In a recent meeting with foreign guests, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said that deer antler velvet — a kind of traditional tonic — was made from the hair of deer ears. Judging from Ma’s lack of common sense, it is not strange that he often makes these slips.
If the government raises fuel and electricity prices, that inevitably leads to rising retail prices, but Ma said that hikes of a few cents in oil and electricity prices would have little effect on living expenses, demonstrating a lack of understanding of the reactions the price hikes set off.
The opaque process behind the signing of the cross-strait service trade agreement was a violation of procedure and the unfairness of the agreement would seriously hurt Taiwan’s sovereignty and crush the nation’s economy.
On March 15, expert on Taiwan John Tkacik of the Heritage Foundation said at a forum in Taipei that the pact is like a “perfect political agreement” that will bring Taiwan into China’s fold. Given the impatience of Ma and Beijing, shown by Ma’s attempt to remove Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) from his post, this is becoming apparent.
As a result, the public has expressed their discontent. Taiwan Indicators Survey Research released the results of an opinion poll showing that 73.7 percent of respondents said that the legislature should review and vote on each clause of the pact, and 68.1 percent of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) supporters are in favor of this. However, some legislators in the KMT broke their promise and sent the agreement directly to the legislature without any opportunity for debate. They only dared to do so because Ma ordered that the pact be passed by June. The KMT announced last month that it would suspend the party duties and privileges of Legislator Apollo Chen (陳學聖) for one year following his dissenting vote on an amendment to a law in January, in order to intimidate other legislators not to dissent.
When he met with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) last month, former vice president Lien Chan (連戰) said Wang would resolve the delayed approval of the pact in good time. Wang has said that, despite his power struggles with Ma, accomplishing the task entrusted to him by the KMT is only a matter of time. Under such circumstances, we should not only rely on the opposition parties who are a minority in the legislature, civil groups should also safeguard fundamental Taiwanese values.
Judging from Ma’s attitude, he does not take large demonstrations of hundreds of thousands seriously. Civic groups should no longer only organize marches, they should adopt a new mind-set. One way to do that would be to come up with creative ways to attract people to participate in activities, another could be to create a force of deterrence.
This month, Hong Kongers launched a protest march ironically themed “Love the motherland, use Chinese products.” They dressed as Red Guards and demanded that mainland tourists oppose Western capitalism and return home to buy domestic products. The event attracted media interest, and Beijing was unable to criticize the activists for “opposing China and creating disturbances in Hong Kong.”
School, labor or business strikes are ways of creating a deterrent force against those in power. Taiwan does not have a tradition of strikes, but we have to start taking this approach, learning as we go along. We could also employ other strategies, such as gathering as many protesters as we can to peacefully surround influential government agencies or top officials. The resources of the public are limited, so we must find ways of causing maximum impact using a minimum of resources.
Paul Lin is a political commentator.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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