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With a "Harvard Parent 2001" pin stuck in a shirt reading "Taiwan NOT part of China," Yih-Yih Lin left his family behind during a Freshman Parents Weekend event Saturday morning and stood alone in front of the Science Center.
Lim, father of Greta J. Lin '01, spent his morning handing out leaflets on "The Taiwan Question," making him one of many first-year parents for whom Jiang Zemin's speech meant more than a longer walk from the Inn at Harvard.
"My mother, my brothers, my whole family, they are all in Taiwan," said Lin, of Acton, Mass. "I still consider Taiwan my home, and I'm very concerned about its future. What I'm doing now is trying to express my views."
The status of Taiwan, an island province which became the Republic of China after Communist victories drove Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist government there in 1949, was one of the over riding issues surrounding Jiang's speech.
Many Taiwanese parents of first-years said they still had relatives in Taiwan, which China considers a breakaway province to be eventually reassimilated into the Chinese state.
"We don't want to be gobbled up by China," said Ding Day, whose daughter Shelly Day is in the class of 2001.
Day said he had come from California to raise awareness in the Harvard community that Taiwan has been independent of China for more than 40 years.
"We'd been planning to come here [for parent's weekend] for a long time, and then we heard about the speech," Day said. "It just sounded like a great opportunity."
Thomas T. Wu, an Ohio radiologist who emigrated from Taiwan in the '60s said he knew even before the speech that Jiang would say nothing new about Taiwan.
"It's the same old propaganda," said Wu, father of Angela Wu'01 and two other daughters at the College. "I don't have to guess about it."
Thomas Wu said that, despite Chinese threats of military action against Taiwan, he thought the island's formal independence would be established within 10 years.
A few feet away, first-year parent S. Kuo said that this kind of independence would probably lead to war, in which U.S. backing for Taiwan was uncertain--"that's the $64,000 question," he said.
Kuo said that in his native Taiwan, Jiang's visit had generated widespread concern that the United States and China would act on Taiwan's status without that country's consent.
Jiang did not mention Taiwan specifically in his speech.
Standing on a nearby bench to get a better view of the Jiang motorcade, China native and first-year parent Bei Dong said she "felt great" about Jiang's speech and downplayed concerns about Taiwan, Tibet and human rights in her homeland.
Dong left Beijing 11 years ago with her husband. Both are microbiologists, and they said they left for better opportunities in science. Even after being in the U.S. for so long, both expressed reluctance to talk about Chinese politics.
"I actually didn't like [life in China] before, but everything is getting better now," said Dong, as her husband repeatedly interrupted to urge her to "shut up."
"Now everyone seems very happy," she said.
"That's enough. We don't talk about political matters," her husband said, ending the interview.
Later, as he stood in the rain to watch Jiang's motorcade roll away, China native Willie Chwang said he had been "really impressed" by the President's speech.
"I didn't anticipate this kind of openness--he admitted that they had made mistakes in recent years and had tried very hard to correct them," said Chwang, father of Winston Chwang '01.
After the speech, first-year parent Haeju Kim said that she hoped Jiang's visit to the U.S. would "make the world a better place," but she faced the crush outside the Science Center with other things on her mind.
"Right now I'm just trying to find my kid," she said.
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