16 Nov 2008

[Taipei Times] A movement away from the political orthodoxy

A group of students and academics linked up via the Internet to launch a silent vigil, one quite different in form and purpose from the noisy mobilizations of the blue and green parties.

Their goals are very simple: Criticize police for acting outside their authority and infringing on freedom of speech in the name of security; demand that the government admit to and apologize for its errors; and call for amendments to the Assembly and Parade Law (集會遊行法) where the law conflicts with freedom of expression.

The students are straightforward, sincere and deserve to be taken seriously. These are people who originally gave politics the cold shoulder and who are sick and tired of the endless war of words between pro-unification and pro-independence forces. During the overextension of police authority during Chen’s visit, the students saw the ugly face of the abuse of government power. They saw how the police were selective in approving applications for assembly, how they banned the display of the Republic of China flag in specified areas, how they gratuitously marched into a record shop and ordered the management to stop playing certain music.

To the protesters, all of these actions exceeded the boundaries of law enforcement.

The protesters’ agenda indicates that a new generation has appeared with its own way of thinking. The axis of political debate in Taiwan may gradually move away from the struggle between unification and independence forces, which the younger generation finds meaningless, toward a fight for deeper democracy and civil liberties.

Politicians should recognize the sincerity of this movement instead of smearing it. Any party that fails to recognize the shift that is taking place risks being sidelined and swept away. (Full Text)

[Taipei Times] Student sit-in protest enters 10th day

MOVEMENT: As the number of signatures on a three-point petition grew to more than 58,000, the president invited the Wild Strawberries to negotiate this week
By Shih Hsiu-chuan
Sunday, Nov 16, 2008, Page 1

Participants in a student sit-in protest lock themselves in cages at Liberty Square in front of National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall in downtown Taipei yesterday. They said they would remain in the cages for 24 hours.

The student sit-in protest against alleged police brutality during a recent visit by Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) drew more than 500 students from around the nation to Liberty Square in Taipei yesterday.

Visitors signed a three-point petition written by the students, bringing the total number of signatures backing the Taiwan Wild Strawberries Movement to more than 58,000, spokesman Hsu Jen-shou (?? said.

The petition called for apologies from President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) over police brutality during Chen’s visit, resignations of National Security Bureau Director-General Tsai Chao-ming (蔡朝明) and National Police Agency Director-General Wang Cho-chun (王卓鈞), as well as reform of the Assembly and Parade Law (集會遊行法).

“We will continue our protest, as we haven’t received any positive response to the petition from the government,” Hsu said, adding that they were considering how to increase pressure on the government as the sit-in entered its 10th day.

One student suggested the group file a lawsuit against the police based on videotapes that allegedly show police cracking down on protesters who were waving national flags.

“No abuse of power! The president and premier must apologize,” the students shouted during the intervals between speeches and other protest activities.

A student from National Cheng Kung University and a student recently returned from the UK, both of whom wished not to be named, and Lin Yu-hsuan (林邑軒), a sociology graduate student at National Taiwan University, sat inside a prop that was designed to look like a cage to symbolize the repression of freedom of speech and human rights in the country under the Ma administration, Lin said, adding that they planned to sit inside the cages for 24 hours starting at 3pm yesterday.

Yen Chueh-an (顏厥安), a law professor at National Taiwan University, and Hsu Szu-chien (徐斯儉), an assistant research fellow at the Institute of Political Science at Academia Sinica, played Ma and Liu in a satirical skit to represent the politicians’ “arrogant” attitude toward the students.

“I don’t think we need to offer an apology. Things like this will be over in a day or two if [I] hang in there,” Hsu mimicked Liu as saying.

Liu made a similar remark on Monday during a break in an ETTV interview.

Students who couldn’t join the Taipei rally staged sit-ins in Hsinchu, Taichung, Chiayi, Tainan and Kaohsiung.

Lee Li-wei (李立偉), a student representative, said they hadn’t been told that Ma would like to communicate with the students on condition that the students give up the first two petitions, as was reported in yesterday’s Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister paper).

