For a government that supposedly admires Confucian values, President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration has lately been doing an abominable job in its treatment of the few academics left in Taiwan who have not sold their souls to mercantilism or to China.
There are worrying signs that the government, led by Ma, who was recently “re-elected” as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman in a “democratic” process that managed to be both farcical and illusory, is tightening the screws on dissent, while growing ever more distant from the public.
In recent months, the process of theft and destruction of people’s property by the authorities has accelerated, from the outrage of Dapu Borough (大埔), Miaoli County, last week, to the Huaguang Community (華光) earlier this year, where more rounds of destruction are planned next month. No matter what victims and their supporters did, the government ignored their pleas and proceeded with grabbing whatever it wanted.
The government has also intensified interactions with Beijing and is now forcing through deals that are leaving even KMT lawmakers in the dark. Good little soldiers that they are, KMT legislators are too afraid to stand up to a chairman who is reportedly rather despised within his party, and who insiders say did not even get close to receiving the 91 percent of votes that he claims he did in Saturday’s vote. Simultaneously, the Democratic Progressive Party has been unable, or unwilling, to provide clear alternatives to the KMT administration, fresh ideas or concrete action.
What is left, therefore, is people with ideas and ideals — students, academics, artists and ordinary people who cannot stand idle as the authorities slowly dismember the liberties that were established through the spilt blood of their forebears.
University professors have stepped up to the plate in recent years, sometimes by supporting young activists, or by taking the lead. Police officers occasionally complain that protests get a bit rowdy because participants are encouraged to do so by their professors, but at the end of the day, they should realize that a few bruises sustained during clashes with students is a much less serious fate than seeing one’s country increasingly start to mirror its authoritarian neighbor across the Strait in its beliefs and practices — an outcome, it should be said, that a growing number of academics in the nation seem willing to live with.
Taiwanese should therefore cherish the selfless efforts of academics such as Professor Hsu Shih-jung (徐世榮) of National Chengchi University’s Department of Land Economics, a man who has been on the front lines of the battle between the residents of Dapu and the triumvirate of greed, lies and corruption.
Every Taiwanese who wants to continue to live in a society where democracy and the rule of law are upheld should be concerned when people like Hsu, a gentle and respected academic, are dragged away by police and charged with “endangering public safety” for shouting slogans during a protest against Ma.
There are others like Hsu, who are increasingly being targeted by the authorities and media conglomerates that are complicit in the crimes being perpetrated against Taiwanese society.
However, the threats of lawsuits, fines and jail terms will not silence those academics who know that they have a role to play as real educators; as men and women who have the mental ability and training to cut through the lies that the government has been feeding people.
Unlike the legions of Taiwanese academics who long ago lost the right to bear that title by siding with power and money, real academics, those with integrity, know they have a responsibility to society to act as role models for the future leaders and citizens of the nation.
Taiwan is at a difficult juncture and needs more people who will stand up to defend their ideals, people with moral gumption who do not buy the bankrupt argument that sports, the arts or academia have nothing to do with politics.