Taiwan elite see red over growing popularity of 'inland' term
Popularity of 'neidi' in reference to mainland criticised as 'invisible annexation' of island
Lawrence Chung in Taipei
The growing use among Taiwanese of the term "inland", or neidi, to refer to the mainland has irritated the island's authorities, who say it suggests a diminished standing for Taiwan.
The term, which has long been common in Hong Kong and Macau, has become increasingly popular on the island as well, especially among entertainers like pop star Jay Chou, who frequently travel to the mainland to perform.
But critics say "inland" - as opposed to the more conventional "mainland", or dalu - carries a loaded political connotation, elevating the mainland to the status of home country.
The opposition Democratic Progressive Party has seized on the "inland" trend as an opportunity to paint the Beijing-friendly government of President Ma Ying-jeou as being tolerant of united front tactics by the Communist Party.
"It is a kind of invisible annexation and cultural bullying," DPP legislator Chen Ming-wen said yesterday.
He warned that the word could create an impression that Taiwan and the mainland were one and the same.
In response, Culture Minister Lung Ying-tai of the ruling Kuomintang government, agreed that the term was politically inappropriate, saying that Taiwanese frequently used it to refer to Japan before the Japanese colonial occupation ended in 1947.
But she declined to criticise Taiwanese who use it, including entertainers.
"After all, how would they know whether this terminology is correct or not?" Lung said. "We are a free and democratic society, and we can't lock up people just like that for using that term since it would violate the freedom of speech," she said.
Meanwhile, the Mainland Affairs Council in Taiwan said in a statement that the use of the term "inland" to refer to the mainland damaged the island's dignity and was, therefore, inappropriate.