Mon, Dec 22, 2008 - Page 8 News List

We can’t rely on students to monitor government

By Chen Yi-shen 陳儀深

Before the March presidential election, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said he would not rule out boycotting the Beijing Olympics to protest China’s violent crackdown in Tibet. He was even more outspoken than his rival, the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) Frank Hsieh (謝長廷). After the election, Ma said it was not appropriate for the Dalai Lama to visit Taiwan, as he tries to ingratiate himself to China in any way. Examples of his saying one thing and doing another are too numerous to list.

Before the election, he advocated putting Taiwan first for the benefit of the public in an attempt to secure voter support. It is thus clear that Taiwanese consciousness and the concept of confronting China to protect Taiwan are mainstream values. In the current atmosphere of pessimism, this should be of comfort to pro-Taiwan forces.

But doesn’t Ma have to face another election? Some people argue that he plans to sell out Taiwan during this term. Although it might not be a complete impossibility, current developments show that this would not be an easy thing to do, so let’s leave this possibility aside for now. In addition, as Taiwanese tend to forget quickly, chances are that Ma could win the 2012 presidential election if he offers up yet another set of fair campaign promises.

These views oversimplify the problem. The public only seems to pay close attention to issues concerning national sovereignty, dignity and development during elections, which means that in ordinary times we have to rely on checks and balances between executive, legislative and judiciary powers and critical supervision from the opposition parties.

Now that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) is in charge of the Cabinet, the legislature and both the Examination and Control yuans and the opposition parties are caught up in dealing with the judiciary, we have to rely on civil society and non-governmental organizations to supervise the government. This is the reason why the Wild Strawberry Student Movement is so precious and why expectations of it are so high

On Dec. 7, the Wild Strawberries organized demonstrations nationwide. As the students didn’t apply for permission, they had to stress their peaceful and rational approach, even if this made it more difficult for other civil groups to mobilize supporters. As a result, the phrase “fight until the death” in the songs sung during the protest appeared to be a bit out of place. In general, however, participants displayed their creativity in designing slogans, clothes, banners and campaign vehicles, and the turnout of thousands of demonstrators was an affirmation of their efforts.

I agree with Tang Chih-chieh (湯志傑), a research fellow at the Institute of Sociology of Academia Sinica, who said the movement was “spring training” not only for domestic student movements, but also for the future generation of Taiwanese leaders. The strategy of solely relying on substantial resources of political parties or such empty slogans as “Love Taiwan” will likely soon be phased out as the new generation demands the vision, creativity and tolerance required to lead Taiwan into the future.

However, the movement is only the beginning. The students will eventually go back to school. But the question remains whether non-governmental organizations, including pro-localization groups, have managed to restore themselves to good shape since May. We cannot rely only on young students to supervise the Ma government. The DPP and pro-localization groups must leave the question of supporting or opposing former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) behind and move on. The competition for the 2012 election has already begun.

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