For those who have long complained about the seemingly apathetic Taiwanese youth on matters of politics, the past two weeks must have had elements of both surprise and relief, with two large student mobilizations taking place in two cities on two different continents: London and Taipei.When I went down south after the Morakot disaster I was struck by the large numbers of young people -- organized by local governments -- who had poured out to help the victims. The Strawberries are not soft, but their causes are not the same as those of their parents.
The catalyst in both instances was injustice — the removal, following official complaints by China, of the Republic of China (ROC) national flag at a non-Olympic venue in London, and the creation of a pro-China media monster through the acquisition by the Want Want China Times Group of China Network Systems’ (CNS) cable TV services, and the subsequent threat of lawsuits by a Want Want employee against a student.
Hundreds gathered on Regent Street in London, proudly showing the ROC flag, while about 700 protested in front of the CtiTV building in Taipei, calling for freedom of speech to be respected. In stark contrast to the protests organized by the pan-green camp, where the majority of participants are usually above the age of 50, those two events involved students and young professionals who were educated, connected and angry. They were, in essence, the same type of people who took to the streets earlier this year when two houses were flattened in a suburb of Taipei to make way for an urban renewal project; or those who turned up in large numbers to confront police and contractors when farmland was seized to accommodate large-scale industrial projects.
Issues of justice, rather than abstracts of ethnicity or nationality, are what lights the fire in the belly of Taiwanese youth today. For them, the past is in the past and the issue of who they are has already been settled; what they look to is the future and the uncertainties created by injustice. That is why one can hardly find anyone below the age of 30 at protests against, say, the so-called “1992 consensus,” but thousands will roll up their sleeves when someone’s property is threatened by state rapacity.
All of this occurs at a time when policymaking within the Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) administration appears to have been taken over by an old, conservative wing of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), while moderates in the pan-blue camp have grown largely silent.
The TT's claim that Strawberries "know who they are" is entirely correct; the problem is that their identity is incomplete -- as I've noted before, it's a not- identity: "we are not Chinese, we are Taiwanese." But it should be noted that the Strawberry generation maintains harmony amongst its members by avoiding discussion of the Blue-Green divide and papering over those tribal identities with silence. The reason social injustice motivates them is probably fall-out from that general generational decision: social injustice is something everyone across the Blue-Green divide can agree on.
The Losheng Leper Sanatorium was probably the first issue for the new generation. Another key moment was the Wild Strawberry movement, which fought for public assembly rights. Although it worked hard to be non-partisan, the government and its servants struck heavily at it by painting it as a pan-Green tool. Assembly rights are overtly political rights.... what's interesting in the WantWant case is that the side supporting a free and open media environment has successfully avoided the charge of being a pan-Green tool, even though WantWant and its CEO are rabidly pro-China. It seems to me that unlike in the Wild Strawberry case pan-Green politicians appear to have maintained a discreet distance. Moreover, the student who was threatened with a lawsuit for posting pictures on the internet is someone that every young person in Taiwan can identity with; they all use the internet as naturally as breathing and they all post pictures on social networks.....
- Good WSJ interview with DPP Chair Su Tseng-chang
- Prosecutors bring in sister of accused DPP Chiayi politician
- Video: Xindian River during typhoon Soala
- Global Voices: threat to media from WantWant
- Taiwan ships sent to wrong area during drill, making Japan go on alert.
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