The battered economy, constant political wrangling and inability of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration to improve people’s livelihoods and recognize the public’s pain have led many people to lose heart and become pessimistic about the nation and where it is headed.
It can be hard for people in Taiwan to view the nation’s future optimistically when they are treated daily to depressing and negative news reports, from stories about forced land expropriations and the government’s persistently arbitrary policymaking that diminishes sovereignty and national pride, to the erosion of press freedom and mass deficit spending increasing national debt, to name just a few.
Given the country’s oppressive past, Taiwanese for a long time seemed to have been growing increasingly numb to the blatant injustices they witnessed day in and day out.
Fortunately, this apathy has come to an end. However weary the spineless and incompetent Ma government may have made the people feel, leading individuals to feel helpless about improving their country, a growing majority of Taiwanese are no longer suffering in silence, choosing instead to come together and take matters into their own hands.
The land seizure executed by the Miaoli County Government in Jhunan Township’s (竹南) Dapu Borough (大埔) serves as an example of this burgeoning action. Though the county government attempted to stigmatize Dapu farmers by placing advertisements on the front pages of the nation’s major Chinese-language newspapers — using taxpayers’ money — netizens united to show their support for the villagers by issuing calls for rallies.
Another example can be seen in the case of the late army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘), who died while in military detention on July 4 in dubious circumstances. Rights group Citizen 1985 has set up a Facebook page seeking justice for Hung and has planned a protest in front of the Ministry of National Defense on Saturday, which it says more than 7,000 people have already pledged to take part in.
While some may worry about what they perceive as the government’s increasingly China-friendly policies, a recent Democratic Progressive Party survey showed that 78.4 percent of respondents disagreed that Taiwan and China are parts of one country. The poll also indicated that 77.6 percent identified themselves as Taiwanese, while only 10.1 percent regarded themselves as Chinese. These figures reflect a consensus that is forming among people in Taiwan that, in terms of national status, few feel a connection with those on the other side of the Taiwan Strait.
How could the public look past how often the nation’s politicians brandish the word “Taiwan” in their campaign speeches, showing their “national pride,” only to drop the name when presented with an opportunity to raise the nation’s visibility on the international stage?
Fortunately, Taiwanese are taking action, with or without the government’s help.
The latest manifestation of this concerted public action was a group of volunteers who, eager to raise Taiwan’s international profile, staged a flash mob chorus at Taipei 101. The YouTube clip of the flash mob (http://youtu.be/bbqY1P6KJmI) has taken the online community by storm and introduced many abroad to the beauty of Taiwan and its people.
In Taiwan, there are many pure and kind souls who are unselfish, passionate and ready to make an effort to help the voiceless, bring justice to the wronged and put “people’s diplomacy” into action to showcase the soft power that puts Taiwan on the map.
In the fight against injustices of all kinds, domestic and international, silence is not golden. All the examples cited above suggest that while Taiwan’s future may look bleak at times, there is hope yet — so long as Taiwanese use their own voices to make themselves and their country heard.