explicitly resist any religious claim of the state. “As co-religionists, we do not sacralise space, but time,” he says. “Only one is holy means that there is no holy land.”

He argues that for the state to declare that anything is holy is dangerous as it leads to the state believing that it has the right to define what is holy and what is not. “Where the state dictates what is holy,” Chung says, “human sacrifice ensues.”

He cites chapter 42 of the book of the prophet Isaiah as using the word island three times, but always in conjunction with law.

“The message is that law has to be proclaimed for the justice of all peoples, so that religious freedom, the most fundamental of all freedoms, can be exercised on the islands,” Chung explains.

He cites a Japanese school teacher from the first half of the 20th century, Tsunesaburo Makiguchi, as a prime example of the struggle against the desire of the state to declare land holy because it desired to take it over.

Makiguchi argued that there is an intricate connection between the well being of people and their geographical location. “It is through our spiritual interaction with the earth that the characteristics that we think of as human are ignited and nurtured within us.”

Chung also cites another Japanese, Toyohiko Kagawa, a social worker and labour advocate, who made an apology to the Chinese people in 1940 for the Rape of Nanjing—going to prison for his trouble.

He is also reported to have said, “Communism’s only power is to diagnose some of the ills of disordered society. It has no cure. It creates only an infantile paralysis of the social order.”

Chung says that both of these men did their duty in their time and it is up to us to do ours.

Chung describes the bottom line confusion in the Daioyu Islands dispute as the failure to distinguish between nationalism and democratic values. “This concerns whether democratic China will be a China in eastern Asia, or just another self-centred state above it,” he says.

He then cites Japanese current affairs commentator, Wakamiya Yoshibumi, as saying, “Reconciliation in east Asia is obstructed by nationalism.”

Chung concludes by saying that what is needed is an extension of the anti-nationalistic civil dialogues, as our chief duty is to extend the realm of freedom into the territories already inherited and to seek reconciliation abroad, not increase a militarist regime or subscribe to any civil religion of the state.

“We should never imagine that Diaoyu Island is a second Nanjing,” he concludes.