The students asked three questions of Ma — whether he agreed with criticism of excessive police force made by professor Jerome Cohen, Ma’s mentor during his studies at Harvard University; what laws and regulations were police actions were based on when stifling demonstrations against Chen; and whether Ma would like to apologize for the police intrusion into rooms booked by protesters against Chen at the Grand Hotel, where Chen stayed during his visit.

At a separate setting yesterday, Ma reiterated his willingness to reform the Assembly and Parade Law. Ma lauded the students for showing their concern for the country through a sit-in protest and invited them to negotiate the issue this week.

“Democracy is something we need to learn. People should respect one another’s freedom, otherwise democracy will be compromised,” Ma said yesterday during an interview with M-Radio Station in Taichung City.


[Taipei Times] Wild Strawberries call for probes

YOUTH GONE WILD: The demonstrators asked the government which article authorizes the police to stop people from waving Taiwan’s flag, but not China’s flag
By Flora Wang

Friday, Nov 14, 2008, Page 4

Students yesterday perform a skit during a sit-in protest at the National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall, demanding that the government amend the Assembly and Parade Law.

In an on-line statement on the students’ Web blog (action1106.blogspot.com) yesterday, the students urged the government to explain to the public specifically which law authorized the police to prevent people from waving Taiwan’s national flag, but allowed people to hold China’s national flag during demonstrations for and against the visit by Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) last week.

The students also urged the government to clarify to the public whether all police officers involved in the security measures last week carried out their duties in accordance with normal administrative procedures and urged the authorities to reflect on whether their measures had been excessive.

The students have been staging silent sit-ins nationwide, protesting what they call excessive police force during Chen’s five-day stay.

They are demanding an apology from President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) and the resignation of National Police Agency Director-General Wang Cho-chun (王卓鈞) and National Security Bureau Director-General Tsai Chao-ming (蔡朝明).

Also on the students’ agenda is an immediate amendment to the Assembly and Parade Law (集會遊行法), which currently obliges event organizers to gain police approval before holding rallies.

On their Web blog, the students have included numerous hyperlinks to video clips showing police security measures last week, including one that showed a plainclothes police officer telling a person videotaping the protest at Zhongshan Bridge to immediately leave “or I will ask a member of the Special Weapons And Tactics [SWAT] team to arrest you.”

“We can see that the law enforcement authorities assigned police officers a mission to complete and that police officers would rather excessively limit or even violate people’s basic human rights in a bid to save their own jobs,” the student protesters’ statement said, adding that the police had violated people’s constitutional rights by resorting to force against those who did not pose an obvious and immediate threat to Chen.

The students also shrugged off Ma’s comments on Wednesday that excessive use of police force had only occurred in isolated cases.

“These illegal and unconstitutional incidents and violations of human rights took place because the government expanded the scale of law enforcement during Chen’s stay in Taiwan,” student movement spokesman Lee Li-wei (李立偉) said.

Meanwhile, Lee called on teachers and students who supported the movement to gather and broaden the scale of the sit-in at Liberty Square, outside the Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall tomorrow.

Lee said about 50 students from Hong Kong Polytechnic University would launch a sit-in at their school in support of the movement today.


[Taipei Times] Sit-in: A lesson in preserving democracy

By Lin Huan-yi 林奐怡

Wednesday, Nov 12, 2008, Page 8

When I searched for Songs of Taiwan (台灣之歌) on YouTube recently, I was stunned by what I saw. I could hardly believe that what I found was really the Taiwan I know. I support communication between the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, but when the national dignity and freedom of speech that we are so proud of are trampled like this, how can one not feel pain? I was moved to voice my discontent with the government.

I learned about the “Operation Seige” protest against Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) from the newspapers. Despite the chance that I would be labeled a supporter of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) if I joined the protest, I still went.

