Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mobilize — now!

I’ve long been a believer in retributive democracy — in other words, using election to “punish” governments for their misdeeds. But the way things are going right now, with the judiciary acting in a way that is reminiscent of Garrison Command in Taiwan and using the “law” to target a widening circle of pro-independence officials from the Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) administration (while dropping cases involving members of the pan-blue camp), would waiting until 2012 to achieve this too long a wait? Some other form of mobilization is direly needed, both in Taiwan and abroad among its supporters, but I’m just not seeing it! I see many bystanders shaking their head, but some odd (if not inexplicable) sense of powerlessness seems to prevent them from acting. I find this hard to explain and welcome my Taiwanese readers to share their views on this: What they think is the cause of this, and means by which this could be remedied.

I’ve written many pieces calling on Taiwanese to get “angrier” and to not act like sheep — all well received — but this led nowhere. Someone with gravitas in Taiwan (and this has to be a Taiwanese) will have to rise up and say enough is enough. The Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration, and now the judiciary, are just not listening. I increasingly wonder if the tool of democracy might not be unsuited for a situation like this, when one side in the “conflict” simply acts in an undemocratic manner.

Thoughts on the 10 Conditions

On a related subject, it is interesting to see how often Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and Chinese officials accuse the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) of trying to “cause trouble” or “derail” cross-strait talks through shenanigans such as inviting the Dalai Lama and presenting The 10 Conditions of Love, the film about Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer. What the KMT doesn’t seem to understand is that the DPP, along with the opposition writ large, feels powerless, mostly because of the KMT’s quasi-total control of the executive and legislative branches and its refusal to listen to public apprehensions and to explain its policies. It blames the opposition for acting “irrationally” — a term long favored by the KMT when describing the DPP — but does not realize that the fear of the unknown that drives this type of behavior is of its own making. Seeing little alternatives to be heard, of course the opposition will politicize visits and movies, and try to “derail” cross-strait talks. What else can they do when the legislature is a one-sided street while the executive acts in an increasingly authoritarian manner, a reality that can only be exacerbated when Ma becomes KMT chairman. People are cornered and they will do whatever they can to be heard.

Another factor behind this tactic is that it serves to reaffirm Taiwan’s values while determining whether remains possible, on Taiwanese soil, to invite whoever we want to invite, or show whichever movie we want whenever we want. Under a fully democratic system, these used to be taken for granted. It seems we can no longer make that assumption.

Reactions

I encourage readers to read the following article in the Global Times about reactions to the screening of the Kadeer documentary. It’s that bad. Note, for one, that Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) is referred to as “Taiwan ‘Premier,’” and that Xinhua news agency refers to Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) as “Chen Shui-bian the second.” A so-called Chinese expert, meanwhile, claims that “The separatists [sic] in Taiwan are being marginalized, and their political power has been compressed [sic] … They have to collude with the separatists in Xinjiang and Tibet to make their own voices heard.”

Note, too, the transparent attempt by Chinese media to split Taiwan into two bickering entities — Taipei, which like Beijing “criticizes” Chen Chu, and Kaohsiung, in the south, which is filled with “separatists.” The fact is, “Taipei” — that is, the central government — did not criticize the move; only some KMT legislators did (in fact, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin 郝龍斌 has just announced that he welcomed the documentary being shown in Taipei, adding, however, that the city government would not sponsor it). This is an overt attempt to portray Taiwanese “separatists” as isolated and without appeal in northern cities.

11 comments:

Thomas said...

"What the KMT doesn’t seem to understand is that the DPP, along with the opposition writ large, feels powerless."

Are you sure they don't understand this? What makes you think that they don't welcome, to a degree, such actions by the DPP. I don't believe that the KMT bigwigs wanted the Dalai Lama in Taiwan, and I don't think they want Kadeer's film screened, but they have to realize that they can spin such activities to their advantage and often succeed in helping the DPP to hurt itself.

This is why I think it was wrong for so many greens to criticize Chen Chu so strongly for moving the date of the screening of the Kadeer film. As a government official, she was probably under a great deal of stress from many directions to cancel the film outright. Kadeer isn't as revered in Taiwan as the DL, so the Kaohsiung government could not fall back on anything but the value of free speech, which is far less potent than the veneration of religion. Moving the date of the screening was thus a big concession, but not exactly a capitulation. And those ultimately responsible for the concession were in Taiwan and not in China.

Criticism should fall squarely on the Ma administration, the local tourism bureau, the Chinese and the KMT legislators with the gall to demand that the screening be cancelled. Chen Chu's decision should be criticised too, but the ultimate blame should be placed more squarely on those above.

As for the DPP, I think they need a leader. Who do they have with the required charisma who is willing to stand up now? And we all know that nobody in the KMT is going to stick their neck out. Sad, sad, sad.

Thomas said...

Oh, I forgot to make my point:

The KMT has spun the Kadeer thing from above. Many deep greens (feeling powerless) have criticised Chen Chu from below. So the person who was probably the most instrumental in ensuring that the film got shown in Kaohsiung at all instead of cancelled got lambasted from all sides.

