Sunday, August 02, 2015

Student Protests Rivet Nation


Via New Bloom: video history of student protest at MoE

Keeping up: New Bloom's facebook page is constantly updated. They put together and posted the video above. There's a live feed here. Note that New Bloom has posted that there is a water cannon vehicle present, presumably because it will be used.

Rocked first by the suicide of Dai Lin, Taiwan was then shocked by the open letter from his mother. Solidarity has the translation, which you should read. I can't read it without crying at the naked realization at the end...
The one who’s sick is this society. It’s the adults. It’s the parents who were brainwashed, like me. You were a little prince who always had pure thoughts. You completed your mission. You made public opinion boil over all right. You’ve made us brainwashed adults rethink things.
She's saying what so many of us have been saying for ages: the over 45 group is the most timid, brainwashed, strawberry generation of them all. It's not a coincidence that support for KMT presidential candidate Hung Hsiu-chu is strongest in that group. She also wrote an open letter angrily denying KMT claims that the DPP was operating the students. Remember, in the KMT ideological bubble, only conspiracy by the evil enemies of Chineseness can explain anti-KMT stances, because the KMT is always right.

The convener of the curriculum committee that made the changes was on a political talk show. See why the changes were made (Taipei Times):
Asked what kind of impact the curriculum adjustments had on the KMT’s campaign for next year’s presidential and legislative elections, Wang said they had created a strong cohesive force among pan-blue supporters.

“A lack of ‘national goals’ is a critical problem facing the KMT. The party requires more convincing rhetoric to persuade the public and that was exactly what we aimed to achieve through the curriculum changes,” Wang said in the article.
Were the changes made for educational purposes, or to bring the curriculum in line with the Constitution, as KMT presidential candidate Hung has claimed? Nope: according to the leader of the changes, they were purely political and overtly pro-KMT. What's scary is that these people are so deep in their bubble that they thought asserting that the capital was Nanjing was "convincing rhetoric."

My man maddog was having a good laugh on Twitter about the changes, putting up this image:
Don Rodgers put his finger directly on the fundamental issue at Thinking Taiwan:
The Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) government is once again facing off against a group of young protesters who oppose the government’s policies and procedures. The current protest is directed at the government’s efforts to change the content of history textbooks. This is another in a long series of protests that addressed a wide range of issues including property rights, freedom of the press, labor rights, environmental issues, and most famously opposition to the Cross-Strait Services Trade Agreement (CSSTA) that led to the Sunflower occupation of Taiwan’s legislature last year.

The young protesters in Taiwan are frequently described as being “anti-China” and driven by their strong sense of Taiwanese identity. This is partially accurate. The young people in Taiwan are definitely strongly Taiwanese identified, but they are not necessarily “anti-China.” To understand these protests it is essential to understand that the young are strongly democratic. They were born into and fully believe in democracy in their country. Thus, it is not surprising that one thing that the protests have in common is anger over the government’s lack of transparency and respect for democratic procedure. It is therefore more accurate to describe the students as “pro-democracy” or “anti-authoritarian” than “anti-China.” It is also important to note that a significant percentage of the population in Taiwan supports the student protesters.

Since Ma took office in 2008, his administration has demonstrated neither a strong interest nor any level of competence in managing domestic politics. Ma’s government has been insular and arrogant, frequently responding to criticisms with a condescending attitude. Decisions are made behind closed doors with little if any effort to consider the preferences of the voters. The decisions are then foisted upon the people with the message that the government knows best and the people must agree.

It is not surprising, then, that the young protesters have consistently criticized the government for its “black box” decision-making procedures. For example, in an April 2014 interview, Wei Yang (魏揚), a leader of the Sunflower movement stated, “The government and the civil society had no communication. There were no comprehensive impact assessments. There were no deliberations about the trade pact. We called it a black-box operation, and this is outrageous to the people.”
I've written several times about how the Taiwanese have incorporated democracy into their identity, and among the young, this incorporation is a fusion. This generation, I would always add, is also the first in the modern era to grow up with poorer economic prospects than the previous one. These ideas of democracy are butting up against a school system designed for authoritarian control from start to finish.This protest is only the beginning of the long struggle against it, one in which many parents are engaged as well, attempting to find or construct democratic, human-centered alternatives.

