Taiwan is spinning away from China’s idealized model of “one country, two systems” as a renewed spirit of democracy sweeps across its political sphere, rousing a new cadre of grassroots leaders critical of a shared future with China.
The number of new political parties and advocacy groups has surged following advances by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the nine-in-one elections in November last year that routed the ruling pro-China Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) from positions in local government.
The victory of the nation’s main opposition party was preceded by the Sunflower movement in March and April last year, in which student-led protesters occupied the main chamber of the Legislative Yuan for almost 23 days over the government’s handling of the cross-strait service trade agreement.
More groups are likely to emerge before next year’s presidential and legislative elections. Such political fragmentation will make it harder for China to strike the deals it has been pushing for to pull Taiwan closer into its economic orbit.
Freddy Lim (林昶佐), whose New Power Party is one of 14 new parties registered since July last year, wants more openness and greater discussion of issues, including how Taiwan handles ties with China.
“The determination for change by society is very strong,” said Lim, a former chair of rights group Amnesty International in Taiwan who is standing for a legislative seat.
Taiwanese want to reclaim a sense of identity many feel they have lost since China-friendly President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office in 2008. He is set to end his second, and final presidential term, early next year.
Ma’s pro-China trade policies have benefited big business, making his KMT the go-to party for Beijing, which deems Taiwan a renegade province to be taken back by force if necessary.
However, the Sunflower movement suspended the ratification of the cross-strait trade pact, holding up progress on economic ties with China.
“It shows the possibility of a third way,” said Joseph Lin (林永頌), chairman of Judicial Reform Foundation, which is defending 118 people charged over the protests. “It shakes up the pre-existing relationship between politics and moneyed interests.”
Last year’s massive protests in Hong Kong against Beijing’s control of the former British colony fed the suspicion of people in Taiwan over the nation’s closer ties with China. Many in Taiwan say the Hong Kong protesters were inspired by the Sunflower movement.
“People in Taiwan understandably have to be more cautious than ever in watching out that their liberties aren’t eroded and that Chinese business does not buy up Taiwan business and become more influential,” said Jerome Cohen, a senior fellow of the US-based Council on Foreign Relations.
That is where the new parties come in. They aim to disrupt the nation’s primarily two-party system, in which the KMT and the DPP hold the bulk of the 113 seats in the legislature.
Just five of more than 260 of Taiwanese political parties figure in the legislature. A newly formed Social Democratic Party, led by social activists, plans to set up shop soon.
Sunflower movement leaders have also formed advocacy groups, such as Taiwan March, which seeks constitutional reform.
China-born Wuer Kaixi, one of the students who led Beijing’s Tiananmen Square protest in 1989, has launched a campaign to represent his adopted home, Taichung, where he has lived since 1996.
He said last year’s protest was the spur, adding: “In the old picture, I would not have the chance or the urge to do this.”
Legislator Hsu Hsin-ying (徐欣瑩), who quit the KMT in January, plans another run for the legislature, but this time representing a new party that is still being set up.
“Taiwan needs another voice,” Hsu said.
WAR FUNDING: A report by UK and Ukrainian defense analysts said that Taiwanese exports of a compound used in gunpowder have been helping Russia propagate its war About 20 percent of nitrocellulose — a compound used in gunpowder — imported into Russia has been sourced from Taiwan, a joint British-Ukrainian investigative report showed. Nitrocellulose is a key component of smokeless gunpowder, and the EU has banned export of the compound to Russia due to its ongoing war of aggression against Ukraine. The report said that nitrocellulose produced in Taiwan makes its way to Russia by passing through other countries such as Turkey. Only one company, T.N.C. Industrial Co (台硝), was named in the report, which also named China and Germany as key sources of the compound for
Individual tourists who arrive in Taiwan from tomorrow are eligible to receive limited-edition lucky bags to mark the Lantern Festival, Tourism Administration officials said yesterday. The Lantern Festival-themed lucky bags each contain a Year of the Dragon red envelope, a mini lantern, a NT$300 coupon for an amusement park ticket and a NT$500 Taiwan PASS coupon, the officials said. To get a lucky bag, visitors must present a passport or residence certificate and proof of their date of entry at a tourism center at either terminal at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) or Kaohsiung International Airport, they said. The
FOOD FRACAS: Legislative Speaker Han Kuo-yu called for the premier to deliver the address at 10:27am, but KMT legislators swarmed the podium to block him Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) lawmakers yesterday temporarily obstructed Premier Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) from giving what is likely to be his last policy report to the legislature in protest at the Cabinet’s handling of food safety issues. The premier eventually delivered his report after a spat between caucuses about how and when Chen should deliver a special report on food safety. The KMT wanted the premier to make the special report yesterday, while the Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) said that the legislature should hold an internal meeting on the issue today and the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) proposed Friday. As they could not agree,
ROAD SINKING: The road surface of Qingcheng Street near the intersection with Xingan Street in Taipei’s Songshan District collapsed on Friday at about 9pm Grouting was yesterday used to repair a section of road in Taipei, after work on a construction site caused the surface to partially collapse on Friday evening, the Taipei Construction Management Office said yesterday, adding that nearby buildings were not affected. The road surface of Qingcheng Street near the intersection with Xingan Street in Taipei’s Songshan District (松山) collapsed at about 9pm on Friday. When police arrived they found four cars parked by the roadside tilting to one side. Police estimated the area that had subsided was about 4m by 30m, and was about 1.5m deep. They cordoned off the surrounding area