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Uproar after Taiwanese official calls majority population primitive

South China Morning Post
March 19, 2009

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.

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