Wuer Kaixi, the Tiananmen dissident who is now running for office in Taichung, published a great piece at Thinking Taiwan this week saying that it is time for Taiwanese to take things into their own hands. It observes:
Actively changing the constitution and the laws to recognize the PRC will come at a small price and will also give a voice to the people, challenging China and the West to release Taiwan from its shackles, while also fundamentally changing the way we think about cross-strait policy. Compromise is not the way forward, and patience is simply a delay tactic. Only by taking the initiative can the people of Taiwan take control of their fate.
It seems that, that when the KMT die-hards hype the pro-China changes to the curriculum as "according to the Constitution", they are just setting up "the Constitution" as the target for the next great youth movement.

This is only the beginning...
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11 comments:

Brian Castle said...

from the "stoopid" article:
"Whether you're in a relationship or not - that's your own business, right? Well, true, but in Taiwan, it's something in which both researchers and the government are very interested."

The article immediately makes the point that having a relationship or not is "your own business". Pointing out that large numbers of people all making a particular decision can be problematic isn't "blaming", it's just pointing out a fact? To use another example, whose business is it if I mow my lawn? But if everyone does it then pollution becomes a problem. Whose business is it if I choose not to become a fire fighter?? But if everyone chooses not to become a fire fighter then building will just burn down and people will die. If that happens do we blame people for choosing their own careers?

If an individual chooses infertility, it is a perhaps a tragedy for the family but it really isn't anyone else's business. But if everyone chooses infertility then the society dies a slow lingering death as the old have no one to care for them. Or if they import young people then only the culture dies.

Whether Taiwan becomes depopulated or whether the population is replaced by people of another culture, the national security threat is real. Who will defend Taiwan if no one is there. If the people there are foreigner, will they want to defend Taiwan or will they not care if China takes over? They're unlikely to have national pride in Taiwan and aren't likely to have come from places where they learned the love or even the understanding of freedom and democracy.

The subject is uncomfortable because we value individual freedom. But sticking your head in the sand while mocking those who look ahead won't make the problem go away.

Brian Castle said...

"Tsai promises official apology to the aboriginal peoples of Taiwan if elected."

What has Tsai done for which she needs to apologize to the aborigines?

Oh, I see, the article says she's going to apologize for 400 of years of actions by other people.

My how humble of her! I suppose the next person from another party who follows her in the presidency can immediately apologize for her actions.

Future new story: "As the new KMT president takes office, he has promised that his first action will be to apologize to the world for all the international trouble-making caused by the Tsai administration. After that he will apologize to the people of the ROC for all the economic problems that occurred during the Tsai administration. Finally he will apologized to the benshengren for the treatment they experienced during the Tsai administration."

And every year each newly elected president will apologize to anyone and everyone for the previous administrations behavior - but never for their own behavior.

This kind of cheap criticism of one's predecessors hardly puts one in a good light. If she believes the aborigines have been mistreated, the proper thing to do is spend the first 3 years of her administration demonstrating that the country really does regret the last 400 years by getting laws passed in the legislature to make amends. And then she should get a law of apology passed. If she just apologizes as President it only means that she herself believes an apology is necessary. But if she wants to apologize on behalf of the nation and the government then she needs to show the nation and government support the apology be getting the legislature to act on it.

Otherwise it is just cheap and degrading mudslinging at previous officeholders.

les said...

The MoE is not backing down. KMT caucus whip Lai Shi-bo will not allow any debate in the legislature, even though Wang Jin-ping supports it. Kaohsiung already stated it will carry on using the old books, and I'm sure more cities and counties will follow. Most likely only a handful of deep-blue areas will use the new ones, where doing so is not going to jeopardize the election chances of KMT candidates. After that? Can Matong force all schools to use the new books by decree? How much authority does MoE to suspend budgets for local schools, or stop paying teacher salaries as punishment?

Here's a thought. If moves this deeply unpopular are in play now, during an election campaign, what would be in store for us after a KMT election win?

Anonymous said...

Enav's Thinking Taiwan piece raises a profound probability - China's current Taiwan strategy has failed but what comes next might be worse.
That would be a scary thought if China and Xi decide enough was enough and start launching missiles at Taiwan.
Obviously the US will need to get involved and if an invasion really happens, I don't think Japan would stand aside.

