Thursday, December 06, 2012

Round Up: Student Remarks about Minister Upset Social Order, Cause Earth to Crash into Sun

Just picked up a Tokina 100mm macro lens. Sharp and built like a panzer, I'm going to have a ton of fun with it.

Well, you'd think the earth was crashing into the sun, anyway. FocusTaiwan rounded up some of the comments in the media on Tsinghua U's Chen Wei-ting scolding Minister of Education Chiang for being a hypocrite and a liar who never apologizes....

The staidly pro-KMT China Times was the most restrained and insightful:
Renowned local writer Chang Ta-chun said the biggest problem of the students is not that they were being impolite but that it was their "empty" remarks that led society to lose the main point of the movement.

He also said the education minister was "dumb" and did not listen properly to the demands of the students.

Richard Chia-Tung Lee, an honorary chair professor at NTHU, said that "the behavior of Chen led me to think of the Cultural Revolution in China, in which the red guards scolded society's elite."

The statement issued by NTHU that apologized "on behalf of Chen for his misbehavior" also drew angry responses from the school's student communities.

NTHU's Student Association, Graduate Student Association and Student Council issued a late night statement Tuesday saying they "do not agree with the way the school interpreted Chen's behavior".
Chang Ta-chun raised an important point: the student's comments enabled the pro-KMT media to shift the media focus to the behavior of the students rather than to the behavior of the government in permitting the Next Media buyout, which concentrates at least 40% of the media in the hands of a single pro-China plutocrat.

In addition to the student association's disavowal of the apology and criticisms of campus authorities (blogged), photos posted to Facebook showed that Tsinghua U (NTHU) students held a protest on campus to protest the university's apology for the behavior of Chen Wei-ting.

The rabidly pro-KMT United Daily News went after Chen Wei-ting with guns blazing, hosting a couple of pages of articles. This one at the KMT news site said:
Freedom is not only a right but also a responsibility. Freedom is not a free lunch. Freedom is a severe test of a person’s abilities.

On December 3rd, several college students were invited by three DPP legislators to attend a committee meeting for the exclusive purpose of listening to a report by the Education Minister. The students pointed their figures at the Education Minister while reproaching and scolding him. The Legislative Yuan is a mechanism to exercise “freedom” and students also have “freedom” of expression. However, the December 3rd meeting stirred a controversy in society. The question is: College students have the right to express their opinions freely, but do they have the ability to “exercise freedom”?

Freedom can reveal a person’s good side as well as a person’s bad side. Freedom allows for all possibilities but it is not the content of freedom. In a free society, a freeman has the right to express opinions. As a consequence, the person has to have the ability to be responsible in exercising “freedom” and should not become a person who is disabled to exercise freedom.

During the authoritarian era under the Martial law rule, people pursued “the right to exercise freedom,” and “opposition to authority” became synonyms for “freedom.” Moreover, even “opposing for the sake of opposition” had legitimacy. However, in today’s free society, more than twenty years after the lifting of Martial Law rule, people have “the right to exercise freedom.” Consequently, people should pursue the “ability to exercise freedom” instead, because freedom is not a free lunch, and freemen have to be responsible in exercising freedom.

The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has become a party made up of “people who have become disabled to exercise freedom.” The college students who attended the committee meeting acted like “DPP legislators” because the words and gestures they used were almost the same as those used by DPP legislators. The students seemed to be “disabled to exercise freedom.” The students’ behavior sacrificed their freedom as intellectuals and almost made them parrots. We praise the college students for bravely exercising freedom, but we hope in the future the students will pay more attention to their ability to exercise freedom.

In fact, many in today’s media have also become “disabled to exercise freedom.” The college students were concerned about the media’s disability to exercise freedom of speech. The students might believe that they were justified; therefore, they should pay more attention to their ability and responsibility in exercising the freedom of speech.
This article presents common anti-democracy propaganda themes of right-wingers everywhere, which boil down to the observation that freedom is good unless it is actually used. The idea that freedom = anarchy is one aspect of a pervasive cultural ideal here in Taiwan that social order = sameness. This is particularly held among KMTers. I've noticed over the years that if a local expresses the idea that society is falling into anarchy, they are usually pro-Blue.

The pro-Green Liberty Times observed:
Chinese dissident Wang Dan, who is currently a Visiting Chair Professor at NTHU, posted on his Facebook page that "it is amazing how the United Daily News publishes two pages of stories just to scold the students."

"The students' demands and the inappropriate conduct of the ministry are dismissed as minor points. Instead, the 'impoliteness' of the students is being magnified."

"The way the media reported the story shows that it is taking sides."

"Students are young. Of course they cannot be as eloquent as politicians. Why is society being lenient toward the authorities but critical of students who actively participate in public affairs?" he asked.

KMT Deputy Chairwoman Hung Hsiu-chu said students have no right to question officials at legislative sessions. Even if they hold different opinions on an issue, they should follow the "pecking order" and respect their seniors.
The Taipei Times translated Wang Dan's remarks much more pithily:
“I’m wondering why society is so tolerant of authority, yet so critical of young people who participate in public affairs,” he said.
As noted above, the Next Media buyout has vanished from the discourse. The Ministry of Education's behavior has also vanished from the discourse. Now the focus is on the behavior of students.

