Academics said the recent mass protests over the death of an army conscript who was apparently abused while serving in the military is a major stride toward a mature civil society and they warned politicians not to overlook the force behind the demonstrations.
Two protests, mobilized via the Internet by a civic group instead of by political figures, signaled the increasing power of civil society and were an indication of a mature democracy, said Liao Da-chi (廖達琪), head of National Sun Yat-sen University’s Institute of Political Science.
Liao urged the government not to overlook the growing influence and voice of the public and to take proactive steps to fulfill its promises of improved human rights.
The protests, held on July 20 and on Saturday, were organized by the civic group Citizen 1985, which was formed by 39 strangers who met on a social Web site. The decision to work as a group was made only after the death of army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) caught their attention.
An estimated 30,000 people showed up at last month’s protest, while Saturday’s demonstration drew about 200,000, according to Citizen 1985.
Hung, 24, died on July 4 after being placed into army detention barracks and made to do strenuous exercises in sweltering heat as punishment for bringing a smartphone equipped with a camera onto an army base in violation of military regulations.
His death has sparked national public outrage and strengthened calls for justice and reforms in the military.
Ku Chung-hwa (顧忠華), a sociologist who teaches at National Chengchi University, echoed Liao’s comments, saying the demonstrations represent a significant step forward in Taiwan’s progress toward a mature civil society.
These two events were initiated by members of the public, calling for truth and justice, and were devoid of political rhetoric, Ku said.
Politicians should not overlook the momentum behind these events but rather should use it to fuel reform in the nation, he said.