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Pass on the Gas: A Taiwanese Alaskan’s Take on Walker’s Visit From China

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Photo by Scott Maxwell.

I was at the Anchorage Museum Friday night when my friend texted me that Chinese president Xi Jinping was in town. I’m pretty involved in the Chinese and Taiwanese communities in Anchorage, so I thought it was curious that I hadn’t heard anything. I checked the news, saw President Xi’s itinerary, and saw that he and Governor Bill Walker (I-Alaska) would be at the Captain Cook Hotel soon.

So, I walked over to catch a glimpse.

First off, respect and love to my Chinese friends. I am a Taiwanese Alaskan critical of the Chinese government — not of Chinese people.

“When’s the next time the Chinese president gonna be in Anchorage?” I asked myself, and immediately thought, “Probably never.”

So, I seized the opportunity and shouted, “Taiwan is an independent country! Never forget!” It got the attention of law enforcement, some bystanders, and some Chinese officials. I shouted the same phrase in English and in Chinese throughout the night. I also shouted, “Release Taiwanese human rights activist Lee Ming-cheh!”

The Chinese government has a history of intimidating my family’s sovereign island nation of Taiwan. They claim us as a renegade province, they have missiles pointed at my people, and they routinely fly fighter jets a little too close. Yet, they still want us to believe in reunification.

That’s kind of like the British Parliament claiming the United States as theirs, and making a threat to prove it. Thanks, China, but no thanks. Respect to the heritage, the landscapes, and the diaspora, but no thanks to the human rights abuses, the media blackouts, and the complete inability to accept dissent.

Governments are complex beings. While I applaud China’s ability to put the U.S. to shame on implementing renewable energy projects en masse, I denounce the government’s record of consistent human rights abuse, the most recent public case being Taiwanese activist Lee Ming-cheh being held captive somewhere in China on suspicion of “endangering national security.” The Chinese government won’t say where he is and won’t allow him to have a lawyer.

As you might know, Governor Walker is trying to hustle Alaska’s liquefied natural gas (AK LNG) to Asian markets. If Governor Walker wants to sell our AK LNG to China, he needs to reconcile with the fact that Alaska’s nonrenewable fossil fuels will be extracted to develop the infrastructure of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The CCP is responsible, literally, for the famine and subsequent death of an estimated 18- to 55-million people during The Great Leap Forward, a campaign led by Chairman Mao Zedong between 1958 and 1962 to quickly transform China from an agrarian to an industrialized society. The CCP is also responsible for the massacre of hundreds of people at Tiananmen Square, where students organized pro-democracy demonstrations in 1989. The 2008 Olympics in Beijing displaced 1.5 million residents.

Again, governments are complex beings, and I admire a lot about China. We can point the finger at the U.S. and say similarly atrocious things about colonization at home and our imperialism abroad.

Despite investors pulling out, and despite the arctic impacts of climate change, our governor still wants to to build a mega-project (the most mega of projects) that will benefit an authoritarian government.

He won’t say if he voted for Trump or not, but Governor Walker sure does want his attention. He’d love it if the Trump administration greenlit AK LNG; he’d be ecstatic if they allowed for oil and gas exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. I know a lot of people that disagree, and I know a lot of people that want a just transition to arctic renewable energies. The governor’s plans are not in the best interest of Alaskans, future generations, nor the concept of democracy.

At a Saturday morning press conference, the governor had time for one more question. I stood up to ask how he can justify developing indigenous land so that China’s authoritarian government can turn a profit. He walked out silently.

With respect, I challenge the governor to give Alaskans an answer, or better yet, invest in Alaskan-owned renewable energy projects instead.

Jeff Chen
Jeff Chen is a Taiwanese Alaskan who lives in Anchorage. He’s the first of his lineage to be born in the U.S. (Photo by Scott Maxwell.)

What do you think?