Last Saturday’s demonstration in Taipei drew more participants than the pan-blue camp had expected. Afterwards, every pan-blue politician played the numbers game trying to keep the attendance figure below 50,000 in an attempt to find a reason to ignore the demonstration and its demands.
Opinion was split in the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) on whether to participate in the demonstration, as it should be in a democratic party.
What was not normal, however, was the forceful opposition of those who did not want to participate in the demonstration. What happened?
From the start, those who opposed the demonstration were of the opinion that one shouldn’t be too quick to take to the streets, an opinion that was strengthened after former president Chen Shui-bian’s (陳水扁) financial irregularities struck a blow to pan-green morale.
Indeed, protesters should not take to the streets without good cause, and a demonstration should only be organized when the organizers have a good grasp of the situation. This involves concern for public opinion as well as avoiding causing civic unrest, which could lead to a negative impression among the public.
However, when the public feels strongly about something but is being ignored by the government, politicians should represent the public in expressing their grievances. If public sentiment tends toward the extreme, politicians should engage in dialog and discuss the issue rather than remaining on the sidelines, criticizing.
Although the Taiwan Society was the nominal organizer of the demonstration, it would probably be more correct to say that the society had been pushed into organizing the rally by public pressure. The government’s domestic policies have failed, sparking public complaints, while its headlong rush to warm up ties with China has raised public concern. This is evident from listening to people calling in to political talk shows and by talking to people on the street.
But even if these factors could be ignored, the abnormal behavior of the stock market is further evidence that Taiwan is dealing with some major problems.
However, this was not why so many people took part in the demonstration. What drew most people to the rally was the Chen case. Not because they supported Chen, but because of the pan-blue camp’s excessive political manipulations of the case. People are fed up with such behavior, and they are worried that such manipulation is aimed at covering up the government’s failed political policies and might end up accelerating the decline of their standard of living and the nation’s weakening sovereignty.
The DPP should be congratulated for deciding to participate in the demonstration. What would the party’s future have looked like if the DPP kept its distance from the public? The active participation of most DPP officials and legislators demonstrated that they are still in touch with the public and understand their problems.
Hopefully legislative candidates who failed to be elected in the most recent elections will use their influence and continue to participate in these activities when Taiwan needs them. Elections are secondary, and the primary concern should be to consolidate public opinion.
DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) has strong opinions and I don’t think she was forced into participating. Her soft approach has allowed her to successfully manage the attacks on the DPP, but inside that softness there is unyielding strength.
Paul Lin is a political commentator based in Taiwan.
TRANSLATED BY PERRY SVENSSON
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