The Ministry of National Defense’s proposed amendments to the General Mobilization Act (全民防衛動員準備法) has drawn heavy criticism from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
One of the major controversies is centered around the oversight of media: The amendments include clauses stipulating that local governments, as well as news and media organizations, must abide by central government controls on all information networks during wartime.
The ministry has also asked the Ministry of Education to provide the All-Out Defense Mobilization Agency with a list of all students aged 16 and older, so the agency would know how many people it could mobilize if war were to break out.
However, pro-KMT media and party members branded the revision a draft “digital intermediary service act (數位中介服務法) 2.0,” a “crackdown on freedom of speech” and a potential precursor to the “return to martial law.”
Parents expressed concern that 16-year-olds would be mobilized to manufacture ammunition or even forced to fight, while KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) said that his party would not let the “malevolent” bill clear the legislative floor.
As cross-strait tensions continue to rise, the amendment can be seen as Taiwan heeding a lesson from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and taking steps to boost its asymmetric warfare capabilities.
The KMT is misrepresenting the draft as a government effort to influence the media and send teenage boys to war.
As Article 2 of the act already stipulates, the clauses in question would only be implemented in “the time period of assembling reserve forces for active duty in times of war, or the coming of national emergency, the president may promulgate emergency decrees in accordance with the Constitution to enforce overall or partial mobilization.”
This means that the clause would only come to effect during wartime, and only when the president gave the order. Freedom of the press is otherwise protected by the Constitution.
The Russo-Ukraine war has shown why media should be controlled during wartime. Fabricated videos showing Ukrainian forces surrendering circulated online, while Russian military equipment was bombed after news photographs exposed their locations. Media should only be allowed “relative freedom,” as opposed to “absolute freedom,” during war to avoid mistakes or deter collusion with enemy forces.
The Civil Defense Act (民防法) stipulates that high schools must compile name lists and organize civil defense regiments to assist with tasks such as caring for the wounded and firefighting. The amendment only reinforces the existing law and facilitates necessary training during peacetime.
Without related knowledge or expertise, it is impossible for anyone to manufacture ammunition, let alone 16-year-olds.
As the saying goes, “if you want peace, prepare for war.” It is crucial that Taiwan makes necessary preparations to defend against China’s growing aggression. As a party with a history of implementing 38 years of martial law, the KMT has no right to lecture on freedom of speech or mobilization of students. Distorting the proposal spreads fear among the public and makes it easier for China to invade. It is up to the public to defend the nation, and if a war does break out, even 16-year-olds cannot be shielded from an attack.
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