What you need to know
A coffee shop chat about two recent controversies over speech targeting two very different leaders.
“Have you been playing ‘Devotion’?” asks Girl A. “It’s been so popular recently!”
Girl B smiles and shakes her head. "I don’t play video games much, but I have seen it, although I also get motion sickness from the 3D graphics, so I didn’t finish watching the video. I do, however, think that the look and feel of the game is great, very artistic and it captures the atmosphere of the times very elegantly.”
“I don’t really play games either,” says Girl A, “but because I have watched someone play the company’s previous game ‘Detention,’ and thought that it was great, I still went on Steam and bought a copy to help support the company.”
“However,” she continues, “I recently heard that a poster of a cursed talisman appears inside the game, which was discovered to have the words ‘Xi Jinping, Winnie the Pooh’ in the seal stamp, along with words in Taiwanese dialect that roughly translate to ‘(Your) mom’s a moron,’ so it got a lot of negative press and was review bombed by Chinese netizens. There were some game play videos from China before, but I cannot find any of them at all now.”
“Later on, the game’s developers, Red Candle Games, issued a statement of apology, and changed the writing to ‘Happy New Year.’” Girl A says with a sigh.
“I also read about this and I felt deeply shocked,” says Girl B. “Wasn’t there a news story a while ago about an exam at a Chiayi high school that had ‘President Tsai-englishit’ written in one of the questions that caused some outrage? In Taiwan, when you do this kind of thing, at most you might receive negative backlash online, or have parents and students protest, but the government won’t take legal action and have you arrested. In contrast, this Taiwanese video game is getting blocked in China just because the words ‘Xi Jinping, Winnie the Pooh’ appears in the game. Some people may argue that this is just business, and that they have the right to restrict whatever they want.”
“But wasn’t there another news story recently about students from China in Fu Jen Catholic University protesting against the teacher lecturing about political ideology? This led to the school being threatened with a lower quota of Chinese students, and as a result, they had to send out an internal letter to all lecturers warning them against overly focusing on political ideology,” Girl B says as she takes a sip of coffee.
"I also read that story on Fu Jen Catholic University. It’s a joke,” says Girl A. “Taiwan clearly allows the freedom of speech, so why are people suddenly self-censoring for the sake of China?”
Girl B shrugs. “To be honest, I don’t know why people are so surprised. Lee Ming-che (李明哲) was detained in China after he went there over 700 days ago. Lee Ming-che used the internet to promote and discuss human rights awareness, but that was in Taiwan, yet the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) still used his online behavior as evidence to convict him in China. At the time, a bunch of people started goading his wife, Lee Ching-yu (李凈瑜), saying it was Lee Ming-che’s own fault for going to China in the first place.”
“If we compare this to Fu Jen Catholic University’s self-censorship of their lecturers, or against the Taiwanese game makers who were forced to make an official apology to keep the business alive, I really can’t help but admire Lee Ching-yu's strength and perseverance, especially for resolutely and decisively refusing to be used to open a communication channel as a cross-Strait comprador,” says Girl B. “She knew very well that Lee Ming-che’s incident was not an isolated case, and that what was more important was the attitude that the Taiwanese people must take when facing off against the hegemonic power of the Chinese government.”
Girl A is lost in thought for a moment, but then says: “Seeing incidents like these always makes me wonder whether free speech still exists in Taiwan?”
“Of course it does, at least for the time being,” says Girl B, “and that’s because what we mean by freedom of speech is that the government is not allowed to use their authority to persecute someone for what they choose to say. So in Taiwan, we certainly do have the freedom of speech.”
“Right now, it is the Chinese government that is trying its best to oppress these freedoms,” Girl B continues. “They are using each incident one after another and are encroaching on our freedoms step by step to condition Taiwanese people to the idea of self-restriction. As for those campaigning for the peace agreement, we just need to remind them of one thing: Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.”
“In addition, if we continue to yield step by step, whether or not we will still have these freedoms in the future, is hard to say...”
This article first appeared on the Chinese-language Taiwan edition of The News Lens and can be found here.
Translator: Zeke Li
Editor: Nick Aspinwall (@Nick1Aspinwall)
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