Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who arrived in Taiwan on Sunday for a five-day tour of areas devastated by Typhoon Morakot early last month, has run into small pockets of opposition, including Aborigines, Buddhist monks and pro-unification groups, among others. Overall, the demonstrations have been harmless, with shouts and placards basically echoing Beijing’s line on the leader — that he is a “splittist” and a representative of an “unorthodox” (whatever this means) version of Buddhism. Ever the deft orator, the Dalai Lama has said that the opposition to his visit is part of democracy and nothing to worry about.
This is true, except that this so-called democratic opposition displays all the signs that it is being orchestrated, if not paid for, by individuals who are anything but democratic in the positive sense of the word. Nothing highlights this more than Chang An-le (張安樂) — better known as the White Wolf — the supposedly “ex”-gang leader of the Bamboo United criminal organization, admitting publicly in a TV interview on Tuesday that he was behind one of the demonstrations, while spitting venom at the spiritual leader.
Known as the “brain” behind Bamboo United, Chang was born in China and was indicted for his indirect involvement in the 1984 murder of writer Henry Liu (劉宜良) in California. As Chin Ko-lin writes in his book Heijin, which dissects the criminal underworld in Taiwan, Chang spent about 10 years in a US federal prison for drug trafficking (Chin), kidnapping and attempting extortion (LA Times), before being deported to Taiwan in 1995. When Taiwan launched its third major crackdown on criminal organizations, known as Operation Chih-ping, in 1996, White Wolf was among the targets (over a major bid-rigging case) and fled to China, where he remains to this day.
When individuals like Chang are allowed to organize demonstrations against a man of peace like the Dalai Lama and mobilize members of the underworld to do so, those protests are not democracy — it’s intimidation. What’s even more worrying is that other “high-class Mainlanders” who favor unification with China, such as the racist (in fact the Chinese equivalent of a white supremacist) former official at the nation’s representative office in Toronto, Kuo Kuan-ying (郭冠英), are receiving protection from those criminal organizations. For example, after he was recalled from Canada for publishing anti-Taiwan and inflammatory tracts under a pseudonym, Kuo was picked up at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport by a group of Bamboo United members (Chang said in a telephone interview that he had orchestrated the pick-up operation).
The nexus of pro-unification and crime is worrying, though nothing new. Still, the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration’s silence on the matter implies that it supports the involvement of such characters in the anti-Dalai Lama protests. Even worse, given the nature of their activities, such groups could actually threaten the security of the Dalai Lama (especially the younger members, who tend not to follow orders as strictly as their forebears did).
On Tuesday, the Presidential Office confirmed that despite the involvement of criminal groups in the demonstrations, special forces would not be deployed to ensure his safety.
As for Aborigines and Buddhists who protested against the Tibetan leader, there is no doubt that some are doing so on Beijing’s behalf, and probably with some of its money (e.g., China’s Taiwan Affairs Office donating US$2.9 million in “relief aid” to Non-Partisan Solidarity Union Legislator and half-Aborigine May Chin 高金素梅 during her visit to Beijing in late August). As such, their “democratic” protests are actually being financed — and perhaps even initiated — by a regime that is altogether undemocratic. By allowing themselves to become mouthpieces for Beijing, these groups are forsaking their right to be perceived as part of the democratic voice.
The Dalai Lama’s visit is having a positive impact on Taiwan, not the least of which that it brings comfort to the victims of Morakot. It’s also contrasting, perhaps to an unprecedented level, those who stand for the well-being of this nation against those who have darker, ulterior motives. The protests, picked up by international media, have been small and inconsequential. But they’ve nevertheless allowed us to see that segment’s true colors: anti Dalai Lama, pro-Beijing, pro-unification and, in some cases, with ties to the criminal underworld — in all, beautiful social company.
Let’s hope that these revelations manage to completely discredit the handful of groups that have opposed the visit by a giant of humanity.