Further, Taiwan is facing the kind of tribulation often faced by countries in their transformation into democracies: that of a democratically elected government itself threatening the democratic system. It might therefore be worth considering, in addition to the five requirements of civil disobedience, whether there is a need to develop a kind of “democratic resistance.”
This democratic resistance would be different in that its goal would be the protection of the principles of democratic constitutional government — human rights, the rule of law and social justice — and does not necessarily need to wait until all alternatives are exhausted; neither do the proponents need to accept prosecution for their actions. Democratic resistance is an advanced form of civil disobedience, seeking to cure the democracy of its malady, just as civil disobedience is the perfect context for democratic resistance.
What kinds of democratic maladies are sufficient to legitimize this type of comparatively radical democratic resistance? First, when the state authorities violate the principles of constitutional government on a relatively frequent basis. Second, when the various branches of government have found themselves impotent in mitigating this situation in an effective manner. Third, when the opposition parties are either too weak to do anything, or even complicit. Fourth, when the government is seriously devoid of any degree of sincerity, or seeks to govern through falsehoods and lies. And fifth, when the government chooses to crack down on dissent, and even uses criminal elements to deal with the public. Using these to look at the state of Taiwan’s democracy of late, we can see that these maladies are, indeed, becoming increasingly serious.
Some might say that these maladies, as indicators, have been tailor-made to represent the situation in which Taiwan now finds itself. However, the more pertinent point is how it is that Taiwan is becoming increasingly like 1930s Germany.
From civil disobedience to democratic resistance, the public has finally realized that from its inception in 2008, when it started using the police force to protect itself, the government has not stopped at tearing down and destroying all of the basic principles of democratic, constitutional government, and so tearing down the government through democratic resistance is the way to protect justice of the people, by the people and for the people.
The great Roman historian Tacitus once mocked the Britons for thinking themselves civilized by imitating the ways and lifestyles of Romans, whereas in doing so they were actually demonstrating their servility. Resistance in the face of unfairness and injustice is the noblest expression of civilization. All the various paraphernalia and artistic legacy of the resistance process, such as the posters, the paintings, the plays, the songs, and the works of poetry and prose, shall become the historic artifacts of Taiwan’s democratic civilization, for all to see in posterity.
Yen Chueh-an is a professor at National Taiwan University’s College of Law and a supervisor of Taiwan Democracy Watch.
Translated by Paul Cooper