The mass protest led by civic groups on Taipei’s Ketagalan Boulevard on Saturday has struck a chord with Chinese netizens as they expressed envy and a yearning for a democratic society.
One Chinese netizen wrote: “Now I understand why Taiwanese refuse to re-unify [with China], because at this moment, I wish I could be a citizen of Taiwan.”
Another wrote: “This is how a democratic country should be, the leading voices are the people!”
“I was moved to tears when reading about the protest. Regrettably, I don’t know when we can have this kind of citizen movement,” another wrote.
Saturday’s rally was held to protest the death of army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘), who died from heatstroke allegedly as a result of physical abuse by his superiors.
Reflecting public anger and discontent with the government and army’s handling of the investigation into Hung’s death, a crowd of about 250,000 joined the demonstration, according to its organizers.
Billed as an historic event for Taiwan’s civic movements, the protest was organized by the activist group “Citizen 1985” and endorsed by leading advocates of cultural and social issues.
Taiwanese netizens promoted the event, quickly forming a wide network of groups and individuals.
Citizen 1985, which says it is not associated with any political party, had staged a rally on July 20 over Hung’s case, when 30,000 people protested in front of the Ministry of National Defense in Taipei.
Details of Hung’s case and news of the protest on Saturday were posted on a number of Chinese Web sites, with netizens across the Taiwan Strait expressing empathy with the protesters while demonstrating their desire for similar freedom to protest in China.
One netizen wrote: “Now when we look at Taiwan, how can our Chinese imperial rulers request the return of Taiwan to the motherland. Even I want to go and live in Taiwan.”
Another wrote: “We can see how a civil society came into being, through struggle and demanding protection of rights. It is not won by begging and kneeling down in front of government officials.”
A netizen with the handle “Xia” (夏) wrote: “Here in China, the only way we can experience such mass gatherings is when Kobe Bryant comes to visit,” a reference to the US basketball star’s visits to China in recent years, where he drew large crowds of fans.