To show their support for army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘), 39 Internet users who did not know each other formed Citizen 1985.
First, the activist group spent three days trying to gather 3,000 people to join in an action to surround the Ministry of National Defense. To their surprise, 30,000 protesters turned out on July 20. Two weeks later, when the group once again called on the public, this time to join a gathering to bid Hung farewell on Aug. 3, an astonishing 250,000 people turned out, stunning both political parties and society at large.
Meanwhile, it is also worth mentioning that a large majority of the protesters participating in these events were young people, and that many of them took to the streets for the first time.
One result of the street protests was that Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) was forced to make an official response, yielding to the protesters, known as the “white shirts.”
In addition, the legislature swiftly passed an amendment to the Code of Court Martial Procedure (軍事審判法) in two days, finally putting an end to the flawed military judicial system.
In other words, Citizen 1985 has surpassed political parties and celebrities alike and thoroughly changed the approach and the values of Taiwan’s civil movements.
The group has broken the old mold by which previous street demonstrations were mobilized. These events no longer have to be launched by political parties or celebrities, and the participants will now be citizens who care about our democratic society.
Based on the ideal of “all for one and one for all,” the public was willing to stand up, and the idea that we must save our country by ourselves is beginning to spread. Today, young people are reinterpreting civil movement values in their own way, and based on their own ideals, as they carry on the spirit of the social movements that older generations displayed in their efforts to fight for public issues.
In the future, this new wave of civil movement will not only change the development of public issues, it will also lead Taiwanese toward new ways of monitoring both the government and politicians.
The initiation of the campaigns in this new wave of civil movements that has developed during this year, be it the anti-nuclear campaign focused on opposition to the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in Gongliao District (貢寮), New Taipei City (新北市), the opposition to the demolition of houses in Dapu Borough (大埔) in Miaoli County’s Jhunan Township (竹南), or the demonstrations in connection to the death of Hung, has departed from traditional organization by political parties.
Individuals can now gather supporters via the Internet to oppose anything they perceive as an injustice. The public pursuit of justice and fairness has now clearly entered the mainstream.
Young people, come forward. Always maintain the drive for reform and the pursuit of new hope for Taiwan.
Chou Huan-jung is a member of Northern Taiwan Society.
Translated by Eddy Chang