The most heart-warming story on newsstands on New Year’s Day was the one about a sizable group of young people, braving biting cold on New Year’s Eve on the streets of Taipei, who showed that their commitment to democracy and press freedom mattered more to them than partying as they staged an overnight vigil in protest against media monopolization.
Even more heartening was the timely public endorsement from Wu Ching-feng (吳青峰), lead singer of the popular band Sodagreen (蘇打綠), who, while performing during Monday night’s celebrations in Greater Kaohsiung, lent his support to the students’ appeals.
Indeed, the various New Year’s Eve parties around the nation were quite different from those of previous years.
Pop/rock idol Bobby Chen (陳昇), during his performance in Taipei, trumpeted a message against the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant through flashing anti-nuclear slogans and signs behind him. Pop singer Shin (信) delivered a similar anti-nuclear message at the celebrations in Hsinchu. Seconds before revelers were ready to start the countdown to a new year, Shin called on the public to give serious consideration to the issue of nuclear power as he highlighted the dangers of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant. Pop-rock band Mayday (五月天) also touched on an anti-nuclear message during its gig in Greater Kaohsiung. It was not the first time this popular band, the big winner at last year’s Golden Melody Awards, took such a stance. During its performance at Google’s headquarters in San Francisco in November last year, five members of the band publicized their stance by plastering anti-nuclear stickers on their instruments and themselves.
In Taitung, Aboriginal rocker Chang Chen-yue (張震嶽), in between his performances at a countdown party, spoke against the construction of the beachfront Miramar Resort at Taitung County’s Shanyuan Bay (杉原灣). He then dedicated a song to Taitung that extolled the beauty of the east coast’s shoreline.
Given that so many Taiwanese entertainers are known for ducking issues of social, cultural and political sensitivity for fear of being blacklisted by the Chinese government, thereby reducing the money that they can make in the Chinese market, it was truly gratifying to see an increasing number of big-name celebrities taking the initiative to be more vocal and involved on numerous issues of critical importance to the nation.
There’s no denying the influence of celebrity on the public. This is not to say that the public should blindly follow celebrities, but, with them being more vocal on social issues and matters that concern the nation’s core values of democracy and human rights, hopefully more celebrities will follow suit by using their fame to highlight these critical issues, raise public awareness and help foster a healthy debate on public policies.
“We don’t want people to rush to take part in opposition against the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant or issues concerning the Miramar Resort in Taitung, but you can choose to understand the issues and have your own opinions. I hope you will come out and let’s discuss these issues together,” Fan Chiang Chun-hung (范姜峻宏), lead singer of the hip-hop group Kou Chou Ching (拷秋勤), said recently.
On Friday last week, social activists chose the character wang (旺, meaning “prosper”) as the word best representing last year’s social movements in Taiwan. As the nation moves into 2013, it is expected to be another busy year for those active in social movements, and it is hoped that more high-profile celebrities will join their compatriots in taking a stand for the voiceless, for the unjustly deprived and for the continued existence of freedom in this land we love called Taiwan.