Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou's efforts to build a
diverse communal coalition have taken a hit after an official was alleged to
have called Taiwan's majority population "primitive" and suggested Beijing
should use force to seize the island.
The affair is a huge embarrassment to Mr Ma, who has
worked hard to unite Taiwan's fractious communal groups to support his
engagement policy with the mainland. It is unlikely to derail the engagement
policy, which enjoys strong support, but it could cost Mr Ma's party votes in
this year's local elections.
The affair burst into the limelight late last week when
Kuo Kuan-ying, of Taiwan's representative office in Toronto, admitted he
described himself in a newspaper essay as a "superior mainlander" - a
politically charged reference to the 2 million people who came to the island in
1949 after the civil war and dominated Taiwan's politics for the next 50 years.
Amid growing local outrage, Mr Kuo denied the more
serious charges of referring to the majority population of native Taiwanese as
"primitives" and writing that "China should use force to take over" Taiwan even
though the island "was not qualified" to unite with Beijing.
Lawmakers identified with the interests of native
Taiwanese have led the public criticism of Mr Kuo. They say a pen name he is
known to have used was on the essay that contained the anti-Taiwan statements.
For decades, politics on Taiwan has been defined by
relations between mainlanders and native Taiwanese - people whose ancestors
came from the Chinese mainland in the 17th and 18th centuries. Native Taiwanese
struggled hard against the pro-mainlander policies of Chiang Kai-shek and his
son Chiang Ching-kuo until 1987, when they were able to form a political party
of their own.
Mr Kuo has been demoted and transferred back to Taipei,
but lawmakers are demanding that he be stripped of his job at the Government
Information Office. Even lawmakers from the ruling Kuomintang said his penalty
was not enough.
"It is unreasonable that the government is not
sanctioning him more severely," KMT lawmaker Tsao Erh-chang said.