Thu, Feb 04, 2010 - Page 8 News List


Scrap repressive laws

As Taiwan was making its first steps in the early 1990s toward democracy, two pieces of legislation that were designed to constrain constitutional change and the public’s ability to protest were passed. They were the Act Governing Relations Between Peoples of the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area (台灣地區與大陸地區人民關係條例) and the Assembly and Parade Law (集會遊行法).

The former codified the relationship between Taiwan and China as between the “Taiwan area” and the “Mainland area” and set restrictions on any change to the official name and nature of this relationship, while the latter was little more than a legacy of martial law, designed to assuage “Mainlander” fears that democracy might bring substantive protests by a public tired of “rulership without accountability.”

Both these laws are now playing a critical role in allowing the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), heavily influenced by old Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) guard such as National Security Council Secretary-General Su Chi (蘇起) and former KMT chairman Lien Chan (連戰), to forge ahead with rolling back Taiwan to the early 1990s in terms of its identity and relations with China.

When questioned by the media and public on Taiwan’s status and identity, the KMT administration has attempted, without success, to inveigle Taiwanese into believing that their country is only an area of the Republic of China — a polity that officially still claims the territory currently administered by the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

The cross-strait relations act mentioned above is referred to as an answer to those who argue that Taiwanese sovereignty is at risk from the Ma administration’s arguably reckless haste to comport with the PRC. When Ma says that Taiwan’s sovereignty is not at risk, he is telling the truth since from his perspective sovereignty belongs solely to the ROC and not Taiwan or its citizens.

Furthermore, through “education and cultural exchanges,” including preparations for the forthcoming non-event of the ROC centennial, the government is crudely and transparently seeking to re-educate Taiwanese into thinking that they are Chinese, nationally and otherwise.

Meanwhile, the Assembly and Parade Law is being selectively used to clamp down on protest, legitimate or otherwise, and public freedom of movement and expression. People can protest anywhere, anytime, as long as it is not somewhere important or meaningful, for example near the presidential and government offices.

Fortunately, many Taiwanese reject these arbitrary rules but risk imprisonment as a consequence.

Though very successful, the Wild Strawberry Student Movement was sadly ridiculed by a largely pro-KMT media and disgracefully ignored by the over-proud Wild Lily generation, whose hubris prevented them from standing to be counted alongside the students when it mattered most. The Wild Strawberries, still active today, stood alone against Ma and Premier Wu Den-yih’s (吳敦義) patronizing belittlement of their cause.

If Taiwanese want to remain masters of their own house, they need to demand that their legislators scrap these “birdcage” laws that are designed to inhibit consolidation of democracy, create a legal foundation for annexation into China and neutralize public anger at anti-democratic attempts to rob Taiwanese of their national sovereignty.

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