Thu, Aug 24, 2017 - Page 8 News List

The Taiwanese, a force for freedom

By Thomas Shattuck

One can also see similarities between the 228 Massacre and the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Both events initiated widespread crackdowns in regards to politics and free speech and led to the deaths of many activists.

A major difference between the two nations is that Taiwan eventually ended the crackdown, democratized and worked toward reconciliation and memorialization of the victims of the White Terror; whereas, in China, the CCP has strengthened its grip over its people.

Another difference between Taiwan and China involves what the goals of their dissidents. Dissidents in Taiwan strove to introduce democracy and promote a national identity and eventual independence, whereas dissidents in China are currently focusing on introducing political reforms and democracy.

Tsai has promised that within three years a comprehensive report on the White Terror era is to be completed, properly documenting and assessing the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) for its role in those atrocious acts.

Tsai’s promise, for which many in Taiwan will hold her accountable, shows a government and society coming to terms with its dark past.

In Taiwan today, the fight goes on. Taiwanese of all ages continue to ensure that their rights to free speech and political participation are never taken away.

Tsai has designated April 7 as “Freedom of Speech Day” in Taiwan, in remembrance of the sacrifice of Deng.

The holiday will serve as a reminder of what previous generations of Taiwanese went through to achieve the vibrant democracy that Taiwan is today.

A final reminder of the difference between Taiwan and China is the recent opening of Reporters Without Borders’ Asia bureau in Taipei, over the originally planned Hong Kong office.

The main reported reason for the switch to Taiwan entailed potential free speech and freedom of the press issues in Hong Kong, a supposedly autonomous territory that faces ever-growing control from China.

The opening of the Taipei office speaks just as much about Taiwan’s free society as it does about the dangers of an encroaching China.

Taiwanese sadly can see plenty of places around the world where free speech and democracy are deteriorating.

As Tsai said, Taiwanese fought for decades to obtain these rights and to move Taiwan forward, but they must not grow complacent, because the fight for free speech never ends.

Thomas Shattuck is assistant editor and research associate at the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

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