The dynamics of Taiwanese politics have altered dramatically in less than six weeks, starting from the initial protest outside the Legislative Yuan in Taipei by the Sunflower movement, for both better and worse.
Many Taiwanese were inspired to see the surge in grassroots civic nationalism and the younger generation cooperate to demand a more accountable government — especially in relation to cross-strait affairs.
The major political parties were reduced to the roles of spectators as students and other activists debated national policy, using new media to broadcast their views nationally and internationally.
For those Taiwanese who are middle-aged or older, it harked back to the heady days after Martial Law was lifted in July 1987.
However, this past week has seen President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration and other agencies — badly humiliated by the recent protests — strike back in politically cynical and possibly illegal ways. The paper-thin veneer of democracy that has cloaked them for years has been stripped away.
For those under the age of 35, too young to remember the Martial Law era or born after it was lifted, it has been a shocking revelation. For those older, it has been a frightening reminder of an authoritarian era that most thought had gone forever.
The back-to-the-future flashbacks began in the pre-dawn hours of Monday, when Taipei police used water cannons and batons to remove antinuclear protesters who had occupied Zhongxiao W Road on Sunday. Police also allegedly manhandled several photographers and journalists.
The location and tactics revived memories of May 29, 1990, and the protest against the legislature’s confirmation of former general — and father of the present Taipei mayor — Hau Pei-tsun (郝柏村) as prime minister. The police used water cannons near the intersection of Zhongxiao E and W roads and Chungshan S Road and near the Legislative Yuan. When the demonstrators fought back with rocks and Molotov cocktails, the police used rocks, batons and water cannons against them in a very violent confrontation.
Then on Tuesday, the Ministry of Justice announced the execution of five death-row inmates in a stunningly self-serving move that was aimed firstly at drawing attention away from all the protests and, secondly, appealing to the more conservative sections of society who support capital punishment.
Two of the inmates, brothers, had been convicted of murders committed in China on the basis of evidence provided by Chinese authorities — despite the infamously politicized and corrupt Chinese legal system.
On Wednesday, photographs were posted online of documents detailing the National Police Agency’s (NPA) organization of an “Internet Army” to monitor online activity opposing the cross-strait service trade pact, nuclear power and wind turbines. The cyber task force was instructed to try to “neutralize” statements critical of the police.
On Wednesday the Ministry of the Interior declared it would make an all-out effort to break up illegal demonstrations, even if it meant putting “repeat offenders and extremists” into pre-emptive detention.
On Thursday, the NPA admitted the documents posted online were authentic, but said that the use of the term “Internet army” was inappropriate and it would not invade civilians’ privacy.
The Ma government is returning to its roots — the paranoia and totalitarianism of the White Terror era — when freedom of expression was harshly curbed, students were encouraged to spy on one another and the Government Information Office specialized in disinformation campaigns.
The government has tried to paint the Sunflower movement and other protesters as violent radicals, but the only side resorting to violence has been the government itself as the last shreds of its legitimacy crumble in the face of widespread public unhappiness with, and contempt of, its rule.
For the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), China’s “century of humiliation” is the gift that keeps on giving. Beijing returns again and again to the theme of Western imperialism, oppression and exploitation to keep stoking the embers of grievance and resentment against the West, and especially the US. However, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) that in 1949 announced it had “stood up” soon made clear what that would mean for Chinese and the world — and it was not an agenda that would engender pride among ordinary Chinese, or peace of mind in the international community. At home, Mao Zedong (毛澤東) launched
The restructuring of supply chains, particularly in the semiconductor industry, was an essential part of discussions last week between Taiwan and a US delegation led by US Undersecretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and the Environment Keith Krach. It took precedent over the highly anticipated subject of bilateral trade partnerships, and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) founder Morris Chang’s (張忠謀) appearance on Friday at a dinner hosted by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for Krach was a subtle indicator of this. Chang was in photographs posted by Tsai on Facebook after the dinner, but no details about their discussions were disclosed. With
Astride an ascended economy and military, with global influence nearing biblical proportions, Xi Jinping (習近平) — general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), chairman of the Central Military Commission and president of the People’s Republic of China — is faithfully heralded, in deeds and imagery, as a benevolent lord, determined to “build a community of common destiny for all mankind.” Rather than leading humanity to this Shangri-La through inspirational virtue a la Mahatma Gandhi or Abraham Lincoln, the CCP prefers a micromanagement doctrine of socialism with Chinese characteristics as the guiding light. A doctrine of Marxist orthodoxy transplanted under a canvas
On Sept. 8, at the high-profile Ketagalan security forum, President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) urged countries to deal with the China challenge. She said: “It is time for like-minded countries, and democratic friends in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond, to discuss a framework to generate sustained and concerted efforts to maintain a strategic order that deters unilateral aggressive actions.” The “Taiwan model” to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic provides an alternative to China’s authoritarian way of handling it. Taiwan’s response to the health crisis has made it evident that countries across the world have much to learn from Taiwan’s best practices and if