However, the issue is if Taiwanese know this, what are they doing about it? Yes, the US keeps refusing to sell them adequate weapons but I think Taiwan needs to bear some responsibility. For instance, should military service be so short? Singaporeans do 2 years while South Koreans do 21 months but Taiwanese don't even do one year (7 or 8 months?).


Also, Taiwanese seem dangerously nonchalant and ignorant about the world, even neighboring countries around them, which the educational system and media need to bear a lot of blame for. Taiwan has done a weak job of engaging with countries around it and having better relations and interaction with the likes of the Philippines, Malaysia and India would help tremendously.

I'm glad young Taiwanese are finding the guts to do things like last year's Sunflower Revolution and the current textbook protest though. I was wrong before to think youngsters didn't care about anything other than shopping and eating.

CP

Anonymous said...

Brian, Tsai is offering an apology for past and PRESENT and is ready to promote aboriginal autonomy through reforms which she has already started to lay out. I'm sure that you can read Chinese, so read this article and understand that she actually has a policy to implement with the apology

Http://m.appledaily.com.tw/realtimenews/article/new/20150801/660022/

Mike Fagan said...

"Whether Taiwan becomes depopulated or whether the population is replaced by people of another culture, the national security threat is real."

I don't know what will happen either, but I suspect that guess is most likely bollocks because it is based on a simplistic extrapolation of current trends. And obviously trends are subject to change (and changes may be more or less difficult to predict - which may be why people so commonly discount this obvious feature of history when thinking about the future). One possible change already mentioned is immigration, but another could be the collapse of feminism and/or subsidized higher education.

"Who will defend Taiwan if no one is there."

WTF? Nobody, since if there is nobody here, then who is there to defend? And defend against what? Pterodactyls?

Anonymous said...

>>"Who will defend Taiwan if no one is there."

>Nobody

In our family, only 6 out of 15 of the younger generation that are between 25 and 40 are married with children. One of the singles managed to emigrate to the US. The other 8 singles feel that they cannot see any kind of commitment for their future, both career- and family-wise, let alone envisioning a future for their children. They prefer not having children to save the headache. Some of the 8 singles express interest in emigration; if successful, they all want to have a family once a solid "homeland" is secured.

I agree that emigration is a good solution for Taiwanese to get out of the identity impasse and the never-ending orphan fate. It is difficult for us Taiwanese to imagine the kind of commitment required to build a long-lasting family enterprise, something my German business partners all take for granted and as family pride.

The exodus of Taiwanese businesses is totally understandable.

Yes, I agree, the answer to the above question is: Nobody. It's good so; "trouble-makers" are gone, problem solved.

I myself have emigrated and am actively helping my nieces and nephews to get out. I am glad that I am out of the "troubles" and am no longer a "trouble-maker", condemned and damned by the world, especially by the US.

Carlos said...

Taiwan is one of the most densely populated countries, despite at least a third of it being somewhat inhospitable. Would a small decrease really be so bad?

les said...

Now Xinhua is pitching in to further isolate Wu Se-hwa, Lai Shi-bo, Ma Ying-jeou and Hung Hsiu-chu from the rest of society. Thank you CCP, you will ensure a green victory in January!

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2015-08/03/c_134476660.htm

an angry taiwanese said...

It seems that, that when the KMT die-hards hype the pro-China changes to the curriculum as "according to the Constitution", they are just setting up "the Constitution" as the target for the next great youth movement.

Great insight. Finally the younger generation will not be afraid of questioning the legitimacy of ROC constitution. At this moment it's disheartening to see Taiwanese athletes appear as a Chinese Taipei team and wave ROC flag outside Taiwan. Doing that inside Taiwan is ok because no islander understands its absurdity.

an angry taiwanese said...

Frozen Garlic posted The Control Yuan is simply a bad idea, a relic from an authoritarian age that doesn’t make sense in a democratic society. Can we just euthanize it? Please?

For attacking the ROC constitution, it seems that we found the weakest link. But I personally hope to see the legitimacy of Justice of the Constitutional Court challenged following current MoE siege.