That same weekend, during another campaign event for Ma, a mother of three, with no history of involvement in political issues, brought her three-year-old child to see Ma, and pretending to be a supporter, she was able to get close enough to him to shout: “Today it was Dapu, tomorrow it will be the government,” before a shaken president was whisked away by his security detail.
Police then asked the woman to show them her ID card, a request that she complied with, even though law enforcement had no right to ask a citizen to provide such documents simply for having spoken her mind in public.
Increasingly, as the embattled government loses its footing, it will resort to heavy — in fact disproportionate — punishments against “unruly” youth who will no longer stand by as the government fails to abide by its contract with a people that brought it to power via democratic means. This will come in the form of jail sentences, fines or lawsuits, all of which has already started to happen.
In the process, the Ma administration will more and more resemble the governments of Singapore, which has perfected the art of using lawsuits to cow and discredit anyone who dares to oppose its soft authoritarianism, and that of China, which distorts the legal system to maintain its tight grip on the public.
The government, banking on so-called Confucian values that it is actively seeking to revive, is trying to make criminals out of young, idealistic individuals who are fully cognizant of the values upon which this nation was built. It accuses them of being “troublemakers,” or “professional protesters” whose actions are hurting the country’s image. However, there is no doubt in the public’s mind that the activists, whose ranks are growing, are on the side of the angels, selflessly enduring injury, fatigue, ridicule and the threat of the courts in their battle to prove that two plus two is not five, as our increasingly Orwellian government claims, but indeed four.
J. Michael Cole is a deputy news editor at the Taipei Times.