Protesters want democracy
Not many people are aware of or clear on the situation, but student activists are still occupying the Legislative Yuan. They are still going strong, despite warnings from President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) that they will be evacuated by force. People all over the nation are taking peaceful stands. The question is: What are they protesting for?
This is not as simple as being against the cross-strait service trade agreement; Taiwanese are standing up against Ma’s anti-democratic practices. Stakeholders were not consulted before the deal was signed, and it was passed by a joint legislative committee within 30 seconds according to Ma’s instructions, despite promises to have it examined line-by-line. Neither the public nor the people who may potentially suffer from the pact had been informed.
Taiwanese are fighting for redemocratization, and the service trade agreement was only the trigger. It is not that they are against free trade, regardless of what the media or government says. People are perfectly capable of accepting trade deals, as long as they are established in a democratic means and the decisions, process and contents are transparent.
The nature of the pact is predatory. It allows big companies to prey on small and medium-sized enterprises. Only a minority of people already better off than most will benefit from the agreement. Taiwanese believe that trade liberalization should leave nobody behind.
Here is a cautionary vision: If Ma shoots or harms any of the students, Taiwan may be plunged into a Crimea scenario, during which an even larger scale of mass protest may topple his regime. Like former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, who defected to Russia, will Ma seek help from China and destroy Taiwan’s democracy once and for all?
Taipei high-school student
China must build trust
The Taipei Times editorial (“Nothing matters without trust,” March 24, page 8) put President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration and the legislative chamber protests into perspective. Evidence exists that a deepening mistrust of China’s dealings with Hong Kong — and the impact on its society — may have played a role in initiating the protests in Taiwan. The fact that many Hong Kongers joined protests against the Mainland and Hong Kong Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA, a trade agreement signed in 2003), was a testimonial to their distrust of mainland China and a warning to Taiwan.
Taiwan has a legitimate concern about China after observing the harm suffered by Hong Kong with the broken promises in the CEPA deal. The protests are a compound effect of an unpopular president (whose approval rating had dropped to 9 percent) attempting to push through a trade pact at the wrong time.
First, the introduction of the CEPA in Hong Kong was a devastating experience for its democracy. Hong Kong signed the CEPA on the basis of mainland China’s guarantee that pre-1997-era democracy would remain unchanged for 50 years. Unfortunately, China failed to deliver on its promise, tightening control of the media, intervening in elections and demanding substantial accommodations for mainland Chinese. China damaged its credit and trustworthiness in the CEPA affair.
Second, the confidence and trust across the Taiwan Strait have been dismal even with the recent increase in exchanges. Statistics provided by the public and private sectors have revealed that even with increased bilateral interaction between the two nations, there has been a steady decline of those in favor of eventual unification. Many Taiwanese have experienced Chinese visitors to the nation firsthand and expressed their dissatisfaction in the polls with their behavior.