It has Become traditional for the annual year-end conference of the signatories to the UN Climate Change Convention and the Kyoto Protocol to be accompanied by parades, concerts and other activities worldwide to raise public awareness.
This year, the activities in Taiwan are scheduled for Dec. 6 and organizers include the Green Party Taiwan and the Taiwan Environmental Action Network (台灣環境行動網), among many others.
Unfortunately, when we applied for a permit to demonstrate, the Taipei City Government complicated the matter, while police intervened in an event promoting the activities.
The Assembly and Parade Law (集會遊行法) must be fundamentally amended to replace the requirement to apply for a rally permit with the option of notifying authorities.
On Nov. 19, our application to hold a demonstration on Ketagalan Boulevard was denied by the city government’s New Construction Office, which said that another group had already filed an application. We were not told who the group was so that we could negotiate the matter.
After an inquiry by city councilors the next day, we learned that no other application had been filed. A low-level agency responsible only for managing construction sites and roads was taking the liberty of reviewing the right to freedom of assembly.
Civil rights seem to have become something bestowed by the government as a favor, as it expands its administrative discretion. Civic groups without a political agenda are trampled on by overbearing bureaucrats who yield to any elected official.
Last Tuesday, we held a performance art event in front of Taipei 101. Although we had informed the local police precinct, police forced us to write down our personal information.
Last Friday, we displayed one black and two white balloons, symbolizing carbon dioxide, in front of Formosa Plastics Group’s (台塑) Taipei headquarters and demanded that President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) fulfill his campaign promise of levying an emissions tax and lowering income taxes.
Police first tried to turn off our microphone, but I demanded that freedom of speech be upheld and said that if we were too loud, they should act in accordance with the Noise Control Act (噪音管制法). After the event, the Songshan Police District threatened to ban our performance art events in the future.
Police have in recent years had a model for responding to this kind of small-scale event: Police hold up warning signs telling demonstrators to disperse. Protesters generally continue to yell slogans and wrap up their protest about 20 or 30 minutes after a third warning is given. This system avoids any conflict.
However, this harmony is often sacrificed when political or commercial interests are at stake. With the hawks gaining the upper hand since the visit of Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), the fragile mutual trust between the police and public is close to collapse.
If the permit system is replaced by a compulsory, rather than voluntary, notification system, the government will still be able to restrain the voice of the public and weaker civic groups will be targeted by major political parties using the law as a tool.
Judging from the experience of environmental protection groups, the Wild Strawberries Student Movement has shown foresight by staging a sit-in protest at National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall without applying for a permit from the city government to avoid being humiliated.
Pan Han-shen is the secretary-general of the Green Party Taiwan.
TRANSLATED BY EDDY CHANG
Taiwan is not an orphan nation in need of someone to adopt it. Taiwan is not a foundling nation wandering the streets of the world looking for a home. It is not even a poor waif of a nation unable to take care of itself in that same big, bad world. Finally, Taiwan is certainly not terra nullius, a nationless land that is open and waiting to be explored and possessed by those who dare. Taiwan is a mid-sized, democratic nation that by GDP, profitability, location and even microchip production punches far above its weight in its region and in international commerce.
When analyzing Taiwan-China tensions, most people assume that the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) consists of rational actors. Embedded within this belief are three further suppositions: First, Beijing would only launch an attack on Taiwan if it were in China’s national interest; second, it would only attack if the odds were overwhelmingly in its favor; and third, Chinese decisionmakers interpret information objectively and through the same lens as other actors. These assumptions have underpinned recent analyses — including by Minister of National Defense Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) — concluding that there is no
Do you remember where you were last year at this time? Do you remember what it was like? Here in the leafy suburbs of Washington, D.C., we were in lock-down mode. The streets were bleak and empty. Schools, offices, malls, theaters, churches … all were closed. The essentials were in short supply. Grocery stores rationed the good stuff. Signs read: “One jumbo pack of toilet paper, two cartoons of eggs per family please!” Some days those signs mocked us from barren shelves. It was a lonely and anti-social time. Families and friends had to weigh the rewards of gathering together to celebrate Christmas
US-based diplomatic observers say that interaction between Taiwan and the US has grown in intensity over the past few months, falling short of establishing official relations. Although the interaction is still below the cabinet level because of Washington’s “one China” policy, these observers see a growing propensity in US political circles, across both sides of the aisle, to support Taiwan’s distinct political culture, the outstanding features of which are its vibrant democracy and respect for human rights, along with a thriving economy. The question often debated in academic and foreign policy research circles is whether the US would put boots on