While the main cause for the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) collapse during the Chinese Civil War was its battlefield losses, the party also suffered crushing defeats as a result of the influence of student movements in the KMT-ruled areas.
These movements were important because students came from every sector of society and focused more on social unfairness and injustice. The 1989 demonstrations by students in China began partly because students had recognized the corrosive influence of corruption. Unfortunately, they were suppressed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and now corruption is rampant in the party. Their example was followed by the Wild Lily Student Movement in Taiwan in the 1990s, which helped push the pro-democracy movement further along. The democratic regression in the country is now igniting yet another wave of student movements.
On Sept. 1, almost 10,000 people, most of whom were students, took to the streets to express their opposition to media monopolization backed by CCP money. The demonstration was representative of the new wave of student movements. On Nov. 26, the eve of the Next Media Group sale in Macau, a group of students gathered in front of the Executive Yuan in Taipei to express their opposition to the deal.
That activity was led by Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆), the head of the National Taiwan University Graduate Student Association. Lin, who was also in charge of the Sept. 1 demonstration, excels in analyzing big issues. He also possesses the passion as displayed by students from southern Taiwan in particular, and he conducts himself in a dignified and calm manner.
The protesters who gathered at the Executive Yuan demanded that Premier Sean Chen (陳冲) or Vice Premier Jiang Yi-hua (江宜樺) listen to their demands. Their demand was rejected and a lower-level official was sent out to handle the situation. The only thing that remained for the students to do was to break through the police line and move toward the Executive Yuan. Lin’s leadership shows an understanding of how far one can push and when to stop to exert pressure, while avoiding mishaps and injuries — something that requires an ability to read a situation and have the knowledge to control it. The ability to exert crowd control is a good test of a leader’s abilities. Lin has performed well on all counts.
The statements of a few leaders of social movements and a couple of academics at the demonstrations also provided inspiration for the protesters, in particular a speech given by Wu Rwei-ren (吳叡人), an associate research fellow at the Institute of Taiwan History at Academia Sinica.
His speech outside the Fair Trade Commission the next day has been widely disseminated, but the speech outside the Executive Yuan was also very moving. Both times Wu said President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) likes to refer to Chiang Wei-shui (蔣渭水), a key figure in the resistance movement against Japanese colonial rule, to bolster his own image. However, Chiang always stood on the side of the disadvantaged and he advocated the democratization of Taiwan.
Wu also said that more than a decade ago, during a discussion between him, Jiang Yi-hua and Chinese students at Harvard, Jiang gave a forceful declaration of his democratic ideals. Wu said that Jiang seems to be completely different today.
The students who have been participating in the protests are the elite of the student movement. They will plant new seeds on their campuses, so it is not strange that the education minister was so upset about the student demonstrations. With widespread injustice in Taiwan, there is a lot of room for student movements to proliferate.
Paul Lin is a political pundit.
Translated by Perry Svensson