Why wouldn't the KMT welcome such disorder, or even encourage it from time to time? It is not as though China is going to stop accepting their too-generous concessions.

Ben Goren said...

Thomas, I think that many in the DPP are starting to realise that Chen Chu is the only presidential candidate for 2012. I think her decision about the film falls between disappointing and shrewd but can you think of anyone else with the experience?

MikeinTaipei said...

Thomas:

I agree with you that some KMT members — on the deep-blue side — may actually desire such “irrational” acts by the DPP. Overall, though, I think that many simply don’t comprehend the level of frustration that is developing among greens (and light blues). I also believe that there are some in the KMT who did welcome a visit by the Dalai Lama, as they would welcome Kadeer to come over. We must distinguish between KMT members who are pro-unification (and therefore against symbols of “splittism” making their lives more difficult) and those who aren’t, but who nevertheless play politics (it’s their job, after all). One can be a KMT member and welcome the DL and Kadeer.

Chen Chu was indeed in a very difficult, if not “lose-lose,” position, and her backtracking on her decision tells us that she has a tough balancing act on her hands. I fully agree with you that whoever is responsible for “yielding” was in Taiwan, not China. To be fair, aside from hints by Premier Wu that the movie would cause problems, the central government has been relatively silent on the matter. The pressure came mostly from KMT legislators, councilors, and tour operators.

Yes, the DPP needs a leader — and it must reach out to those in the light-blue camp to create a third force, one that has two legs to stand on and would therefore be less easily destabilized or portrayed as “irrational.” So far the DPP hasn’t been very good at reaching across the political divide.

dennis said...

I see many bystanders shaking their head, but some odd (if not inexplicable) sense of powerlessness seems to prevent them from acting. I find this hard to explain and welcome my Taiwanese readers to share their views on this

I'm a Taiwanese living overseas, i've been living in well estabilished democracies such as New Zealand and Australia for over 17 years.

My personal take on this is that there are two reasons for this issue:
1) the people in Taiwan do not understand the true virtue of democracy, the basis behind democracy. Afterall Taiwan is such a young democracy! Its people still do not understand what it is about democracy that requires them to part-take in order to protect and promote; to them, it just seems to happen by itself. I believe if I tell the Taiwanese that in Australia if you fail to cast your vote you'd actually get fined, they'd think I'm joking.

2) politics is a very sensitive topic in Taiwan (there's probably not another country in the world where you can watch political TV programs or news 24 hours a day..). Therefore people think twice about openly voicing their support for a certain faction. Friends and families avoid the topic at gatherings; marchers get water dumped on them; strangers who happen to be tracking on the same mountain and one ended up dead because one was pro-green and the other blue; these are just three quick examples.

Taiwan Echo said...

Michael said, "I find this hard to explain and welcome my Taiwanese readers to share their views on this: What they think is the cause of this, and means by which this could be remedied."

Taiwan Echo said...

oops, hit the button too quickly.

I'll post my response to the question later.

Dixteel said...

"Yes, the DPP needs a leader — and it must reach out to those in the light-blue camp to create a third force, one that has two legs to stand on and would therefore be less easily destabilized or portrayed as “irrational.” So far the DPP hasn’t been very good at reaching across the political divide."

I think one way to do it is to appeal the light-blue simply on "appearance". The way I see it, the "light" camp consist of those that care less about ideology, economics and politics, and more about appearance, advertisement and other factors. The reason why DPP was not able to attract them is because DPP tries to persuade them through words etc, which in many cases they don't listen anyway.

Therefore, it might be possible to have someone that is pan-green, but has good appeal to the pan-blue. For example, this person could be extremely sexy (just think, even with Ma's ugly face, many women support him just because they think he is hot). Or he/she can be a supreme economic experts, or someone that has a strong support from economic experts (as those light blue are usually greedy, part of human nature)...etc etc.

My main point is just that probably what pan green needs is someone that does not have to persuade the light blue through words or even actions, but just be attractive to light blue.

Taiwan Echo said...

Pan Green's Mentality Behind the CSB Case -- And a Replay in Kaoshiung

Taiwan Echo said...

dennis: 1) the people in Taiwan do not understand the true virtue of democracy, the basis behind democracy. Afterall Taiwan is such a young democracy! Its people still do not understand what it is about democracy that requires them to part-take in order to protect and promote; to them, it just seems to happen by itself.

That's exactly the point I make in my post (link shown above)

Richard@insular said...

Former President Chen has also filed a lawsuit in the United States in a new attempt to gain his freedom. According to the contents of the lawsuit, Taiwan is not ROC territory, hence the ROC judiciary is on questionable ground in passing judgement on "native Taiwanese persons."

Well, the entire case makes for interesting reading. It is online at http://www.taiwanbasic.com/court/

There is a lot of background information on Taiwan's international legal status available on the website as well.