08/06/2022, 16.11
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The Taiwanese ‘do not want to end up like Hong Kong,’ says Camillian missionary Fr Didonè

by Alessandra De Poli

Fr Giuseppe Didonè has seen Taiwanese society evolve, and the Taiwanese are determined not to be robbed of their future. Used to living under threat, most continue to live as usual. Last month, the Camillians marked 70 years on the island. The “government truly appreciates what we do,” the clergymen told AsiaNews.

 

Milan (AsiaNews) – “Pelosi's visit brought tensions, but people continue to quietly live their lives,” said Fr Giuseppe Didonè, a missionary with the Camillian order. Originally from Cittadella, Padua (Italy), he has lived in Taiwan for 58 years.

“The Taiwanese are not as worried like they are in Europe," he told AsiaNews. “They know that China is a threat but if it really tries to invade the island, they also know that they are protected by America and Japan.”

Japan reported that four of the five ballistic missiles China fired the other day into Japan's exclusive economic zone flew over Taipei, a first.

With intense military exercises that will continue for another couple of days, Beijing is showing that it can occupy air and maritime spaces that it has claimed for a long time.

However, analysts point out that in the event of an invasion, global supply chains would be disrupted, generating a crisis worse than the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. More than half of the world's maritime trade transited through the Taiwan Strait this year.

Was it just a Twitter crisis, as some have suggested? In Hong Kong, which has been absent from the debate and analysis, things are not so well.

“Beijing has offered Taiwan the same status as Hong Kong in accordance with principle ‘One country, two systems’, but the Taiwanese immediately refused,” said the clergyman. “They do not trust China and do not want to end up like Hong Kong, at any cost.”

China’s crackdown in the former British colony is one of the reasons why the Democratic Progressive Party and Tsai Ing-wen won the presidential election in 2020.

Paradoxically, the Kuomintang, the mainland Chinese nationalist party whose forces fled to the island in 1949, have been more open to Communist China, which turned out to be fatal in the presidential race.

The Taiwanese do not want to be robbed of their future.

“When I arrived here in 1965 the population was very poor,” the missionary explained. “Sixty years ago, we mostly helped the aborigines,” the island’s indigenous population who lived in what was then called Formosa before ethnic Chinese began migrating in the 17th century.

“They were the most destitute group, but now they too can come to the city, find good jobs, and lead a dignified life.”

The situation on the island of Taiwan is on hold. On the one hand, Beijing considers it a “rebel” province; on the other, it is for intents and purposes its own nation-state with its own currency and passport.

In fact, China’s threats have highlighted what has developed with increasing force, namely the national traits of Taiwanese society.

One of the differences with mainland China is the relationship with religious minorities. "The [Catholic] Church here is highly respected, and we are well liked for all the work we do, especially in the social sphere.”

Fr  Didonè started out as bursar and deputy director at St Mary's Hospital in Lutong. The Camillians, whose actual name is Clerics Regular, Ministers to the Sick, also set up parish kindergartens, which are now run by the government.

Eventually, Fr Giuseppe Didonè headed seniors centres and facilities for people with physical and mental disabilities. The stigma is still strong and children who have some handicap at birth are usually abandoned.

“They are completely discarded; no one wants them. In Camillian centres, they get quality care and assistance. Some go out in the morning and return in the evening; others stay in residence all day,” he noted. For this reason, “People have great respect for the Church.”

The Camillians, who first set foot on the island in 1952, celebrated their 70th anniversary on 14 July. “President Tsai Ing-wen came to congratulate us and show that the government truly appreciates what we do.”

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