In Hong Kong, protesters are planning a peaceful occupation of the territory’s Central District, under the name “Occupy Central,” for a day of traffic disruption in the hopes of forcing the authorities to agree to implementing genuine universal suffrage. Objectors to the plan say that it will inconvenience people, disrupt the financial markets and harm the economy. Nonviolent protest, then, will mean different things, depending on the civil society of the place in which it is done. Violence is defined differently in Hong Kong and Taiwan. In the former, jostling with the police is considered violence. Protesters have to keep pushing the limits of what is acceptable to the public in terms of protest behavior, and this will also be part of furthering civic education.
My suggestion to our friends in Hong Kong would be to make the preparations for their nonviolent movement as open and transparent as possible, to be sincere and to give prior notification so that the public will be more likely to trust them and participate. This would include openly explaining to the public the reason behind the action and the nature of any inconvenience that may result, and even announcing emergency measures that will be put in place, such as the provision of access for ambulances, to lessen any concerns or resistance that the public might have. These recommendations also apply to the protests in Taiwan.
In addition to having a thorough understanding of how to hold protests, the leaders of the nonviolent protest movement should do as Gandhi and US civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr did, and regard nonviolence as a point of faith and a personal value. This will be of great advantage to the further development of Taiwan’s civil society.
Chien Hsi-chieh is executive director of the Peacetime Foundation of Taiwan.
Translated by Paul Cooper