“They came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.”
Many are familiar with these words penned by German pastor Martin Niemoeller, who initially supported Adolf Hitler but was later imprisoned by the Nazis during World War II.
Niemoeller’s poem, with its haunting last line — “Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up” — depicted his atonement for not stepping forward sooner and speaking up against the Nazis.
After being lauded by the international community for its progressive achievements on the path toward a mature democracy, little did Taiwan know that it would all come back to this. Many are asking if the nation is about to sink back into the dark age of Martial Law. Will the people remain mute in the face of what has brazenly been taking place in this country these past few months?
From the abrupt detention of Chiayi County Commissioner Chen Ming-wen (陳明文) and Yunlin County Commissioner Su Chih-fen (蘇治芬) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to the shockingly abusive manner the police employed to disperse protesters during the visit of Chinese envoy Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) last week; from police monitoring of Taipei City councilors’ activities to the Taichung County Government checking whether any civil servants had taken any days off during Chen’s visit from Nov. 3 to Nov. 7 — all these have aroused concern at home and abroad that democratic values and human rights have suffered under the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government.
At home, groups of college students across the country have since Thursday last week staged a sit-in to protest against police brutality in dealing with the demonstrators and to urge President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) to apologize over the matter. Abroad, some 20 academics specializing in Taiwan affairs in the US, Canada and Australia last week issued a joint statement expressing their concern over the detentions of opposition politicians being held incommunicado without charges, warning that these “arrests could signal an erosion of Taiwanese democracy.”
All these voices, however, do not appear to be enough as Liu arrogantly declared, in response to the students’ demands, “that kind of thing [the sit-in] will blow over after a couple of days.”
Both Ma and Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) have also insisted time and again that the police had done nothing wrong and there was no need for an apology.
Six months into Ma’s presidency and the public has already witnessed a disillusioned senior citizen setting himself on fire in protest, politicians staging hunger strikes and students holding a sit-in protest.
Continuous pressure is needed to deal with the government’s arrogant display of power.
Some people laugh off talk of a return to White Terror or the Martial Law era. Perhaps they have to wait for the time they are stopped by police on the street, their iPods checked or their blog entries removed before they would remember Niemoeller’s words and wonder what would have happened if they had only spoken up sooner.
On Sept. 27, 2002, the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste (East Timor) joined the UN to become its 191st member. Since then, two other nations have joined, Montenegro on June 28, 2006, and South Sudan on July 14, 2011. The combined total of the populations of these three nations is just more than half that of Taiwan’s 23.7 million people. East Timor has 1.3 million, Montenegro has slightly more than half a million and South Sudan has 10.9 million. They all are members of the UN, yet much more populous Taiwan is denied membership. Of the three, East Timor, as a Southeast Asian
Chinese strongman Xi Jinping (習近平) hasn’t had a very good spring, either economically or politically. Not that long ago, he seemed to be riding high. The PRC economy had been on a long winning streak of more than six percent annual growth, catapulting the world’s most populous nation into the second-largest power, behind only the United States. Hundreds of millions had been brought out of poverty. Beijing’s military too had emerged as the most powerful in Asia, lagging only behind the US, the long-time leader on the global stage. One can attribute much of the recent downturn to the international economic
Taiwan has for decades singlehandedly borne the brunt of a revanchist, ultra-nationalist China — until now. Ever since Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had the temerity to call for a transparent, international investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, Beijing has been turning the screws on Canberra. This has included unleashing aggressive “wolf warrior” diplomats to intimidate Australian policymakers, enacting punitive tariffs on its exports, and threatening an embargo on Chinese tourists and students to the nation. A tense situation became more serious on June 19 after Morrison revealed that a “sophisticated state-based actor” — read: China — had launched a
Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) is to be Taiwan’s next representative to the US. Hsiao is well versed in international affairs and Taiwan-US relations. In her days as a student in the US, she was a member of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) and served as chief executive of the Democratic Progressive Party’s US mission. She is familiar with a broad spectrum of Taiwanese affairs in the US. FAPA hopes that Hsiao, after taking up her new post, would continue to deepen and normalize relations between Taiwan and the US, and that she would try to get a free-trade agreement