Taiwan-born author Ku Ling is known for his book Mainlander’s Hometown, a collection of short stories examining the conflict and confusion over identity and belonging experienced by many second-generation mainlanders. His mother was Taiwanese, but his father was from the mainland and, like others born in Taiwan to at least one parent from mainland China, Ku was treated as an outsider and ostracized because of his heritage. By the 1980s, Taiwanese people no longer really cared about where in China one’s family was originally from, but his early experiences gave Ku a unique perspective on what it means to be Taiwanese and what it means to be Chinese.
Ku recently posted an essay on Facebook titled The Disadvantages of Being Chinese.
“Since 2016, the Haiji Association has received reports of 149 Taiwanese people that have gone missing after traveling to China with no news at all in 67 cases. It’s not just the Taiwanese who visited China and have inexplicably disappeared, it’s also Chinese from the mainland, while at least 100 rights lawyers have gone missing too. In China, the law has always been used to sanction its citizens, not to protect them. That sums up the price you pay for being a Chinese person.”
“Some people may ask if those missing persons may have aired too many critical remarks about the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Not quite so. The chairman of the Federation of Southern Taiwan Cross-Strait Associations disappeared for ‘endangering state security.'”
In contrast, Ku mentions the case of Xiang Xin, a businessman from Hong Kong, and his wife, who are accused by self-proclaimed spy Wang Liqiang of being his handlers as he set about with covert efforts to undermine democracy in Taiwan by attempting to manipulate the outcome of elections. Ku’s view is that they are very fortunate to be in Taiwan because they will not be made to disappear, can hire a lawyer, and can refuse to be interrogated throughout the night. Afterward, they can go back to live in a comfortable hotel. If they were in mainland China, they could just “disappear” one day until the time came for them to come out and “confess” in court.
Ku pointed out that in Taiwan or any democracy, when someone is suspected of committing a crime, the police will ask for more information, will inform the family, the person can also hire a lawyer, and they can also refuse a night interrogation. A person will not lose their freedom for no reason. In mainland China, someone will first “disappear” and family and friends will have no idea where they are and can only go around asking questions. It may take many months or years before they find out that their relative or friend has been taken away for a nameless crime and they will not be allowed to visit.
According to Ku, if you are in a CCP court, no one is going to defend you. No one even dares to argue for themselves against crimes listed in their name. Everyone pleads guilty to all the charges and accepts the sentence. After a period of being incarcerated and hidden away with no access to lawyers or family and friends, no one dares to say they are not guilty. It is most likely that during the days in isolation, the people who were caught were physically and mentally tortured, so much so that they could not wait to confess. “You don’t know what crime you’ve committed, but if they say you are guilty of something, you admit to it quickly.”
Translated by Yi Ming and edited by Helen