Tony Fu frowned when Nick requested an interview with the Minister of Communications. “Mr. Kao doesn’t represent the government in these matters,” he insisted. “Perhaps we can arrange something with the Minister of Foreign Affairs. He’s the one to talk to about the Shanghai Communiqué and your sellout to the Communists.”
“Thanks, but if you don’t mind, I’ll call Minister Kao myself.” Nick stared straight through the ill-at-ease functionary until he tugged on his necktie and turned away.
Kao Yu-shu was the first and only non-KMT Cabinet Member. He was twice elected mayor of Taipei as a dangwai “outside the Party” candidate, despite prodigious KMT efforts to defeat him. Only his high visibility and extensive international contacts kept him from getting arrested for his barbs at Nationalist government failings. Now he was vilified by other non-party politicians for breaking with them to become window dressing in a government they all detested.
Nick got his appointment. At the Ministry of Communications he was ushered into a large reception room carpeted in fading red. Eight matching upholstered chairs lined the far wall. Minister Kao welcomed Nick and led him to the chairs in the center, separated by a small table with tea and cigarettes. The Minister lit up a cigarette and dismissed his aides. He spoke in excellent clipped English.
“I didn’t come into this government to be muzzled. It should be obvious that what I am about to tell you cannot be attributed to me personally, but what I say is what the Taiwanese people think.”
“Agreed,” said Nick. “No attribution.”
“The dictators who run this government got what they deserved. They have no legitimacy. Mainlanders are frightened because they are despised. The Taiwanese people want self-determination and democracy. It will never happen without American support. Shanghai has shattered our hopes.”
Kao Yu-shu stared Nick down. His furled eyebrows and steely voice conveyed exquisitely controlled anger that was no less profound for the erudite way it was expressed.
“Nixon’s cynicism puts the lie to all your fancy American talk about freedom and democracy and self-determination. The Chiang gang that rules Taiwan with an iron fist is an invading force of the cabal that lost the Chinese Civil War. Eighty-five percent of the people on this island are native Taiwanese who had nothing to do with the war and want nothing to do with China. The island belongs to us, and we can only scream our anguish in silence. A misplaced word about Taiwan independence can mean life in prison for sedition.”
Kao Yu-shu sucked in a deep sad drag on his cigarette. “Do you understand now?”
“What will the Taiwanese do?” Nick asked.
“Let me finish first. What nobody can understand here is how your Kissinger could be so totally suckered by Chou En-lai. The master barbarian handler got everything he wanted and gave you nothing. Why didn’t the bastards who sealed Taiwan’s fate at Shanghai have the sense to just stick with the position that the status of Taiwan is undetermined?”
“I imagine you would know better than I,” said Nick.
“It was much easier for you to get an agreement at Shanghai by mouthing Chiang Kai-shek’s one-China lie, and your leaders played it for all it’s worth. Everyone knows he was trapped by his own line. Nice trick, but what you Americans have really done is cage us Taiwanese in an eternal nightmare.”
Kao Yu-shu stood up to end the interview, leaving Nick in no doubt that his soul was seared by awareness that nothing the Taiwanese could do would change their destiny.
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