Wild Strawberries evicted: Did Ma lie, or was he kept in the dark?
Hours after President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) praised Taiwan as one of the freest democracies in the world, about 200 police officers descended on the Wild Strawberries Student Movement (WSSM) sit-in at Liberty Square in Taipei, putting them, who numbered about 50, along with pro-Tibet elements, on buses and removing banners, placards and other paraphernalia. The time? About 4am.
The WSSM was launched early last month to coincide with the visit to Taipei of Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林). Ever since, it has held sit-ins demanding amendments to the Assembly and Parade Law (集會遊行法), a relic of the Martial Law era, and that the Ma administration and heads of the state security apparatus apologize for police violence during the Chen visit.
Of interest in last night’s developments is the government's decision to force the WSSM out of Liberty Square at a time when media was unlikely to be present — a strategy with a long history of use by governments wishing to delay bad news. Second is the timing, which could not have been worse, a mere hours after Human Rights Day and Ma’s speech on human rights an democracy.
Which raises the third, crucial issue, of whether Ma knew all along that the state apparatus — in this instance the Ministry of Education, which has authority over the National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall grounds, and perhaps the Ministry of the Interior, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) and others — intended to end the students’ sit-in, or was kept in the dark.
If the first scenario is true, Ma’s speech on democracy and human rights was hypocritical and would feed speculation that the government is lying to the people. If, on the other hand, he was unaware of the imminent move, it would speak volumes about the compartmentalization of his government and Ma’s leadership abilities. It’s hard to decide which alternative is worst — a lying president or one who is kept in the dark by his subordinates or the various factions within the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
Either way, last night’s move is sure to inflame the opposition and will likely bring the still disparate and generally disorganized anti-Ma/China factions, which includes pan-green political parties, the WSSM, pro-Tibetans and others, closer together.
With every day that passes, from the (mis)handling of the Chen visit to the detention of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to Ma's (ostensibly unilateral) about-face on allowing a visit by the Dalai Lama to contradictions over a delay in year-end bonuses for employees of state-run companies, the Ma administration never ceases to impress with its proclivity for bad timing and ill-advised measures.