POLITICAL WARFARE WATCH: Chang Wei-shan’s Troubling ConnectionsA young employee at the Executive Yuan who supports unification is also involved with organizations that promote the secession of Okinawa from Japan
Chang Wei-shan (張瑋珊) is innocent-looking enough. She is 24 years old, a native from Yunlin, and currently works at the Executive Yuan as part of its “new media” team, created last year after the Sunflower Movement, when Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) was still premier. At the weekend, the young woman became the object of controversy after it was revealed that she had appeared in a program by the Hong Kong-based Phoenix Television on “pro-unification youth in Taiwan,” which aired as part of the commemorations surrounding the 70th anniversary of Japan’s defeat in World War II. More troubling are the people she associates with.
To summarize the interview: Chang grew up believing she was a Taiwanese and that China was a threat. She was raised to unquestionably support Taiwanese independence, and to “venerate the Japanese,” which she blames on the “de-Sinicized” education she received under former presidents Lee and Chen (interestingly, she checks all the boxes listed recently by supporters of the China-centric changes to school curriculum guidelines). Following her “awakening,” which she says occurred after she read various Chinese history books, Chang realized that Taiwan and China’s fates are “inseparable,” that she was “Chinese,” and, now that she was “rational,” a supporter of Taiwan’s unification with China.
Chang’s views certainly go against the current and place her among young people like Wang Puchen (王炳忠) and Lin Ming-cheng (林明正), who also support unification. That being said, she is entitled to her views, and as the Executive Yuan states that her employment does not make her a public servant, she did not break any laws by appearing on Chinese media.
What’s more troubling about Chang, however, is that she is also secretary-general of the Chinese Ryukyu Study Society (中華琉球研究學會), a movement that supports independence for Okinawa and its surrounding islands, and opposes the U.S. military presence there. It is also evidently tied to the pro-unification camp: Individuals such as New Party Chairman Yok Mu-ming (郁慕明) have spoken at its events); and in an op-ed published in the China Times on August 6, Lin Ching-yuan (林金源), the executive director of the Society and an associate professor in the Economics Department at Tamkang University, called on the Taiwanese, Okinawans and their “mainland compatriots” to stand together in opposing “Japanese militarism” and “supporting Ryukyu demilitarization” for “peace in East Asia.” Lin is also seen (second from left, in yellow shirt) in this March 2014 video on a panel introduced by the pro-unification gangster Chang An-le (張安樂), a.k.a. “White Wolf.” When individuals like Yok and the White Wolf are involved, Chinese political warfare officers and the Taiwan Affairs Office are usually not too far in the background.
Two years ago on May 15, 2013, a similarly named organization, the Ryukyu Independence Study Association (a.k.a. Ryukyu Independence Comprehensive Research Society), was created, which is headed by Yasukatsu Matsushima, an economics professor at Ryukyu University, and Masaki Tomochi of Okinawa International University. The organization is ostensibly affiliated in some way with Chang’s Chinese Ryukyu Study Society, whose Facebook page contains several links to Mr. Matsushima. Interestingly, two months prior to the creation of the Ryukyu Independence Study Association, an editorial appeared in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) mouthpiece People’s Daily challenging Japan’s sovereignty over Okinawa and the Ryukyu islands under what is known as the “anti-reversion theory,” which was propounded around 1970 when Okinawa was still under U.S. control and which states that it is “an illusion” to believe that Okinawans can live a peaceful life under Japanese sovereignty.
Although desire for independence and self-determination is not, in and of itself, illegitimate (and there is indeed indigenous momentum for independence on Okinawa and the Ryukyu), sources indicate that the movement is likely backed — and possibly financed — by Beijing. That possibility was raised in a May 10, 2013, editorial in the Global Times, another CCP mouthpiece, which warned that “if Japan seeks to be a pioneer in sabotaging China’s rise, China can carry out practical input, fostering forces in Okinawa that seek the restoration of the independence of the Ryukyu Chain.” It continued: “If Japan, binding itself with the US, tries to threaten China’s future, China should impose threats on the country’s integrity. This is a fair game.” It added, “China has always advocated non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs, but Western people and even governments have always supported Chinese separatists. China should not rely on oral persuasion to stop them, but should launch counterattacks.”
We must also note that the editorials and the handful of similarly named associations all emerged amid growing tensions between Japan and China over the Senkaku/Diaoyutai islands. Undoubtedly, by supporting and coopting the independence movement, Beijing may hope to undermine Tokyo’s control over its southern territory (which could have cascading effects on Japan’s control of the Senkakus) and play up the controversy over the presence of U.S. military forces there — forces that, we must not forget, would likely play a role in a Taiwan military contingency or armed conflict in the East China Sea, and that Beijing regards as part of an encirclement strategy against China.
Those are rather odd bedfellows for a 24-year-old woman from Yunlin to have.
J. Michael Cole is editor in chief of Thinking Taiwan, a senior non-resident fellow at the China Policy Institute, University of Nottingham, and an Associate researcher at the French Center for Research on Contemporary China (CEFC) in Taipei.
(Updated 2015.09.15 09:01; references to Chang’s monthly wage of NT$45K, as reported in Taiwanese media, may be erroneous.)