During the year-end celebrations, Taiwanese youth and students showed they care about society and helping others by initiating rallies and lending movements their boundless energy and creativity, from picking up street trash and protesting against monopolization of the media to supporting laid-off workers.
This is a dramatic change from the recent past, when youth and students often gave the impression that they were self-indulgent, engaging in frivolous activities, thrill-seeking, all-night parties and shallow celebrity worship.
However, the situation was markedly different at the New Year’s Eve event at the plaza in front of Taipei City Hall. More than 100 young volunteers of the “Hug the Earth with Smile Youth League,” donning bright red and yellow vests and light sportswear, went through the partying crowds to pick up litter.
At the same time, members of the Tzu Chi Young Volunteers organization, which consists of students from various colleges and universities, cleaned up venues at five other New Year’s Eve events across the nation.
Shouting the slogan: “Your hands that click ‘Like’ on Facebook can also clean up the environment,” they led by example to instruct people on sorting and recycling different types of garbage.
Wang Jui-ming (王瑞明), a student who participated with the Tzu Chi Young Volunteers, said that before, he thought New Year Eve’ events were only for celebrating and having fun.
“This year, I joined with other volunteers to go into the crowds, sharing with others how to protect the environment, how to cherish the earth’s limited resources. We received lots of support and positive feedback. Now, I feel there is hope for our earth’s future,” Wang said.
It was not just the environment that young people were concerned about. Hundreds of students and supporters of the “Taiwan Youth Union of Anti-Media Monopoly” gathered for an overnight vigil outside the gate of Liberty Square in Taipei, and later proceeded with a sit-down protest on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office.
They raised their concerns with protests against the trend of media organizations being bought up by conglomerates and concentrated in the hands of a few tycoons, who often have ties to China.
Besides the leading figures of this students-against-media monopolization movement, Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷) and Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆), the young people who showed up to support this protest acquired information from BBS, Facebook, Plurk and other social media sites. By doing so, these youths and students made their own networking connections, and through their own initiatives, ,joined the event and other social activist rallies.
Chen Cheng-liang (陳政亮), an assistant professor at Shih Hsin University’s Graduate Institute for Social Transformation Studies, said that active participation by students can be seen in the anti-media monopolization movement, protests by laid-off workers and other demonstrations on social issues.
“With these actions in recent days, the young people have made a worthy end to the year, encouraging everyone to reflect on and review the series of protests and social movements this past year,” Chen said.
“The young people have made their voices heard. They called on both the ruling and opposition political parties, as well as the media, to remember all these movements of the past year. These series of protests and social movements have been done with good strategy and planning throughout,” he added.