Monday, Jan. 17th marked the 15th celebration of the official Martin Luther King Jr national holiday in the US.
King was born on Jan. 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. Four days after his assassination on April 8, 1968, Congressman John Conyers introduced the first legislation calling for a federal holiday to honor the assassinated civil rights leader.
Fifteen years later, on Nov. 3, 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the bill establishing the third Monday of January as the Martin Luther King Jr national holiday. The first official national observance of the holiday was Jan. 20, 1986.
Martin Luther King was perhaps the greatest civil rights leader in American history, though some may argue that the Founding Fathers or Abraham Lincoln are more deserving of that title.
I believe King was an inspired man of God, brought forth to call the most powerful nation on Earth to repentance and to share his vision of a just future.
King is probably best known for his leading role in the 1963 March on Washington during which he uttered, from the feet of the Lincoln Memorial, the now immortal words "I have a dream!"
King was greatly blessed with the gift of speech and his words survive him well. More than 31 years after his tragic death we are urged to "keep the dream alive!"
Last December I was privileged to speak to the Taiwanese American Citizens League in Atlanta. I took advantage of my first visit to the city to go with my host to the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial.
I was raised at a time of great awareness about the civil rights movement. My school curriculum was marked each February with the observance of Black History Month. So the exhibits at the King Memorial were a review for me, but a powerfully moving one.
For my host, it was a different story. He is Taiwanese and a long-time resident of Atlanta, but this was his first visit to the memorial and his first real exposure to the powerful messenger and message of Martin Luther King.
Our discussion that day revealed how relevant King's message was to democracy advocates in Taiwan and how relevant it is for those who hope for democracy in China.
King drew upon the wisdom of foreign leaders, especially Mohandas Gandhi, who established his country's freedom through nonviolent revolution.
So it is no surprise that King's teachings and actions would be of value to leaders beyond the US.
To demonstrate the point, I would like to review two passages from King's "Letter from the Birmingham Jail," written on April 16, 1963 (available at http://www.stanford.edu/group/King/Docs/birmingham.html):
"My friends, I must say to you that we have not made a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent pressure. History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups are more immoral than individuals."
"We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have never yet engaged in a direct action movement that was `well timed,' according to the timetable of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the words [sic] `Wait!' It rings in the ear of every Negro with a piercing familiarity. This `Wait' has almost always meant `Never.' We must come to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that `justice too long delayed is justice denied.'"
How many Taiwanese democracy advocates in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s were told to "Wait!" How many of those same leaders, or even the leaders of today, believe that Taiwan would enjoy democracy today had their elders not pushed ahead with "legal and nonviolent pressure?"
Who in Taiwan would challenge the notion that "privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily?"
While the parallels between the American civil rights movement and the Taiwan democracy movement are clear and interesting, King's letter also contains an important message for China: "freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed."
King testifies of an important truth about democratization. There is nothing inevitable about the development of democracy. It must be built from within. Global markets and the tide of history may help, but in the end the oppressed must demand freedom from their oppressor.
As I celebrate the first Martin Luther King Day of the 21st century, I wonder who will be the Martin Luther King Jr of China.
Who will have the courage and conviction to stand up and declare "I have a dream" for a peaceful and just future for the world's most populous nation?
It's hard to image, and perhaps its time is not yet come. Nevertheless, Taiwan should mark this holiday by chanting across the Strait, "Keep the dream alive!"
Stephen Yates is senior policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation Asian Studies Center in Washington.
An outrageous dismissal of the exemplary Taiwanese fight against COVID-19 has been perpetrated by the EU. There is no excuse. I presume that everyone who reads the Taipei Times knows that the EU has excluded Taiwan from its so-called “safe list,” which permits citizens unhindered travel to and from the countries of the EU. As the EU does not feel that it needs to explain the character of this exclusive list, perhaps we should examine it ourselves in some detail. There are 14 nations on the list that have been chosen as safe countries of origin and safe countries of destination for
Filmmakers in Taiwan used to struggle when it came to telling a story that could resonate internationally. Things started to change when the 2017 drama series The Teenage Psychic (通靈少女), a collaboration between HBO Asia and Taiwanese Public Television Service (PTS), became a huge hit not just locally, but also internationally. The coming-of-age story was adapted from the 2013 PTS-produced short film The Busy Young Psychic (神算). Entirely filmed in Taiwan, the Mandarin-language series even made it on HBO’s streaming platforms in the US. It is proof that a well-told Taiwanese story can absolutely win the hearts and minds of hard-to-please
Drugged with sedatives, handcuffed and wearing a bright orange prison tunic, British fraud investigator and former journalist Peter Humphrey was escorted by warders into an interrogation room filled with reporters, locked inside a steel cage and fastened to a metal “tiger chair.” Humphrey recalls: “I was completely surrounded by officers, dazed, manacled and with cameras pointing at me through the bars. I was fighting for my life like a caged animal. It was horrifying.” Footage from the interrogation was later artfully edited to give the appearance of a confession and broadcast on Chinese state media. While this might sound like an
The US House of Representatives on July 1 passed by unanimous consent a bipartisan bill that would penalize Chinese officials who implement Beijing’s new national security legislation in Hong Kong, as well as banks that do business with them. The following day, the US Senate unanimously passed the bill, which was later sent to the White House, where it awaits US President Donald Trump’s signature. The bill does not spell out what the sanctions would look like and Trump has yet to sign it into law, but Reuters on Thursday last week reported that five major Chinese state lenders are considering