Tuesday, May 06, 2014

A Clash of Civilizations

The strong reactions to police violence during the occupation of the Executive Yuan tell us many things about Taiwanese society 

One refrain that was often heard after the police crackdown at the Executive Yuan during the night of March 23-24 was that the activists who occupied the building were “lucky” they were in Taiwan, and that police in other countries — even in Western democracies — would have handled the situation with far less restraint. Implicit in those comments was the view that the protesters who were roughed up, and the dozens who sustained injuries, deserved the medicine. But did they? 

As some critics of the Sunflower Movement, which orchestrated the occupation, have argued, the measures taken by police forces, even those in mature Western democracies, to evict activists engaged in similar action would likely have been much more severe. Of course we can only imagine how authoritarian regimes such as that in China would have reacted. 

But the argument only goes so far. While those who support the police’s handling of the situation at the Executive Yuan often contrast their behavior with the expected response by law enforcement in the U.S., we should also note that police brutality in that country is a highly controversial matter, and not a norm that is acceptable to the American public. 

My article, published today in Thinking Taiwan, continues here. (Photo by the author)

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