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World View: Taiwan Student Commits Suicide over ‘Fine-Tuning’ Textbook Controversy

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Afghan Taliban in crisis over successor to Mullah Omar
  • Taiwan student commits suicide over ‘fine-tuning’ textbook controversy

Afghan Taliban in crisis over successor to Mullah Omar

Funeral for Mohammad Omar at a mosque in Peshawar, Pakistan, on Friday (AP)
Funeral for Mohammad Omar at a mosque in Peshawar, Pakistan, on Friday (AP)

The announcement that Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar died two years ago has resulted in tensions among various tribal factions over the selection of a successor. ( “30-Jul-15 World View — Bizarre Mullah Omar death announcement seals fate of Afghan peace talks”)

The Taliban chose Omar’s second in command, Mullah Akhtar Mansour. This weekend, they were supposed to take part in peace talks with the Afghan government and the Haqqani network about ending the violence in Afghanistan.

Those peace talks have been postponed, and an audio message delivered by Mansour on Saturday seems to indicate that they will be postponed indefinitely (my transcription):

We won’t have to ask friends to be tolerant, and prevent divisions. Rest assured, there’ll be no problems. If we face any problems in the future, we’ll seek guidance from religious scholars, and we’ll act accordingly.

Friends ask me if I’ve prepared for this role. I’ve told them that the responsibility I was given after the death of Mullah Omar is like carrying a mountain on your shoulders. But I accepted it, because it is a time of service, not a time of kingship.

Our struggle will continue until the Islamic system in the country is established. The enemy’s propaganda about peace process and dialog — all this is too much. They have used money, the media, false religious scholars and other means to weaken the jihad, and shatter our unity. We will ignore all this. We’ll continue this jihad until an Islamic system is established in the country.

The speech was apparently made on Thursday to a group of Mansour’s supporters.

Tribal leaders were not consulted before the secretive appointment of Mansour, and there are enormous tensions. The Afghan Taliban is thought to be at an existential crisis because of tribal divisions, and because some of the more radical Taliban groups may defect from Mansour and join the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). BBC and Gulf News

Taiwan student commits suicide over ‘fine-tuning’ textbook controversy

Dai Lin, a high school student who had campaigned against “fine-tuning” changes being made to Taiwan’s high school textbooks and curriculum, was found dead in his room lying in bed. Since he was lying next to a pan of lighted charcoal, which generates carbon monoxide and so is one of the top methods of suicide in Asia, it is believed that Lin took his life intentionally, in order to call attention to his anti-curriculum changes campaign.

Some of the proposed curriculum changes are minor corrections, but others of them appear to change history in order to favor making Taiwan part of China, as opposed to Taiwan being a fully independent nation.

One of the most controversial changes is that references to “China” are changed to “mainland China.” According to activists, “China” and “Taiwan” are separate entities, while “mainland China” implies that Taiwan is part of China.

Other changes go deep into Taiwan’s history. A proposed change from the “Qing Dynasty” to the “Qing Court in the Cheng Family Dynasty” implies that during this historical period, China had territorial ownership of Taiwan, which activists say is untrue.

These seemingly minor textual changes cut deeply into the major political fault line of Taiwan — whether it will be recognized as an independent nation separate from China, or whether it will merely be another province of China.

The changes are favored by the current ruling nationalist party KMT (Kuomintang), which is the modern day incarnation of Chiang Kai-shek’s original nationalist party of soldiers that fought against Mao Zedong’s Communist Revolution and lost, and fled to Hong Kong, then a British colony, and from there to Formosa (Taiwan) in 1949, at the conclusion of the civil war. The KMT position has always been that Taiwan would reunite with China.

A strong pro-independence movement, especially among young people, began with the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing, which people in Taiwan viewed with horror. This proved to be a catalyst in turning many Taiwanese people against Beijing, bringing about the creation of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which beat the KMT and won national elections in 2000.

The KMT regained power after a DPP corruption scandal in 2006. But in November of last year, KMT suffered disastrous losses in local elections across Taiwan, and DPP may win the next presidential election, to be held on January 16. ( “30-Nov-14 World View — Taiwan voters choose independence from China”)

The proposed curriculum changes have generated student protests in cities across Taiwan. Last week, protesters in the capital city Taipei broke into the offices of the Ministry of Education, which is sponsoring the curriculum changes. Many protesters, including Dai Lin, were arrested.

In his final Facebook post, Lin wrote:

Wish me happy birthday. 8 5 12 16. I have only one wish: that the Minister [of Education] withdraw the curriculum guidelines.

Lin’s friends later “decoded” the numbers 8-5-12-16 as corresponding to the letters for “h-e-l-p” in the English alphabet.

Lin’s suicide will energize the anti-curriculum change activists, but it seems clear that the adjustments will be in force in the fall semester, while KMT is still in power.

During the years 2000-2006 when DPP was last in power, there were repeated threats of invasions by Beijing officials. In fact, in 2005 China passed a new law to provide legal justification for a Chinese invasion of Taiwan if there’s any move at all towards independence from China. ( “China’s ‘Anti-Secession’ law infuriates Taiwan”)

Things have been a lot more peaceful since KMT came to power in 2006. But if DPP comes to power again in January, then we can expect additional invasion threats from China, as well as increased determination by young people in Taiwan to be fully independent. Taipei Times and National Institutes of Health and China Policy Institute Blog – UK

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Afghanistan, Taliban, Mullah Mohammad Omar, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, Haqqini Network, Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, Taiwan, Dai Lin, China, Qing Dynasty, Cheng Family Dynasty, KMT, Kuomintang, DPP, Democratic Progressive Party, Chiang Kai-shek, Tiananmen Square massacre
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