While tens of thousands of people rejoiced at various venues around the nation on New Year’s Eve to celebrate the arrival of 2013, a few hundred people, the majority of them students, huddled at Liberty Square in Taipei and later in front of the Presidential Office, to show their concern for the future of their country.
Braving cold temperatures, but for once spared the rain, the young Taiwanese were holding their fourth protest in a little more than a month, and fifth since September, against the threat of media monopolization and growing Chinese influence within the industry.
As Taipei 101 and other landmarks lit up with colorful fireworks at the strike of midnight, those young Taiwanese were discussing media freedoms and listening to speeches by academics and other influential figures under the watchful eye of police officers.
After nine hours at Liberty Square, the protesters adjourned to a spot in front of the Presidential Office, where they launched a second sit-in, as rows of police officers bearing riot shields looked on. Behind the centurions, thousands of people who had trickled in since midnight in preparation for yesterday’s flag-raising ceremony and President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) New Year address, assembled before the Presidential Office.
As the student-led movement against media monsters has gained momentum, its members have gone through ups and downs. They have faced lawsuits, been attacked by media operated by the monster itself –– the Want Want China Times Group –– and have been scolded by impeccably Confucian government officials. They have also been warmly supported by tens of thousands of people overseas, by legislators, academics and even older Taiwanese, who are often loath to associate with younger people.
And while activist Tsay Ting-kuei (蔡丁貴), in a show of solidarity, served the protesters ginger tea to help them stay warm, some revelers heckled the protesters and berated them for causing disturbances over such a long period of time.
Ironically, no sooner had those accusations been made than CTV, a TV station operated by the Want Want China Times Group, was cutting out from its reruns of the New Year’s Eve show in Greater Kaohsiung comments about media freedom by the lead singer of Sodagreen (蘇打綠) on why the group chose to perform Chang Yu-sheng’s (張雨生) song Life With No Cigarettes to Smoke (沒有菸抽的日子), an adaptation of a poem by Chinese dissident Wang Dan (王丹) about the students’ movement in the lead-up to the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989.
The complainers should remember that democracy doesn’t come free and that it needs to be cultivated so that it doesn’t wither away. Taiwan is a democracy, but that achievement cannot be taken for granted, and there are forces out there that seek to undermine its vibrancy, if not to turn back the clock altogether. Keeping democracy alive requires the same persistence and selflessness that animated those who made the democratization of Taiwan possible during the 1970s and 1980s.
How quickly people forget that the freedoms and liberties they enjoy in Taiwan today are the direct result of young, idealistic individuals, not unlike those who spent New Year’s Eve away from all the fun, who chose not to listen when figures of authority told them their behavior was “inconvenient,” irritating, or simply too dangerous. Luckily for all of us, the young protesters simply shrugged off the criticism and continued with their efforts.
It will rain again, and it will get cold again. The anti-media monopoly protesters will again be scolded, threatened and ridiculed. However, they must also know that in that chorus of voices, there are several that cheer them on as they make themselves heard, and as they fight for the ideals that serve as the foundations of the country they call home.
Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) expressed “deep concern” over the staggering rise of COVID-19 cases in India, and offered to supply medical equipment and vaccine doses to the country, but his overtures sparked debate in India’s academic and political circles about his sincerity to help, particularly as it was followed by a vulgar display of schadenfreude over the hundreds of thousands of cremations of deaths caused by the virus in the country. The vast majority of Indians were already angry and frustrated with Beijing needling the country on a number of issues, including imports from China, which were abruptly stopped
Determined to keep a permanent grip on power, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has abandoned former paramount leader Deng Xiaoping’s (鄧小平) dogma of “hiding our capacities and biding our time” along with the “peaceful development” line that prevailed under former Chinese presidents Jiang Zemin (江澤民) and Hu Jintao (胡錦濤). Instead, he is treading a “wolf warrior” path of diplomacy that resorts to coercion, debt entrapment and hostage-taking. Externally, Xi’s China has claimed that it would never seek hegemony, yet it challenges the free, rules-based international order wherever it can. While insisting that it will not export its ideology, it has
As the US’ mass COVID-19 vaccination campaign continues at a record pace, one question under debate is what the administration of US President Joe Biden should do with its extra doses — and especially where to send them. One country that should be at the top of a donation list is Taiwan, in recognition of the help that it provided to the US at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. After weeks of pressure, the Biden administration announced that it is now “looking at options to share American-made AstraZeneca vaccine doses.” By summer, it is clear that anyone in the
Recent news has not been good for the image of Taiwan’s police. After a questionable arrest and detainment of a music teacher in Taoyuan made the headlines last week, news broke that officers at Songshan Precinct’s Zhonglun Police Station in Taipei allegedly deleted security footage showing a group of men storming into the station and damaging a computer on April 16. While the video incident is still being investigated, a group of people on Monday night released hundreds of cockroaches into a restaurant where Taipei’s voluntary police force was hosting a banquet. The guests included senior officers such as Taipei Police