TAIPEI, Taiwan - Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je's remarks that longer periods of colonialism produce more advanced cultures drew wide criticism in Taiwan yesterday.
Ko made the remarks during an interview with Foreign Policy magazine on Jan 20. He was asked questions on a variety of subjects including Asian history and colonialism.
For the world's four Chinese-speaking regions that have been colonized by foreign powers - Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong and mainland China - the longer the colonization, the more advanced the place has become, Ko said.
"It's rather embarrassing. Singapore is better than Hong Kong; Hong Kong is better than Taiwan; Taiwan is better than the mainland," Ko said.
Ko also made a comparison between Vietnam and China. Although the former is poorer in terms of GDP, it exhibits superior culture, as Vietnamese always obey traffic signs, according to the mayor of Taipei.
However, the idea that longer colonization produced superior cultures angered many in Taiwan.
"I don't understand those words," said New Party Chairman Yok Mu-ming. If colonization is so advantageous, then a lot of nations don't need to establish independence, he said.
Ko is known to have uttered "inappropriate statements" before, but his remarks have become increasingly "ridiculous," said Kuomintang lawmaker Wu Yu-shen. He termed Ko's words on colonization as "anti-democracy," "anti-freedom" and "imperialism-leaning."
Ko's opinions also clashed with members of academia. Former National Taiwan University philosophy professor Wang Hsiao-po described Ko's beliefs as "too narrow."
The United Nations believes colonization is an obstacle to world peace, which is really the universal value, Wang said.
Colonizing powers do modernize other places, however, no one likes to be colonized, which by itself is also a misfortune, said Hsueh Hua-yuan, a history professor at the National Chengchi University.
Taipei City Government Affirms Historic Trauma
Trying to pacify the public outcry, Taipei City Government spokesperson Lin Ho-ming affirmed that while colonization brought modern advances, it also had negative consequences.
While bad memories associated with colonization linger in Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong and China, there are also positive influences, this is what Ko meant to say, according to Lin.
Objectively speaking, systems and infrastructure left behind by colonizing powers have positive influences, nevertheless, historic trauma caused by colonization should also be recognized, Lin stressed.
Cooperation is More Important than Reunification: Ko
Ko also offered his viewpoint on cross-strait relations and the "one China" policy during the interview with Foreign Policy.
"Cooperation is more important than reunification. If reunification is achieved without cooperation, it will be meaningless. We have to mutually know, understand and respect each other," Ko said.
Taiwan needs to convince Beijing that a free and democratic Taiwan is more in China's interest than reunification, he said.