Thursday, March 20, 2014
I’ve titled the protests “Pro-Transpency” because, of all the criticism in the past few days in connection with the Taiwan-China service trade pact, this is one aspect that I truly support. I wouldn’t go as far as calling it a “black box” operation, that is to say, the government has acted “under the table”, making decisions, the details of which were not formally disclosed to the people. I wouldn’t say that. I believe the government possesses, at the very least, some right and authority to make decisions on behalf of the people who elected it, without having to explain in detail every such decision. That said, having called for transparency (albeit amongst many other things), the people of Taiwan (or at least those opposing the agreement) deserve a chance to know what the government is doing in their name.
I went to the streets of Taipei today to see why thousands of students led by opposition politicians and spokespersons had decided to rally at the Legislative Yuan. And why, for the first time in Taiwan’s history, protestors stormed the parliamentary legislature, blockading themselves inside, occupying a building signifying the sovereignty of Taiwan. I’m home now, and I still do not have full, detailed answers to my own questions.
The Taiwanese love a protest. The spirit of protesting is generally very healthy and peaceful, giving many an opportunity to understand and experience first-hand the rights of a citizen living in a democracy. Protestors are orderly (except those now occupying the legislature), peaceful and helpful. There are lawyers, doctors, teachers and volunteers all contributing to the rallies, providing whatever services they can offer. Today I also came across a few young people handing out free lunch boxes, raincoats and water bottles—a truly united spirit in the name of protesting. So I can proudly say that the actual procedure and formalities relating to the protests are highly commendable. However, other aspects should take just as much precedence, such as a clearly defined goal. One that doesn’t include strong, extreme (and sometimes radical) political ambitions, but rather one which is formed with the nation’s best interests in mind. Unfortunately, there always seems to be an oblique allusion to China—or more specifically, independence from China.
There’s nothing like a protest between our forever competing two parties (KMT & DPP) to bring out the worst of half a century’s pain and bad blood. On the streets where the protests are taking place, DPP nationalist banners calling for Taiwanese independence and a stronger national consciousness discomfort me; pictures of an upside down Taiwanese flag flapping in the wind also make my stomach churn. What happened to the transparency we were fighting for? What happened to the trade pact?
(At this point I should probably add that I think the trade pact deserves a chance. But that’s just my two cents.)
People attend rallies and protests for different reasons. Some are there to fight a non-transparent government, while others fight for what they believe will be a damaging economic agreement with China (although similar agreements are already in place between Taiwan and other nations, such as South Korea). And then there are those who see this as an opportunity to bring up old arguments. Yes, these issues are forever related, and they may never truly fade away in the hearts and minds of opposition supporters. But when is it time to properly look forward? If, like many claim, the international community is truly watching, then why are flags being turned upside down? Why are radical secessionist ideals being subliminally transmitted to the masses? I wonder, for those rallying for greater transparency, did you see the banners calling for the independence of Taiwan on the side of the road? Because I did, and I immediately felt out-of-place. Surely this is not the time nor the place. On the other hand, if that’s why you went to protest, then perhaps it is.
I am happy to see Taiwan in the form of a healthy democracy where voices are aired tirelessly and endlessly. This is always commendable, so long as you know what you’re shouting for.
I hear this is a students’ protest. But there are always people behind the scenes pulling strings, so I hope this innocent crowd isn’t being led astray by those with malign intent. 台灣，加油！JSF.