Sunday, August 04, 2013

Aug. 3 protest for justice in the military

Despite the public outcry and a grave risk to the military, the commander in chief remains aloof and unwilling to step in

I joined the about 250,000 people who gathered on Ketagalan Boulevard and beyond on Saturday night to protest over the July 4 death of Army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) and that of several others in recent years.

This was the second large protest targeting the armed forces since Hung’s death was revealed in early July, a controversy that has completely taken over the nation and which I fear could have serious repercussions for the military’s ability to successfully implement an all-volunteer system.

Big Citizen is Watching You
Standing amid the crowd, which chanted slogans, songs, and hurled a variety of insults at President My Ying-jeou (馬英九), I had the very uncomfortable feeling — something that I cannot prove, at least not for the time being — that the crisis would be a formidable victory for China’s United Front efforts. Destroy Taiwan’s ability to defend itself from the inside, by turning the public against the military. Defeat the enemy without a fight. Such fears were reinforced when the rhetoric turned anti-military. While it is perfectly understandable to express anger at Hung’s death and the manner in which military prosecutors have handled the matter, the protests should also strive to avoid turning the people against the military.

Ma’s performance throughout all this has been nothing less than abysmal. Once again, he has shown himself to be a leader who is incapable of connecting emotionally with the people who put him in office. He has been aloof, cold, and by failing to show real leadership he has allowed the situation to generate. It seems that the man can only shed tears at the graves of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國). His wife, the person who probably knows him best, was right when she said last year that he is a selfish person who thinks only of himself.

Members of the Hung family
Beyond being callous, Ma has also skirted his responsibilities as commander in chief. Not only did he flee to Alishan on Saturday night to avoid the protesters (some protesters there asked him what the hell he was doing up in the mountains when he should have been in Taipei), he has also failed to step in when a degenerating situation called for him to do so. It is one thing to want to avoid being a strongman leader and not meddle with an investigation; it is another to fail to intervene when a situation turns such that it threatens national security.

The organizers last night called on everybody to follow Ma around and display the placard with a large bleeding eye and the words “Big Citizen is Watching You,” a tactic inspired by similar action taken against Ma and other Cabinet officials following the destructions of people’s homes in Dapu (大埔), Miaoli County. Ma was also heckled when he tried to attend Hung’s funeral in Taichung this morning, and once he made it there, he once again displayed his disconnect from reality by failing to recognize Hung’s uncle, who has appeared on TV non-stop for about a month now.

I guess Taiwanese have their response now to the song “Do you hear the people sign?” Ma doesn’t. (All photos by the author)

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