After the Tunisians launched the “Jasmine Revolution,” Egypt became the second domino that collapsed. The moment protesters at Cairo’s Tahrir Square heard that Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak had tendered his resignation, they cheered excitedly: “Egypt is free!”
This revolution born out of street protests reaches beyond ethnicity, region, culture and religion, making it clear that that the pursuit of freedom and the will to oppose dictatorship are not exclusive to Western countries. They are truly universal values shared by all human beings.
Most political commentators around the world who are following events in North Africa and the Arab world have said that the public’s insistence on the pursuit of freedom is crucial to deciding whether or not this “fourth wave of democratization” will be successful and lasting.
Through his Twitter account, Chinese human rights lawyer Teng Biao (滕彪) congratulated the Egyptian people by quoting the ancient Greek historian Thucydides, who said: “The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage.”
The question is why is it that the pursuit of freedom has clearly given the general public the courage required to take to the streets.
Perhaps the simplest explanation is that people have realized that the idea that sovereignty rests with the public means that a leader whose regime has not been approved through democratic procedures has no legitimacy.
That in its turn means that each citizen has the right to question the legitimacy of an unelected dictator. This is the reason the Libyan people remain resolute in their efforts to topple Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, even though he has ordered a military crackdown and missile attacks against protesters.
Ultimately, Qaddafi will not be able to resist the massive wave of freedom sweepig the region. His only way out could well be to flee the country, as he has been deserted by friends and followers alike.
The enthusiasm with which people across the region welcome freedom also offers a lesson for Taiwan.
It tells us that we must stand clearly and firmly on the right side of history. We must not make the mistake of being seduced by China’s economic growth and convince ourselves that the Chinese Communist Party will stay in power forever.
In addition, the “Revolution 2.0” making itself felt in North Africa and the Arab world has highlighted the penetrative and potentially disruptive power of new technologies.
Although the time may not yet be ripe for China to embrace protests staged across the country by Internet users, the popular Chinese folk song Mo Li Hua (茉莉花), which is Chinese for “Jasmine blossom,” may yet become a symbol of the Chinese people’s hopes for a democratic revolution of their own.
As we witness the power of freedom, we must also realize that the further consolidation of democracy in Taiwan requires that we continue to move forward and not rest on our laurels.
In particular, Taiwanese must exercise both wisdom and courage when they cast their ballots in the legislative elections to be held at the end of this year or in the second half of next year and the upcoming presidential election. They must ask themselves who is more likely to work to further implement democratic values.
If we fail to do this, then we will have let down all those people who sacrificed so much and spent years fighting for our hard-won freedom.