The 250,000 protesters who voluntarily gathered in Taipei and flooded Ketagalan Boulevard on Saturday last week caught the world media’s attention. The event made the headlines: CNN, “Near a quarter million Taiwanese gathered to protest for human rights violation in its military”; Washington Post, “Tens of thousands gather in Taiwan in continuing protest over soldier’s death”; Fox News, “Mass protest in Taiwan over young conscript’s death”; San Jose Mercury News, “Thousands protest soldier’s death in Taiwan”; and the Wall Street Journal, “Death of Taiwan Military Conscript Hung Chung-chiu Sparks Massive Protests.”
More than a month after the suspicious death of Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘), a 24-year-old soldier, the military still cannot reveal the truth of his death. Even commander-in-chief Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) promised the victim’s family that he would “take charge” of the case, but nothing has been done.
Protesters held banners with the words “injustice,” “anger” and “we want truth” on them because the military court determined the cause of death to be accidental and released all the suspects on bail. However, Hung was tortured to death just three days before he was to be discharged from his two years of compulsory service.
The protesters held aloft an image of an eye inspired by George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984. They sang repeatedly the Taiwanese version of a revolutionary song, Do You Hear the People Sing? from the musical Les Miserables. Hung’s mother was invited to address the crowd. She had tears in her eyes and asked the protesters to put aside hatred and let Hung’s funeral service go smoothly.
Ma attended the funeral on Monday with a citation of loyalty (旌忠狀) and promoted Hung to staff sergeant with an accompanying epaulet. What an insult to Hung! He was tortured to death in the army. What a shame for Ma as
commander-in-chief and president to not even know right from wrong. Hung’s family has behaved better than Ma’s entire government.
When Ma attended Hung’s memorial service, it took more than 10 minutes to walk about 50m because of protesters shouting about his apathy for the family and his unfulfilled promises. Hung’s father told him not to turn promises into lies.
The organizer of the advocacy group Citizen 1985 compared the 250,000 protesters demanding justice for Hung to the 90,000 red shirt protesters mobilized on Aug. 12, 2006. They displayed the beauty of “people power” and they have awakened the Taiwanese. We saw the ugly face and hypocrisy of politicians, but we also saw the truths of human rights.
Citizens are a nation’s boss, not the government. Public officials are just servants. Thomas Jefferson told us on June 28, 1776 that “whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.”
From the 250,000 in Taipei last Saturday we heard the Taiwanese singing a song of angry people that they will not be slaves again. The beating of their hearts echoed the protesters beating of drums. There is a new life about to start when tomorrow comes! From the white T-shirt vigil we saw the future of Taiwan, the younger generation have committed to the crusade to build the nation. They know some of them will fall and some will live, and their blood will water the meadows of Formosa, but they will stand up and take their chance.