Returning the power to the people

By Citizen 1985 公民1985行動聯盟  / 

Sun, Oct 27, 2013 - Page 8

On Double Ten National Day, Citizen 1985 demanded that the Referendum Act (公民投票法), the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act (公職人員選舉罷免法) and the threshold for legislator-at-large seats be amended based on the principle that “the world is for all; return power to the people.”

Moreover, since the government opposes democracy, the people must take charge, and so we also demanded that the cross-strait service trade agreement, which was negotiated behind closed doors, should be renegotiated.

It was a moving experience to see tens of thousands of people join the protest.

After the Aug. 3 protest following the death of army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘), who died from abuse in the military, the follow-up complementary measures were blocked twice by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus since the legislature passed the amendments to the Code of Court Martial Procedure (軍事審判法) on Aug. 6.

The government’s establishment of the Military Injustice Petitions Committee also lacks credibility, as the organization lacks power and accountability. Since it is merely responsible for case receipt and assignment, it is absolutely no help to the advance of human rights and transitional justice in the military.

This is the same thing that happened after Grandma Chu (朱阿嬤) of Dapu Borough (大埔), Miaoli County, committed suicide three years ago. The government promised not to demolish her house for a development project, but taking advantage of public forgetfulness, it broke its promise just as it did in the Hung case. The root of the problem is that the government does not think of the public as the masters of the country. When a protest occurs, officials procrastinate in the hope that the situation will change. If the public really were the nation’s masters, how could we allow injustices to happen again and again? That is why it was necessary to launch the protest on Oct. 10.

Recent government violations of the Constitution have been blatant, and President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) and Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) should take responsibility for this.

Although Ma’s approval rating declined to a new low, none of them have resigned to take political responsibility, which is proof that the system is broken.

It takes two-thirds of all legislators to recall the president, and with the KMT’s legislative majority, it is unlikely that a recall would succeed, just as the vote of no-confidence in the premier failed. The KMT caucus whip threatened to expel lawmakers if they voted in favor of the motion against the premier. Under such circumstances, which KMT lawmaker would dare support it?

The absurd situation with elected representatives listening to their parties instead of to voters can be seen almost every day. If the threshold for recall is not lowered to return power to the people, elected representatives and government officials can act recklessly for four years after being elected. How long will this state of affairs continue?

On Oct. 10, we hung our appeals at Liberty Square, in front of the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall. The process of doing so was difficult, and we reminded protesters to write every character correctly, or any mistake might appear on the front pages of newspapers the next day. They all laughed about this.

Public participation in politics includes election, recall, initiative and referendum, but in Taiwan, we only enjoy the right of election. Only by obtaining the right of recall will it be possible to guarantee a more balanced participation of the public in politics. Only by winning the rights of initiative and referendum will we be able to realize the ideal of “the world is for all.”

There is still a long way before we reach the ideal, and we need to awaken more people to reach it. Our Aug. 3 protest proved that the nation is not cold-hearted, and the Oct. 3 protest showed that there is a civic society beyond the blue and green camps. Our actions might be peaceful, but we are not timid. This is a journey of public awakening. Do not forget that when we sang our theme song, adapted from Do You Hear The People Sing? of the musical Les Miserables, during the protests, the word “you” in the lyrics referred to the unawakened public — not those in power.

Hopefully, through our actions and debates, more people will come to understand their civic rights and learn how to bravely safeguard their rights and those of others. We should uphold the spirit of “One for all, all for one.” Taiwan can only become a great nation if there are more great citizens.

We will continue to use the Internet to encourage more exchanges between people with different stances. Through actual contact and debate, we may some day be able to reach a genuine “Taiwan consensus” that reaches beyond the blue and green camps.

It is also an urgent task for us to monitor the performance of the legislature, but it seems difficult for the public to do so through the Legislative Yuan’s bulletins or Internet video-on-demand system. As such, we plan to set up a Web site and to recruit volunteers to simplify the legislature’s review process using graphics to make it more interesting. By doing so, we can lower the threshold for monitoring the legislature’s performance and publicize the words and actions of lawmakers.

A young, creative, warm, mild, resolute and tolerant spirit is what our volunteers offer to the country. This is our country, and it needs more young people to love and change it through various actions.

Citizen 1985 is a social activist group.

Translated by Eddy Chang