Taiwan: Diplomatic Officer's Blogposts Ignite Ethnic Controversy

In the history of Taiwanese's struggle to democracy, some scars seem never healed and when time comes, they bleed. “Ethnicity” is one of these scars. From the biological point of view, mainlanders who immigrated from Mainland China to Taiwan around 50 years ago and “Taiwanese” who too came from Mainland China 200 years ago belong to the same Han people. However, due to the divides and differences between social classes, language uses, political views toward China and reunification, historical complex, and constant arousal by media and elections, the two “ethnic” communities are under certain kind of tension which is hard to resolved till now. The latest example of the tension, according to Michael Turton, is:

A huge story last week was the revelation that Kuo Kuan-ying, an information officer in the Taiwan diplomatic service in Toronto appears to have an alter ego named Fan Lan-chin who is a raving mainlander bigot.

On March 11, the opposition party (Democratic Progressive Party, DPP) Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) accused Kuo of having written a number of articles defaming Taiwan and its people under the pen name. From Taipei Times:

In the articles, the author referred to the Taiwanese as taibazi (台巴子, “Taiwanese rednecks”) and wokou (倭寇, “Japanese pirates”). The author said “the imposition of martial law had been a benevolent act of the then government,” and that “[China] should spend many years suppressing [people in Taiwan] instead of granting any political freedom [to them] once it has taken Taiwan by force.” The author also called Taiwan a “ghost island.” Kuan said her allegation was based on the fact that one of the online articles about Taipei’s Jiancheng Circle market posted on Fan Lan-chin’ blog on July 25, 2006, was also published by Kuo in the Chinese-language China Times on Aug. 2, 2006. The article described feelings about the decline of the Jiancheng Circle, Taipei’s oldest food market. A phrase that read “we are high-class mainlanders” was mentioned in the article. Hsu said Kuo sent a statement to the GIO to explain himself, in which he said that he wrote the China Times article but not the others under the name Fan Lan-chin. Kuo was quoted by Hsu as saying the article he wrote was then posted on Fan Lan-chin’s blog. Kuo was also quoted by Hsu as conceding that he did write “we are high-class mainlanders” in the article, but saying that the phrase was meant as “an expression of self-depreciation.”

Since Kuo denied the authorship of other insulting articles, netizens started to figure his identity out on their own. Billy Pan uses “human flesh search engine” to affirm that Guo is Fan.

郭冠英在網路上用化名范蘭欽寫文章,自稱是高級外省人,高調地罵台灣人是台巴子,倭寇。被PTT鄉民和部落客揭發後,卻矢口否 認。……不敢捍衛自已的主張,是這群所謂的『高級外省人』(超惡劣的名詞,那難道有低級外省人嗎?或低級本省人嗎?),還有馬冏團隊的特徵。巧言 令色,玩弄文字,前後不一。

Kuo uses Fan Lan-chin as his pen name writing on the Internet, calling himself a superior mainlander, overtly reproving Taiwanese people as taibazi and wokou. But after the truth was uncovered by country men(鄉民, a self-taunting name of netizens) from PTT and bloggers, he denied……Being afraid of fighting for their own claims is the characteristic of these so-called “superior mainlanders” and Ma's government. (So abominable. Are there inferior mainlanders or inferior local Taiwanese?) They say sweet words to people with ingratiating manners, and play around words without a bit of consistence.

東窗事發後,筆名『范蘭欽』的部落客馬上刪去了他所有的文章。這是個很笨的作法。因為,網友和 Google都備份下來了。打實體的『郭冠英』,虛擬的『范蘭欽』馬上刪文。……除了已經在新聞媒體上曝光的,有PTT網友指出曾為郭冠英輸入這 些文章的報導外,……根據某噗浪網友的比對,『范蘭欽』至少有 55 篇文章又以『郭才子』的筆名發表,有時是同一天,有時是郭才子早,有時是范蘭欽早。

After the news broke up, the blogger under the pen name “Fan Lan-chin” deleted all his posts immediately. This is stupid, because netizens and Google have already copied them all. When we attacked Kuo in reality, Fan in virtuality deleted the posts…In addition to what has been reported on news media, a netizen from PTT also said that he once helped Kuo to publish these posts…And according to the comparison done by a plurker, at least 55 posts published by “Fan Lan-chin” were also published under the pen name “Talented Kuo”. Sometimes those posts were published on the same date, sometimes Talented Kuo published them first and sometimes Fan Lan-chin first.

水月清風 The Lotus Pool By Moonlight also finds that:

2.29的八卦版有人轉錄了一篇聯合報的社論「被掩蓋的真相…陳儀 是非魔痴228」,內容約略是陳儀屠殺出於不得已,錯在台灣刁民。本來鄉民大家酸一酸也就算了,但是現在是個google很好很強大的時代,鄉民不只發現 這篇文章的作者泛藍欽有許多奇文值得共賞外,更發現了,同一篇文章被刊登在郭冠英的Blog上。

On Feb 29th, someone re-posted an edtorial piece from United Daily “Covered Truth…Cheng Yi, Rights and wrongs, Devils and madness of 228“. The content is about Cheng Yi‘s slaughtering Taiwanese was against his will, and it was wicked Taiwanese people's fault. We country men didn't bother to do more than mocking at the article, but later–since we are in an era of almighty Google–some country men found that Fan Lan-chin, the author of this piece, has written many other unusual articles that deserve to be examined by all. And we also found that one identical article was also published on Kuo's personal blog.