The Diplomat just keeps getting better and better. The fearless and perspicacious Ketty Chen and Julia Famularo scribed excellently on the rejected Dalai Lama visit to Taiwan in The Diplomat this week. What's the connection? This mentality of "freedom is great as long as it isn't exercised" also underlies the Taiwan government's decision to deny the Dalai Lama a visa:
In President Ma’s post-reelection inaugural address last May, he discussed his plan to further cooperation between China and Taiwan. Ma stated at the time: “In the next four years, the two sides of the strait have to open up new areas of cooperation and continue working to consolidate peace, expand prosperity and deepen mutual trust. We also hope that civic groups on both sides of the Taiwan Strait will have more opportunities for exchanges and dialogue focusing on such areas as democracy, human rights, rule of law and civil society, to create an environment more conducive to peaceful cross-strait development.”
The Dalai Lama had been invited to Taiwan by exactly those kind of civic groups Ma apparently lauds in his speech, but their initiative was refused. The context is identical -- China relations. Like so many other campaigns in Taiwan society under the current Administration, movement is permissible, provided it is in a pro-China direction....

REF: Chinese netizens react to student criticism of Minister.
Daily Links:
  • SPECIAL: Pivot continues: 70,000 US army troops for Asia?
    The Marines, no change in Marine Corps presence west of the international dateline, despite the fact that the Marine Corps is going to be reducing in size at the end of the Iraq/Afghanistan war. No change to Marine Corps west of the international dateline. And in fact, they -- they'll be seeing more of the Marines in the Pacific, and the Army too. Why? Because they're not in Afghanistan. The Army itself plans to align 70,000 troops to the Asia Pacific region as part of its new general regional alignment, which heavily weighs the Asia-Pacific region.
  • Japan Times: Fisheries talks add new wrinkle to Senkakus mess
  • Taiwan dollar falls on fears of central bank intervention to stop rise
  • Cancer claims longtime Taiwan expert Nancy Berghoff Tucker
  • Taiwan, Indonesia ink MOU to develop island
  • Not Taiwan: Aussie PM is Ausome
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums! Delenda est, baby.


MKL said...

I was a pessimist in this case and have somewhat anticipated such outcome. It's a pity, that it came true. But I believe the students will learn from this blunder and find a better way to express their anger in the future.

Janis Joplin said...

Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose

Readin said...

"This article presents common anti-democracy propaganda themes of right-wingers everywhere, which boil down to the observation that freedom is good unless it is actually used."

I'm not sure what to make of the "right-wingers" everywhere since the meaning of "right-winger" tends to be applied to polar opposites depending on the country in question.

However the general notion that freedom is only good if used properly has a lot of truth. Freedom means when you own a business you get to hire and fire based on whatever stupid, racist (but I repeat), or homophobic (but I repeat again) criteria you want. Freedom means you get to walk down the street insulting every single person you mean. Freedom means you can worship bugs if you like. Freedom means you get to choose to wear a plaid shirt with striped pants. Freedom means you can smoke cigarettes in your home (or in the home or business of someone who chooses to allow it).

Just because a free society must respect the right of people to do those horrible things doesn't mean that those things are good or that freedom is bad. Allowing those bad things to occur isn't what makes freedom good; freedom is good despite allowing those bad things to occur. And yet the nature of freedom is such that if we outlaw those bad things, we destroy freedom. The good of freedom is impossible without the bad.

Failing to understand this important aspect of freedom leads to two major kinds of mischief. The first is the assumption that if it is legal, it must be moral. The second is the assumption that if it is immoral it must be outlawed.

Freedom can indeed be dangerous and only a moral people can be trusted with it. This is correct.

All correct ideas get abused, and the UDN is obviously abusing the idea that with freedom comes responsibility. The correct focus of attack should be on the abuser, not on the idea that is being abused.

kjae said...

I'm wondering if other foreigners who've lived in Taiwan have had the same general impression I have:

Whenever Taiwanese start to talk about public issues, their voices waver, their gestures become tense, their eyes widen... They seem to be overtaken by a wave of anxiety.

Not true for everyone, I'm sure. But it seems like a lot of people, maybe even "society" as a whole, suffer from some "post-authoritarian traumatic stress disorder". Reading about these students, I feel not so much like I should defend their conduct (though Wang Dan is on the mark about the focus being unfair) as I feel sorry that even people born in the 1980s (or 90s?) still seem to be paralyzed in this way.

This makes me even more depressed about the current government in Taiwan. In terms of social development, its actions aren't forward looking at all.

Jonathan Benda said...

On Nancy Tucker's death: she's the second US expert on Taiwan to die this year--Alan Wachman of Tufts passed away in June.

Tommy said...

A few things. I am glad US troops will be spending more time in Asia. Too late in coming.

And I wish you had given a little more attention to Dr. Tucker. She was a marvelous lady. I had a class with her during my last semester at Georgetown. Her knowledge was phenomenal. She had a lovely personality. She gave me an A- instead of an A on a paper (a crisis for a school like that) and yet I was thankful because I could not argue with any of her criticisms. She also made it as point to bring in the most influential and interesting China speakers. And she must have been struggling mightily since she made the decision to teach one last semester. I am so honored that I had the chance to take a course with her. And so few people know what a tragedy her passing is. She will be sorely missed.

Michael Turton said...

I didn't know her, or much about her. Only had a couple of her books. Didn't feel comfortable writing about her when so many people I knew were friends and students and colleagues.

Anonymous said...

That poor kid was used by those legislators.

Agreed with “Readin”.

Ma administration should deport Dan Wang. Send him back to China. Then China would award Ma another cheap chocolate.