Debian and Taiwanese independence
Posted May 28, 2004 1:00 UTC (Fri) by giraffedata
Parent article: The new Debian kernel team
I was intrigued by this intersection of politics and operating system design, so I checked into the controversy and read the mailing list thread. Here's what I found.
Herbert Wu's actual explanation of why he resigned is,
"I do not
wish to be associated with people who're actively working towards the
independence of Taiwan."
Here's some very brief background of the political issue for those who don't know about it: The island of Taiwan is considered by some to be a sovereign nation and by others to be a province of China. And others think it's somewhere in between and should move one direction or the other. This has been going on for over fifty years. The government of China definitely considers Taiwan a province of China.
The controversy surrounds a part of Debian that asks you to choose a country from a list. The list is primarily from the ISO standard ISO 3166, which is the standard that defines those codes like "us" for USA and "ch" for Switzerland. ISO 3166 defines "tw" and says it is "Taiwan, province of China." But Debian varies from ISO 3166 here and instead lists simply "Taiwan." Furthermore, is says of the list, "choose a country."
Debian maintainers claim this is for simplicity -- that the simple "Taiwan" conveys the relevant information sufficiently and that the only reason to add extra words would be to make a political statement. They say "choose a country" is oversimplified for the same reason. Of course, some people believe actively omitting the extra words is itself a political statement.
Some people (principally, Chinese) find it offensive to Chinese people to suggest that Taiwan is a separate country. Apparently because that in turns suggests there's some reason not to be part of China, i.e. that China is not a nice place.
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