However, 水月清風 The Lotus Pool By Moonlight argues that:

其實就言論自由的角度來說 范蘭欽的文章是沒有問題的 (雖然罵到很多台灣人,我覺得也很不爽) 但畢竟嘴巴長在他臉上,手生在他身上……

From the perspective of freedom of speech, Fan Lan-chin's articles are fine. (Even though they did insult many Taiwanese, and I feel very bad, too.) But he own his mouth and his hands…

但這問題的癥結就是  范蘭欽背後的真實人物的身份? 如果是政府的公務人員呢? 而且又是坐領高薪從事新聞外交事務的官員呢? 這就很有爭議跟責難的地方了。

The crux of this problem is that: who in reality is behind Fan Lan-chin? If he is a government official? Or if he is a government official who is well paid to deal with foreign diplomacy and information affairs? This is why the whole thing is highly debatable and condemnable

Jostar2 thinks that:


Today, I would leave the question of whether Fan is Kuo or not to public opinions(if not flesh search engine?). I don't care about that. What I worry most is the reason why Fan as a mainlander would want to show off his odd sense of superiority publicly, in order to provoke “the others” that cannot be seen by bare eyes?


The critical part of the problem is the recognition of “Taiwanese”: Once he eliminates mainlanders from Taiwanese, or if he has never thought that mainlanders are a part of Taiwanese, that would really be the problem.

Not everyone thinks that Kuo should be dismissed from office. aguai thinks that even a bastard has his right:

即便郭冠英是個親中深藍滿腦子大中國思想的人 我看不出來他有任何因為歧視辱罵台獨分子而被迫失去工作的正當性 他可以完全是一個大中國沙文主義的混帳 而我們應該誓死維護他混帳的權利 理論上來說 這才是所謂的民主吧

Even Kuo is a pro-China, deep blue, and his brain stuck with Great China ideology, I don't see there's any legitimacy that he should be forced to leave his job because of his reproach and discrimination toward activists for Taiwan independence. He can be a total Great China chauvinist jerk, and we should fight for his right to be a jerk till we die. Theoretically, this is so-called democracy, isn't it?

However, on traditional and social media as well as in political arena, Kuo's articles and his attitude have become the most convenient target for politicians and angry “country men” who are motivated to use even more insulting arguments to fight back. The issues of freedom of speech, ethnic controversy, and President Ma's awful governance are all mixed together in the debate this time. With the approaching of municipal election, what is sure is that more and more “accidents” like Kuo's event are on the way.


  • Portnoy Fan

    Hi Portnoy, great to see you “blogging” again. I enjoy your blog very much hope to see you continue back on your blog soon!

    You make a factual mistake I want to point out:

    “From the biological point of view, mainlanders who immigrated from Mainland China to Taiwan around 50 years ago and “Taiwanese” who too came from Mainland China 200 years ago belong to the same Han people”

    Han as a group doesn’t make sense biologically. Genetically, China is fairly heterogeneous with the north and the south quite different genetically. Southern Chinese have some ancestry in common with Vietnamese and many other groups and it’s quite complicated, but it is a different story in the north. Besides that, 80% of Taiwanese prior to 1949 are of partial aboriginal heritage. This isn’t necessarily recognized by Taiwanese themselves or something people normally think about, but this is genetic fact.

    Other than that, I agree with you that the controversy has been used by politicians for their own gain.

    I think the discussion of “freedom of speech” is fairly confused in Taiwan. First, there are fairly restrictive laws that make insulting someone illegal. Second, many countries restrict freedom of speech when it comes to hate speech, speech harmful to others, and pornography. Last, I think there’s a very big difference between a law prohibiting that kind of speech (I would sign up to defend Kuo if that was the case), and job consequences as the result of your speech. Why should freedom of speech prevent him from being fired from his job? What he said very much has to do with his job as a representative of Taiwan abroad and was very much in contrary to the mission of his job.

    Sure, he owns his mouth, but it’s being rented out for use by the government of Taiwan as long as he has the job he has. Otherwise, quit, and go on saying the things you love saying, right? The law protects your right to do that.

  • Portnoy Fan

    In breaking news, Kuo has admitted to writing those essays: http://udn.com/NEWS/NATIONAL/BREAKINGNEWS1/4804781.shtml


    “Outsiders ask why didn’t you admit it [writing those essays] right from the start? He said very determinedly, this is a secret, it should be guaranteed, when you write you don’t necessarily have to use your real name, using a pen-name is a basic guarantee of the freedom of speech”

  • hi

    Thanks for your opinions. I agree your point of view.

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