The security measures that the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) government has implemented for the arrival of Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) must be awakening a sense of dread in anyone old enough to have lived in the Martial Law era under dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石).
In fact, so ostentatious was the presence of police and National Security Bureau officers at critical venues along Chen’s path from Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport to the Grand Hotel in Shilin (士林) that the Chinese envoy must have felt right at home.
The Ma administration’s argument that such measures were the direct consequence of the Democratic Progressive Party’s “mobbing” of ARATS Vice Chairman Zhang Mingqing (張銘清) in Tainan last week is obfuscation, as police are not only protecting the envoy but also muzzling freedom of speech by forbidding people from displaying the national flag, banners with political content or symbols of Chinese oppression, such as the Tibetan flag.
What’s even more worrying is that the security apparatus seems to have quickly reverted to the random, unclear rules upon which authoritarian regimes depend to keep their opponents on edge. In other words, while the government tells Taiwanese not to fret over the meetings, it has unleashed the tool of fear to unbalance detractors. Days ahead of Chen’s arrival, demonstrators didn’t know whether they would be arrested for activities that in the past two decades did not constitute breaking the law.
Barbed wire at key intersections, demonstrators manhandled by police without cause, a young woman’s finger broken as police pried a Tibetan flag from her hands and arrested her — this is the stuff of news in China, not Taiwan.
After years of democratization and transformation of the security apparatus into an instrument of the state rather than the private army of a political party, officers that a year ago could not have imagined themselves doing the things that they did yesterday have become a tool of state oppression.
The great British thinker Bertrand Russell, who had a lifelong interest in the uses of power, once referred to a phenomenon that could be summed up as the “anonymity of the flock,” in which the individual is capable of committing actions that are out of character because of the “deresponsibilization” that the context provides them. Being part of an organization — especially in the security apparatus — weakens one’s moral barriers and allows for the perpetration of unspeakable acts. A police officer is merely following orders and doing his job, which he could lose if he refused to comply with directives from the top.
When this happens, otherwise decent human beings are capable of just about anything.
Taiwan hasn’t reached the extremes of this phenomenon, but the seeds are there and the leadership — the moral compass in any institution — has shown its willingness to use force against its own people, assaulting a harmless 34-year-old woman in the process. And yesterday was only the first day of Chen’s visit.
The pendulum of freedom cannot be allowed to swing back in a direction that has caused this nation so much suffering in the past.
Palauan President Surangel Whipps Jr in a letter to an unnamed US senator on Feb. 9 said that China has offered to “fill every hotel room,” in Palau, “and more if more are built” if the small island nation were to break ties with Taiwan. The letter further claims that China offered US$20 million per year for the creation of a “call center” in Palau, a nation whose economy relies heavily on tourism. It is more evidence that for China, tourism is an economic tool for its political gain. Cleo Paskal, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, posted
Due to enduring the Kafkaesque situation of having two accidents in 30 minutes, one involving an accident with an ambulance, I would like to share my personal experience. Both cases show the loopholes of Taiwanese law, which is a driving factor for the terrible traffic conditions in the nation. I was driving my scooter on the main road in Taoyuan’s Yangmei District (楊梅). Despite there being no cars behind me, a young man in an old car made a sudden left turn and I bumped into his vehicle. At first, the man tried to run away, but was blocked by other
It has been a year since China relaxed the “zero COVID-19” measures that had been stifling economic activity, but the country has yet to experience the rebound that policymakers and pundits anticipated. Instead, economic indicators from last year have painted a disheartening picture. The fallout from the massive property developer Evergrande’s 2021 collapse is far from over, and the sector continues to struggle, even after the Chinese government relaxed purchasing restrictions in cities like Guangzhou and Shanghai. China’s financial health has also declined as local government debt has snowballed, leading Moody’s to downgrade the country’s credit outlook in December last year.
Amid the intensifying Sino-US strategic rivalry, Beijing has become more vocal about its coercive “wolf warrior” diplomacy. Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) condemned the US-led “containment, encirclement and suppression of China” at last year’s annual National People’s Congress in Beijing. Xi went on to say that China must “have the courage to fight” in the face of complicated changes at home and abroad. Taiwan is still a very sensitive subject for US-China relations. Chinese Central Foreign Affairs Commission Director Wang Yi (王毅) emphasized that Taiwan was “China’s internal affair” and reiterated that “Taiwan is part of China” during his talk last month with