President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and several Cabinet ministers attended a Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) young citizens forum in Taipei yesterday, supposedly in response to a call that the party should reach out to the young as a lesson learned from the recent student movement.
The forum, organized by the KMT Youth Work Committee, came after Ma’s talk on Tuesday in the KMT caucus meeting that touched on the issue of the party lagging behind in its ability to tap into Internet culture and to relate to the concerns of the young generation.
Premier Jiang Yi-hua (江宜樺), Minister of Economics Affairs Chang Chia-juch (張家祝), Mainland Affairs Council Minister Wang Yu-chi (王郁琦) and Minister of Labor Pan Shih-wei (潘世偉) also attended the forum.
Ma, who serves as the KMT chairman, encountered a few barbed questions such accusations of being “impotent,” or how the government would responds to the fact that the drive behind the Sunflower movement was people losing confidence in his government’s ability to rule.
Ma did not respond directly to these questions nor one from a man identified as a party member asking whether Ma “exerted all means possible to get rid of [Legislative Speaker] Wang Jin-pyng (王金平).”
“If the legislative speaker was [Deputy Legislative Speaker] Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱), [the movement] would not have had happened,” the man said.
Meanwhile, a young woman raised an article published in the Chinese-language United Evening News, titled: “Where did the KMT youth force go?” and said: “We are right here.”
The woman added that she has attended several events about public policy organized by government agencies.
“Is taking to the streets and shouting profanities now the only way to show you are involved in politics?” she said.
“Is it our fault that we joined the KMT?” she said, adding that the KMT youth would accept suggestions for improvement, but would not accept “smears.”
Other young attendees raised issues about high property prices, agriculture, higher education and gay rights, but as expected, the student movement and the cross-strait service trade agreement controversy topped the topics raised.
People who raised questions about the trade pact said they support the agreement and believe that it can bring benefits, but that opposition to it was a result of the government failing to communicate with the public effectively using powerful means such as the Internet.
Ma agreed, saying that despite the government’s efforts in “promoting the service trade pact [through public hearings or panel discussions] there are still a lot of people who do not really understand the pact, due to the ‘smears’ made by a few media outlets.”
Tackling fears of an influx of Chinese workers, Ma likened the possible scenario to the way McDonald’s operates: “offering employment opportunities, but stationing few American employees” in Taiwan.
However, he said the service industry is almost saturated.
“Yet our restaurants and service-related businesses can expand their enterprises in [China], just as Wang Steak, 85°C Bakery Cafe and Elephant King, a laundry business, have been doing,” Ma said.
Chang said that the agreement would provide a legal framework “for the protection of Taiwanese enterprises in [China].”
He added that only when the free-trade agreement with China has been signed can Taiwan “explore the global market.”