Tue, Aug 22, 2006 - Page 8 News List

The threat to Taiwan's democratic movement

By Chiu Li-li 邱莉莉

Lee Chia-tung (李家同), a professor at National Chi Nan University, recently published an article ("Chen needs to go, but not because of protests," Aug. 21, page 8) calling on President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to step down, but he opposed a popular uprising by former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德), as it is bound to make a mockery of Taiwan's democracy.

Although Lee believes that Chen should step down, he also provided examples of past experiences in other countries to show that in the absence of legitimate procedures, forcing a president out of office will only lead to national instability.

I think those who support Shih's "one million people to depose President Chen Shui-bian" campaign should seriously consider the consequences of their emotionally wrought move and what price they are willing to pay for their cause.

In 1979, the Kaohsiung Incident was sparked by a democracy movement initiated by dangwai (黨外) political activists striving to lift the ban on political parties, advocating new legislative elections and pushing for direct local elections.

On May 20, 1988, a movement staged by farmers demanded that the government deal with imports of foreign produce, implement a comprehensive farmers insurance scheme and a develop a systematic program for purchasing rice.

In 1990, the Wild Lily Student Movement (野百合學運) was launched in an efoort to force government officials to dismiss the National Assembly, abolish the temporary provisions that became effective during the period of Communist Rebellion, hold a high-level national policy conference and draw up a reform timetable.

In 1991, the "100 Action Alliance" (一百行動聯盟) was founded to oppose and abolish Article 100 of the Criminal Code (刑法) in order to grant Taiwanese the freedoms of thought, speech and association.

These movements were of great importance and significance in the course of the development of Taiwan's democratic political system. Their objective was to strive for a sustainable political system.

However, Shih's campaign to unseat the president is directed at Chen rather than at establishing a sustainable political system.

Instead, Shih should raise the level of his discourse about political corruption by also touching on the need for a "sunshine law" that would require all public functionaries to disclose their financial assets to the Control Yuan, require all party assets to be reported and demand that government officials who receive illegal political donations forfeit their right to hold public office.

If Shih is instead only hell-bent on taking his anti-Chen campaign to the streets, he will harm the nation's democratic development. This kind of political campaign simply takes advantage of the media (who also benefit), regardless of the legal procedures to recall or impeach a president.

Shih clearly harbors a deliberate intention to force Chen out of office. How could Shih not be aware of the possibility that Taiwan could devolve into a third- world nation, and that his movement could plunge the country into turmoil, instability and mutual suspicion?

People have the power to cast ballots and limit the terms of elected representatives, thereby determining the government's composition and balancing its power. But Shih's need to be a martyr may destroy the nation's democratic gains, end any semblance of "responsible politics" and divert Taiwan from its course of becoming a normal country.

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