However, once there all I heard and saw was nationalistic shouting and confrontations, with demonstrators egged on by politicians delivering sensational and theatrical speeches. This did not reflect why I was participating. I am unwilling to downgrade myself and become a tool in the hands of politicians. Besides, I felt that the protests were not aimed at achieving social justice as I had expected, so I quietly left and went home.

After I got home, I went online and learned that a sit-in petition organized by Lee Ming-tsung (李明璁), an assistant professor in the Department of Sociology at National Taiwan University, had already attracted much attention on PTT2, which is one of Taiwan’s biggest bulletin board systems. After reading the posts carefully, I felt that the protest dovetailed with my pursuit of social justice and resolved to join the sit-in.

Later in the evening on Friday, protesters were expelled from the site of the sit-in near the Legislative Yuan. Hundreds of teachers and students, including myself, were bundled into police vans and dropped off at different locations around town. However, it was not long before we made our way back downtown and gathered again, this time at the National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall.

This is a living lesson in democracy. I talked to a teacher who said that democracy does not appear by itself and is often a result of street movements. Sadly, the democracy that results from such street movements is often destroyed by those in power. The concept of civil disobedience did not appear in my school textbooks, but I have now learned about it firsthand. I have also witnessed how the media sensationalize and distort simple appeals for human rights.

The pursuit of social justice must go beyond political camps. Take my schoolmate, for example: She took part in the “red shirt” campaign against former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), but she is also participating in the sit-in protest this time. To which camp or party does she belong, then?

Unfortunately, Taiwan is still trapped in a blue-green dichotomy. Why should students be labeled as one or the other when expressing discontent with the government? Does this also mean students are deprived of their right to discuss public issues? This is ridiculously unfair and should never happen.

On Saturday, I sat in the rain all day under the cover of a wide-brimmed farmer’s hat. Despite the miserable weather, I felt fortunate to participate in the student movement and I am certainly proud of the teachers and students who sat in the rain with me. We are safeguarding the universal values of human rights and democracy through a peaceful and rational process.

Lin Huan-yi is a student in the Department of Graphic Arts Communication at National Taiwan Normal University.



[Taipei Times] Students reconvene, protest on

ROUND TWO: Although demonstrators were evicted on Friday, many returned to continue their sit-in, demanding an apology for how police handled last week’s protests
By Lin Chia-chi
Sunday, Nov 09, 2008, Page 1

A protester winces as rain beats down on him at National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall in downtown Taipei yesterday. Hundreds of college students have taken part in a sit-in protest against heavy-handed policing of recent demonstrations.
“We want human rights!” chanted students at National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall as they continued their sit-in for a third day, demanding an apology from the government over what they called the “rough” tactics used by police to deal with protesters during the visit by China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chaiman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) last week.

Despite the poor weather yesterday, more than 100 students wore simple raincoats and remained sitting in protest in the Taipei rain. (More)

The Age of Enlightenment

In a public poll on November 10th, by TVBS, which can be found on the English KMT website and seems to provide the numbers for KMT think tanks strategies, it is stated:

10. Do you support the protest sit-in being held by university students at Liberty Square at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall?

Support 38%
Do not support 50%
No opinion 11%

So far so good. But what is really worrying are the answers to the following question:

11. Do you know the purpose of the students in this protest sit-in?

Yes 63%
No 37%

Three days after the protest and at a time it was already reported in the media, a day before a man burned himself on liberty square 37% of the Taiwanese did not know the purpose of the protests.

What are the reasons?
One reason might be the media strategy which is mainly based on modern forms of communication that do not reach older or less educated people, like it is possible with printed newspapers that explaining the reasons and goals of the protests and can easily be distributed for example by trade union members in factories or in public transportation.

Another reason might be that the age of enlightenment, which made up the way for the foundation of the United States or the French revolution never really reached Taiwan. People do not think on their own, they are controlled, they want to be controlled.

What is enlightenment? This question was answered in 1784 by Immanuel Kant (in English translation):

Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s understanding without guidance from another. This immaturity is self-imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another. Sapere Aude! “Have courage to use your own understanding!” — that is the motto of enlightenment. (more)