Netizens have taken to Facebook to take part in an online campaign of “turning themselves in,” venting their anger after remarks by Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) that the supporters of four Dapu families could face legal action after allegedly damaging government property and violating the Assembly and Parade Act (集會遊行法).
Using Facebook’s new hashtag feature, the campaign, dubbed “Wanted: Tens of thousands to turn themselves in (萬人自首招募中),” has elicited passionate responses not only from people who attended the rally, but also among netizens who are upset with what they regard as the government’s arbitrary policymaking.
The campaign came in the wake of an overnight rally against the forced demolition of houses in Dapu Borough (大埔) in Miaoli County’s Jhunan Township (竹南) staged by the Taiwan Rural Front (TRF) on Sunday last week and Monday.
The protesters rallied in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei before staging an overnight sit-in outside the ministry calling for amendments to the Land Expropriation Act (土地徵收條例).
Lee on Wednesday said the protesters could face legal action for leaving thousands of protest stickers and graffiti on the walls of the ministry’s building, as well as spray painting a mural on the ground outside the entrance.
“I was too pissed off to go to bed after hearing Lee say that he planned to sue the TRF and the protesters, so I posted a message on Facebook to vent my anger,” a 40-year-old woman surnamed Su (蘇) said.
Her post unexpectedly gave rise to the wide-reaching online campaign after a young netizen included it with a hashtag.
The campaign was followed by a nearly identical campaign, called “Needed: Tens of thousands to turn themselves in (#萬人自首募集中).”
Another netizen, who identified herself as Chen Hung-ying (陳虹穎), also launched a similar campaign on Facebook, but removed the words “turn themselves in,” saying they implied that the protesters had committed a crime, whereas they had not broken any laws or engaged in any form of violence during the rally.
Su said she was impressed by the creativity and ingenious ways campaigners added a pinch of humor to serious social events.
“I am also touched by [young people’s] efforts and courage to step forward and make their voices heard, when they could just stay home and sit in front of their computers playing online games,” she added.
Yang Yu-fang (楊宇帆), a young pineapple farmer who wrote a letter to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) in September last year asking him to save the nation’s agricultural industry, also voiced his support for the protesters.
“My body was working at a farmland at an elevation of 3,000m to make a living on Sunday [last week], but my spirit was there with those protesters, throwing pineapples at the government and at the brainless ‘jellyfish,’” Yang said, alluding to a mocking nickname given to Ma by the nation’s netizens, who said the president and the jellyfish have three things in common: “They are brainless, spineless and have venomous tentacles.”