11 Nov 2008

[Support] Should Ma apologise? My two cents by Chan Mao-Guei

Author:Chan Mao-Guei (張茂桂) 台大社會系
Time: 2008/11/9 12pm

The students involved in the sit-in protest demanded for Ma Ying-Jeou(馬英九) and Liou Chao-Shuau(劉兆玄)'s apology due to the law enforcement's blatant violation of human rights during Chen Yu-Lin(陳雲林)'s visit in Taiwan, students also demanded for the Chief of Police and head of National Security Bureau to step down, also amend parts of the Parade and Assembly law(集會遊行法) which restricted citizen's right to voice their opinion freely.

Should Ma and Liou apologise? why is it need to be done? Is it absolutely necessary?

Students' sit-in when compared with DPP's recent protest departs in both action and demand; students' demand and sit-in protest's legality is sound, via civil disobedience method to try and establish a discussion and protest against human rights issues. Their action showed us modern Taiwanese society's basic values and what a democratic society means to us. Where as protests held by DPP were held with prolonged periods of time, however the voices and participants comes from a wider spectrum, even with a uniform chant it was not easy to have a cohesive, concise singular voice. Sometimes due to some individuals unable to differentiate violent protest and personal heroism their action were lead to misinterpretation, more often than not leads to society's condemn.

On the other hand, police is a nation's monopolistic physical force, it is to serve and protect it's citizen's lawful rights, also forms the final force for the government to govern and to utilise to control opposition forces. Thus, when the police is carrying out it's duty in any manner, whether it's using body armor in public, carrying batons, using containments, changing formation or monitoring, no matter legally or philosophically speaking, the police forces should only be used to aggressively protect citizen's lawful rights, and to safeguard society's benefit. At the same time, those opposing citizens should still be protected by constitution and the human rights clauses set out by it. It is sometimes possible for a nation's to utilise this power and avoid responsibilities, for example during times of national crisis or emergency or if attacked by foreign power. However it will easily stir up controversy if this force is used to prevent or safeguard before any emergency or crisis emerges. This is due to the fact declaring martial law is one sided arbitrary power dictated by the government, where abuse of power and violation of human rights most likely to occur. For example, a nation is able to pretentiously announce that it is in a special emergency state, and very quickly citizen's rights diminishes and opposition forces faces elimination. Taiwan had been under martial law for 40 years, we should strive to understand and fear the consequences of the possible implications of the recent issues.

The events which happened today mostly belonged to the "prevention" camp. When Chen's convoy arrived, in great many places questions were asked "When a nation's exercising it's forces on it's citizen, is it appropriate to display such overt amount of forces?" Is the government abusing it's power by "preventing a pressing eventuality"? Many I feel may be confused by what had happened or even angry. The community formed Judicial Reform Foundation's human rights lawyer agreed too, and have pressed charges. Even Liou Chou-Shuan(劉兆玄) and Liao Liou-Yi(廖了以) were pressed to say there was "room for improvement". However, if it's only the law-enforcing technicality that were examined, then it's mostly unnecessary, for that's not where the fundamental issue lies, even giving the police a basic lesson on human rights would be more meaningful. What's most important is the collateral politic responsibilities. Who gave the police the authority, with what judgment to allow for such overt operation? Simply speaking, if we are still a democratic country, then for the government to violate opposition's rights in both physical and speech is most detrimental to the values of a democracy. Thus the question today, would be examine political responsibility of those involved. If we can not see the seriousness of the issue today, inflicted damage will reach far beyond damages caused to the image of our nation or to cross strait relationship and it will be our society's justice, human rights and equality that bore the wound. One of the out comes, would be after 30 years of democratic rule in Taiwan, will once again go back to binary conflict between foreign ruling power and people, a real step back to democracy.

Unfortunately, due to DPP's bloodshed protest, some members of the public refrained to examine the issue at hand, as they do not understand or unable to face the political responsibilities and with knee-jerk reaction initiated series of unintelligent comments. So what if the students were encouraged or used by opposition party(which we know are not true)? So what if they were influenced by Wild Lily movement(野百合學運)'s participant? So what if students did not condemn DPP's violent protesters? So what if the teachers involved have obvious political preference? So what if students interrupted Hsueh Hsiang-chuan(薛香川)? So what if students did not comply with the Parade and Assembly law and applied for an protest 7 days before the event? So what?

We're not saying these are invalid questions, the result of discussion may even influence our opinions on the appropriateness of this sit-in protest. However, when compared with Ma and Liou's willingness to be a "good host" to Chen Yu-Lin's visit to Taiwan which led to inappropriately abuse of police force, the damage this action caused to the value of democracy is easily greater. Obviously we should not be misled by political commentator's opinion and questions to avoid examining the responsibility of this political conflict's abuse of power. When Hsueh appeared to "get to know" the students, he infamously said "Politics is short-lived" such irony! Because the issue at hand today, is the maintenance of a basic pillar of democracy, human rights issue under constitution, this is of a grave matter spanning across all parties, presidents, crass strait meetings, even across racial class issues. As long as constitution and nation which depends upon it exists, all it's citizens must obey and follow it, that is modern Taiwan's core value.

Lastly, we go back to the question whether Ma should apologise. Last time when Ma apologised it was quite an memorable event. Along with Wu Po-Hsiung(吳伯雄) and several KMT's high level officials, all of them bowed 90 degrees several times, at least 7 or 8 times, he even fired those involved. Such humility made everyone believed his sincerity. The event was later referred to as "4 little pigs" Legislators who during high-strung tension election hours went to the opposition camps' building alone to provoke reaction. Compared with "4 little pigs" wouldn't the issue with current political responsibility linking with the given event be even more appropriate to apologise? We would like to remind President Ma during his 20th of May inauguration vowed to obey and defend Constitution of Republic of China, and in his speed swore to be president of every Taiwanese. Now, if the police under the government's layers of guidance, using the interest of nation and preventing eventualities as excuses to violate basic human rights which are protected by constitution, thus broken president Ma's own inauguration speech and his political promise, should he apologise? And being the Republic of China's highest chief of Administration should he apologise as well? Should the Intelligence and Police force's head step down as well? Isn't the answer clear enough with pages taken from Civil Society class 101?

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