An organization dedicated to monitoring democracy under President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration has released a list of the top 10 national news items on democracy, hoping to raise public awareness on possible crises that the hard-earned democracy of Taiwan might be facing.
Taiwan Democracy Watch released the list of items related to the nation’s democratic development that occurred between May 20 last year and the end of last month with the participation of 192 academics, lawyers and rights activists.
The forced demolition of the Wang (王) family’s homes in Taipei City’s Shilin District (士林) ranked first, followed by Want Want China Times Group’s plan to acquire cable TV services owned by China Network Systems (CNS) and China’s interference in Taiwan’s presidential election.
Other news items on the list include the government’s plan to relax the ban on the importation of US beef under pressure from the US government, exposure of an avian influenza outbreak by freelance journalist Kevin Lee (李惠仁), a petition by 500 judges to reform the Supreme Court, the nation’s first female presidential candidate, an anti-nuclear demonstration by Tao Aborigines on Orchid Island, Ma’s proposed cross-strait peace pact and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) honorary chairman Wu Poh-hsiung’s (吳伯雄) proposal that touted Taiwan and China as “one country, two areas (一國兩區).”
A commission formed by Taiwan Democracy Watch members first selected 63 news items, after which 192 academics, lawyers and social activists voted to select the top 10 news items from the list.
“The top 10 news items list shows that Taiwan’s democracy is in serious crisis,” Chu Hai-yuan (瞿海源), a research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Sociology, told a press conference on Thursday.
“Taiwan does not have a well-structured democratic system. That’s why the government is making a lot of decisions without informing the public,” he added.
For instance, the Wangs in Shilin were not fully informed about how to express their objection to an urban renewal project that led to the forced demolition of their homes, he said.
“It is worrisome that local governments are allowing construction firms to initiate urban renewal projects almost without checks and when a certain percentage of property owners agree to it, the construction firm could ask the government to tear down all properties to allow the development,” said Hsu Shih-jung (徐世榮), chair of National Chengchi University’s Department of Land Economics. “This is depriving people of the right to properties protected by the Constitution.”
Former Democratic Progressive Party legislator Lin Cho-shui (林濁水) said he was worried that China is interfering in Taiwan’s politics, including manipulating media reports and mobilizing Taiwanese businessmen investing in China to vote for pro-unification candidates in elections.
“The Want Want Group has strong connections with top Chinese government officials and if it takes control of CNS, China could easily manipulate news reports in Taiwan,” Lin said.
“We all know that China wants to take over Taiwan. When that happens, Taiwan’s democracy would collapse,” he said.