Taiwanese former premier Hau Pei-tsun came under fire yesterday for singing the Chinese national anthem in Beijing, a move that opposition legislators faulted as “highly inappropriate”.
Hau, 95, in an interview aired by state-run China Central Television on Monday, was shown singing part of the anthem - March of the Volunteers - when asked whether he remembered it.
Hau was being interviewed about his role in a battle that marked the start of the Sino-Japanese war.
”Didn’t he know that whoever sang this song would be subject to capital punishment?” said Chen Chi-mai, a legislator of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), referring to a rule enforced during the tenure of late presidents Chiang Kai-shek and his son Chiang Ching-kuo.
”What he did is highly inappropriate,” Chen said.
The legislator said Hau, also a former defence minister, should have known the political significance of his act, which could be touted by Beijing to “glorify the mainland and woo the Taiwanese”.
The mainland and Taiwan have been ruled separately since the communists took power in 1949. Beijing regards Taiwan as part of China.
But Hau, who retired in 1993, said he sang the anthem while citing the historical fact that it used to be a military song aimed at boosting the morale of anti-Japanese forces led by Chiang Kai-shek.
Hau, who served in the military during the second world war, was speaking about his role in the Marco Polo Bridge Incident that marked the start of China’s eight-year war with Japan 77 years ago. A retired four-star general, Hau also fought for the Nationalist side after becoming an artillery officer in 1938.
The communists had joined Nationalist forces in 1937 to fight the Japanese invasion. But following the Chinese civil war, the song was later adopted as a national anthem by the Communist Party after coming to power.
The Nationalists, defeated by the communists, fled to Taiwan where they set up an interim government.
However, Gao Jyh-peng, another legislator of Taiwan’s pro-independence DPP, questioned Hau’s loyalty and accused the ex-premier of “trying to appease the Chinese Communists”.
”As a general of the defeated side, he should never have sung that song since it would only serve to confuse the armed forces here as far as loyalty is concerned,” Gao said.
Hau’s son, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin yesterday defended his father, saying he was “reciting historical fact so that people on the mainland [can] understand what exactly had happened back then”.
The mayor pointed out that his father, who is visiting Beijing, had questioned staff at a mainland war museum about displays that omitted certain key points about Nationalist forces.
Hau Lung-bin said his father, when he found that there was no mention of Chiang Kai-shek in the exhibits, sternly told employees at the Museum of the War of Chinese People’s Resistance Against Japanese Aggression. "It was Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek who led the [Chinese] forces in the war against Japan."
The elder Hau also challenged the museum’s management about failing to display a July 22, 1937, declaration by the communists, in which they pledged to join the effort to save the nation, according to Taiwan’s Central News Agency.
Hau said the omission gave a “one-sided interpretation of the history of the war”, the report said.
Taiwanese media said the senior Hau visited the museum shortly after President Xi Jinping attended a ceremony there, marking the anniversary of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident.
Xi said in the ceremony that “history is history and facts are facts.” “Nobody can change history and facts,” he said, in a reference of Japan for distorting the history over its invasion of China.