As international academics and writers from nine different countries, we the undersigned are longtime observers of developments in Taiwan.
We lauded the transition to democracy in Taiwan in the late 1980s and rejoiced when the people of Taiwan moved to consolidate their democracy under former presidents Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) and Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). We also applauded Taiwan’s quest for acceptance in the international community as a full and equal member.
However, during the past six years, we have on multiple occasions felt it necessary to express our deep concern about the erosion of freedom, democracy and human rights.
Under the current administration, Taiwan has been drifting toward China at the expense of the country’s hard-earned freedom and democracy.
This brings us to the present crisis surrounding the occupation of the Legislative Yuan by the Sunflower movement in protest against the way the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government was pushing the highly controversial cross-strait service trade agreement through the legislature.
We fully appreciate the reasons the students took this action, and express our support for the peaceful, reasonable and rational approach they have taken.
This highly unusual act was the cumulative effect of the broadly felt frustrations with the way the government was making a mockery of democracy by not being responsive to concerns from many sectors of society, not only about the substance of the service trade agreement itself, but also the secretive way the government was attempting to enact it.
The precipitating factor was the highly irresponsible decision by KMT Legislator Chang Ching-chung (張慶忠), the chairman of a legislative committee, who declared the clause-by-clause review of the pact completed after 30 seconds, without any deliberations.
This patent violation of the basic principles of democratic procedure galvanized the students into action.
When one talks about the rule of law, then this means a government of, by and for all people.
The students’ actions show in a very eloquent way that the government needs to use the law to protect the weak and to allow those without a voice to defend their interests.
If the government fails in that responsibility and remains unresponsive to those concerns, people will act to restore those basic democratic principles.
As longtime observers of developments in Taiwan over the past decades, we believe that the concerns and anxiety are also prompted by the underlying political agenda.
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) obviously perceives this trade pact as a stepping stone toward “unification.”
We firmly believe that the people in Taiwan, having worked hard for their democracy, want to remain free and democratic. They want to determine their own future, and do not want to be coerced by a repressive and undemocratic China.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), we urge you strongly to proceed in the spirit of, and in accordance with, the principles of Taiwan’s democracy, and move toward a much-needed reconciliation in Taiwan itself.
You have built your policies on rapprochement across the Taiwan Strait, but in the process have given PRC leaders the distinct impression that their goal of unification is within reach.
This is a false premise that is detrimental to Taiwan and its sovereignty.