Thu, Jul 24, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Academics differ over direction of democratic change

By Stephanie Wen  /  STAFF REPORTER

As Taiwan makes its way along the path of democracy, academics at an international workshop yesterday were split over the direction the democratization process is heading -- forward or backward.

The environmental movement has declined since the DPP came to power, said Ho Ming-sho (何明修), assistant professor at Nanhua University's sociology department, because the party has lost its ability to implement policy.

Ho was speaking in front of academics from Taiwan, South Korea and the US at the "Social Movements and Democratic Consolidation: Taiwan and South Korea Compared" conference held at Academia Sinica's Center of Asia Pacific Area Studies.

Ho said while environmental activists may have gained procedural participation since the DPP came to power, the state is lacking the ability to implement requests to achieve the movement's ideals. This has weakened the whole country, Ho said.

The conference played host to nine presentations on the democratic and social movements of Taiwan and South Korea, with each speaker drawing intense debate from other participants.

Ho's assessment of the DPP's impotency was countered by Fan Yun (范雲), an assistant researcher at the Academia Sinica's Institute of Sociology, who argued that democratization in Taiwan is making good headway.

Referring to the growth of registered associations and the translation to a civil society by Taiwanese, Fan said that while there may still be issues such as a proper legal framework, today's Taiwanese are participating more in politics -- a clear sign of democracy.

Defending his position, Ho said, "By no means do I wish to criticize President Chen [Shui-bian (陳水扁)].

"My paper aims to look at the progress the environmental movement has taken since the DPP came to power," the assistant professor said.

"But I think the political parties in Taiwan are still premature in their assessment of a democratic Taiwan," he said.

Ho said the recent outcry over increased tuition fees was an example of Taiwan's regressive democracy, with Chen defending a policy implemented by the KMT while KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) wasted no time in blaming the DPP.

"Lack of principles? I think both parties are guilty of that," Ho said.

While presenting South Korea's democratic and social movements, Korean academics looked at the points raised by their Taiwanese colleagues and concluded that Taiwan's democratization process is still in a transitional phase.

Professor Park Yoon-chuk from Hu-Xi University praised international workshops for enabling countries to see how far they have traveled along the democratization road.

"By comparing with other countries and seeing where we stand on the international sphere we are able to evaluate our own progress more objectively," Park said.

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