[lg policy] Taiwan: Talk of the Day -- Must a Hakka speak Hakka in Taiwan?

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Wed Nov 16 15:23:49 UTC 2011

Talk of the Day -- Must a Hakka speak Hakka in Taiwan?
Central News Agency
2011-11-15 05:49 PM

Kuomintang (KMT) Honorary Chairman Wu Poh-hsiung's accusation that
opposition presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen is a "fake" Hakka who
cannot speak the dialect has triggered a debate over how to look at
the dialect issue in Taiwan. Wu's comments came after Democratic
Progressive Party (DPP) Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen received a warm
welcome while campaigning in northern Taiwan's Hakka communities.
Hakka is one of the three major languages in Taiwan, besides Mandarin
and Hoklo. "She cannot speak the language, but claims to be a Hakka
sister in times of election. Is she a real Hakka? She has not spoken
the language over the past 50 to 60 years. Even her Hakka father was
not known to have spoken the language during his lifetime," Wu said.

  Wu's criticism drew a strong response from the self-claimed "Hakka
sister," who shot back at the senior Hakka politician from Taoyuan by
calling him "immoral." She retorted: "Many younger generation Hakkas
cannot speak the language either. Do you call them fake Hakkas too?"
Below are excerpts of reports by major Taiwanese newspapers on the
controversy over ethnic languages and campaign strategies: The United
Daily News: Tsai admitted that her Hakka proficiency is a problem, but
said she is proud of her Hakka blood, and she thanks fellow Hakkas for
their tolerance of her language deficiency. Now the KMT is trying to
sway voters from voting for her because she cannot speak the dialect.
"This is completely unacceptable," she said. She blamed the KMT's
language policy for causing aborigines, Hoklos and Hakkas to be unable
to speak the language of their mothers or fathers. Taiwan's many
beautiful languages have been lost owing to the KMT's incorrect
language policy over the past decades, and now they have the impudence
to incite ethnic debate in order to cover up their poor policy and
failed governance, she said. Tsai said if she, a Hakka woman, has the
chance to serve as this nation's president, "Iwill do my best to allow
all Hakka, Hoklo, aborigines and new immigrants' children to speak
their respective mother tongues." (Nov. 15, 2011) China Times: While
campaigning for President Ma Ying-jeou Nov. 13, Wu Poh-hsiung said
whenever elections are held the Hakka population suddenly swells up.
"The term Hakka cannot be plagiarized, as I think Hakka is not so
cheap a language," Wu said, apparently implicating Tsai who has called
herself a Hakka sister in front of Hakka supporters in northern
Taiwan. Tsai said her Hakka deficiency should not be seen as an
original sin, just as President Ma should not be seen as born with an
original sin because of his mainland Chinese background. Ma's parents
hailed from Hunan, China. Tsai apologized for not being able to speak
Hakka well and pledged to "study hard to learn the language,"
stressing that inheriting Hakka culture and spirit is more important
than inheriting the dialect. On the other hand, she said, it's "very
immoral" for the KMT to try to divide the ethnic group while refusing
to apologize for its previous policy of promoting Mandarin and banning
all dialects, a policy that she blamed for her not being able to speak
Hakka. (Nov. 15, 2011)

Liberty Times: Wu Poh-hsiung said Tsai Ing-wen had tried to "swindle
Hakkas into voting for her" with just a few broken Hakka sentences.
The Democratic Progressive Party's legislative caucus countered by
asking if President Ma, whose origins are in Hunan province, can speak
the dialect of Hunan. DPP Legislator Gao Jyh-peng said, rather than
calling himself a Hunan native, Ma has year after year gone to a
village in Miaoli to claim his Hakka ethnicity while in fact he has no
Hakka blood. Asked to comment on the controversy, movie director Hou
Hsiao-hsien, a mainland China-born Hakka, said, "Have Hakkas become
such a dominant group in Taiwan that any of its members who cannot
speak the language must be held accountable?" Hou purposely used three
dialects to spell out his advice: "I cannot put you in a certain
category because you cannot speak Taiwanese (Hoklo). I cannot put you
in another category because you cannot speak Hakka. I cannot put you
in yet another category because you cannot speak Mandarin." He urged
the people in Taiwan, whatever languages they speak or cannot speak,
to "respect each other" while they live on the same land. (Nov. 11,
2011) (By S.C. Chang)


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