Thu, May 01, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Beijing forum decision criticized

SIFTING SAND:An organizer was warned that a threat by Beijing to arrest people at the event was serious and that they would be denied bail and sent to ‘sift sand’

By Chen Yen-ting and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Would-be participants in a public forum on the origins of the Sunflower movement that was scheduled to take place in Beijing on April 19 have expressed regret over what they called the Chinese government’s “overreaction” to the event, which said the forum sought to extend the movement into China, leading the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau to cancel it.

A woman studying at Taiwan’s National Tsing Hua University, surnamed Chang (張), who organized the forum, said it was to be held at the Wudaokou Salon near Peking and Tsinghua universities in Beijing.

The event, titled “The brightening sky — A look at the controversy of the cross-strait service trade pact from Taiwanese youth participation,” was to focus on the motivations of the protesters who occupied the Legislative Yuan in Taipei for 24 days in March to protest the government’s handling of the trade agreement.

Chang announced the forum on Facebook on April 17, but the bureau then revoked permission she had been given to hold the event and threatened to arrest attendants if it proceeded.

One of Chang’s friends from China warned her about the severity of the bureau’s warning, saying: “They will arrest you [for being] pro-Taiwanese pro-independence and anti-communist, and they will deny you bail and send you directly to Changping District (昌平) to sift sand.”

“To send someone to Changping to sift sand” refers to the response of the Beijing bureau toward anyone who “goes against the system,” the friend said on Facebook.

Chang expressed regret and helplessness at the cancelation of the forum, whose intended participants were Taiwanese and Chinese with “direct experience of Taiwan,” adding that the event had been aimed at introducing Taiwanese perspectives to her Beijing friends.

The forum’s intended host, Tainan National University of the Arts assistant professor Huang Chun-ming (黃俊銘), accused the Chinese government of being “too lazy to think” and failing to understand 21st-century Taiwan.

Some have attributed the Chinese authorities’ abrupt U-turn on the forum to its planned date being about a month away from the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests and because Sunflower student movement leader Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷) posted information about the event on Facebook early on April 18 that drew wide attention on Chinese social media sites.

The Chinese government sees Taiwan within the limited framework painted for it by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and tends to treat anti-KMT social movements as mobilized by pro-Taiwanese independence groups, Huang said.

The [origins] of the Sunflower movement in Taiwan can be traced through many sectors of its society and cannot be seen solely from the angle of pro-Taiwanese independence, Huang said, adding that this narrow view was the angle adopted by most Chinese media outlets.

Huang criticized the Chinese authorities for canceling an event that would have been a platform for participants to share ideas, adding that the number of Chinese who planned to attend far outnumbered Taiwanese.

“I see no reason the Chinese government should have so little faith in its own policies and fear that its college students would be so easily swayed,” Huang said.

Huang added that using Facebook to relay information was second nature to Taiwanese, and it was evident from the Chinese government’s reaction that it is unfamiliar with how young people interact with public affairs.

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