On June 23, about 100,000 people braved the rain to attend the “Get lost, red media” rally organized by fitness celebrity Holger Chen (陳之漢) and New Power Party (NPP) Legislator Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) on Taipei’s Ketagalan Boulevard. A large majority of the participants were young people and it feels like Taiwan might be in for another change.
The organizers are not spiritual leaders of a big political party or some other big organization that could mobilize people. Most people went because the rally reflected their views. Young people understand that everyone is responsible for the nation’s future.
This burgeoning new youth movement is a more evolved version of the 2014 Sunflower movement, as part of that movement has been co-opted by Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) with his view that “people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait are one family” and Kaohsiung Mayor Han Kuo-yu’s (韓國瑜) slogan “Kaohsiung will be rich.”
However, learning from reality and seeing the gradual manifestation of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government’s achievements and the deepening protests against a proposed extradition bill in Hong Kong, young Taiwanese are waking up. To them, Hong Kong is a real-life example of why they cannot be part of some Chinese family or rely on China to get rich.
There are no organized links between young people in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Seeing images of young Hong Kongers struggling against police violence was enough to arouse a response.
President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) focus on her “smart Taiwanese cookie” image has improved her support rating, while Han and Ko are sinking in the polls. The pan-blue and pan-green camps must pay attention to the change among young voters if they want to stay relevant and take a fresh approach to new issues.
If the Sunflower movement was the change that put the DPP back in power, change in the future will consist of the younger generation cutting all ties with China’s representatives in Taiwan. The Sunflower movement was the young generation’s rejection of the cross-strait service trade agreement and closing the door on the enemy. This time it is about eliminating the Chinese Communist Party’s fifth column in Taiwan and safeguarding national security.
With the long period of party-state government in Taiwan, the influence of the old forces is deep and complex, making it difficult for the DPP’s reforms to gain traction. Still, it is clear that there is bottom-up mainstream support for reforms, so the DPP should be bolder. It should not be reckless, of course, and move forward in an orderly, step-by-step manner, but it could move a bit faster.
Han has lost momentum; Hon Hai Precision Industry Co (鴻海精密) founder Terry Gou (郭台銘) will not be able to win the young generation’s trust due to the close relationship between his wealth and China; and Ko will begin to lose the support of young people if he continues to see Taiwan and China as family.
The DPP cannot afford to be complacent, nor should the NPP push too hard. Taiwan-centered parties and groups should treasure the current situation, disregard minor differences, take advantage of the favorable international situation and work together to build a new Taiwan.
Paul Lin is a political commentator.
Translated by Perry Svensson
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