These are just some of the common questions asked when people see the slogan Keep Taiwan Free. As most people know, Taiwan’s history is quite complex. It took several decades and the sacrifice of tens of thousands of citizens to get to the democracy that Taiwan is today. Yet, this young democracy is still a fragile one.
Even just in the past few years, there have been several cases where civil rights and liberties in Taiwan have been violated. There have been issues with the government in terms of land expropriations. In 2012, there was the anti-media monopoly movement and not that long ago there was the takeover of the Legislative Yuan called the Sunflower movement. What do all these examples have in common? They all magnify that Taiwan can lose all the things that make it a vibrant democracy.
In 2013, four houses were demolished against the will of the owners by the government in Dapu Borough(大埔) in Miaoli County to make way for a science park extension. This incident became known as the Dapu Incident. It all started in 2008 when a optoelectronics company applied to the Miaoli County government for land to build a factory. Over time the company decided that they did not need to build the factory. However, the government decided to continue on with their plan to expand the science park to attract future investments in the area. The residents of Dapu were not happy and held several protests to resist the demolition of buildings and the expropriation of land. There were several clashes of the people with the government. An elderly farmer, who felt completely helpless in stopping the government from taking the land she worked her whole life for, committed suicide by drinking herbicide. Essentially the government evicted and demolished citizens’ homes to acquire land in the name of modernization and progress. The incident in Dapu raised several questions such as the need to have stronger safeguards for land ownership and property rights for citizens, and that land expropriation should be for public interest–not for the sake of modernization.
In 2012, there was also the anti media monopoly movement in Taiwan. In the early 2000s, Next Magazine and Apple Daily were launched and they quickly became best selling magazines in Taiwan due to their insistence on political independence. Yet due to significant financial losses Jimmy Lai, the owner, decided to sell both magazines. When Lai accepted an offer, it turned out that Want Want China Times Media Group would become one of the major shareholders. Want Want China Times Media Group is a huge media enterprise group in Taiwan and is known for its business interests with the PRC. Want Want’s Chairman, Tsai Eng-meng, was also a huge issue of concern due to his alleged history of interfering with the media. Essentially, Tsai’s disregard for the freedom of press and his close ties with China raised red flags. The anti media monopoly movement brought up several policy weaknesses regarding Taiwan’s media sector and freedom of speech. There are no policies that consider the cross media ownership and the issue of media monopoly. Also when it comes to freedom of speech, commercial influence is just as powerful as political influence.
Lastly, back in March, the Sunflower Movement was definitely a huge catalyst that brought to light what kind of democracy Taiwan wants to be in the future. In June 2013, Taiwan had signed a Cross-Strait Services Trade Agreement (CCSTA) with China. Students and several NGO’s lobbied and protested within the system, worried about the economic and political impact that the agreement would have on Taiwan. They played by the rules in hopes of trying to get a response from the government. Yet on March 18th legislator and internal administrative committee chair Chang Ching-chung unilaterally decided that the clause-by-clause review of the fact was over and it would be sent out to be voted on. Essentially, the government rushed through the agreement without a line by line review of the pact. The violation of the basic principles of due process caused the students to take over the Legislative Yuan and make four appeals to the government. Their unwavering determination showed that the citizens of Taiwan want to determine their own future and remain free and democratic.
Taiwan means something different to everyone. To some it’s the food and the night markets. To others it’s family and the rich history and culture the island has. Ultimately, it’s what makes us proud of our Taiwanese Identity. But without a Free Taiwan, the things that we love and treasure essentially would not be the same. Therefore, on this 9/13, I want you to consider why you want to Keep Taiwan Free.
Audrey Tseng is currently an undergrad studying Biochemistry at NYU. Born and raised in NJ, she is a long time participant and leader of Taiwanese American Next Generation (TANG) summer conference and an organizer with the Formosan Association for Public Affairs’ Young Professional Group (FAPA-YPG). She is an avid traveler, having been to over 22 countries. During her free time, you will probably find her eating brunch food, exploring NYC, or doing something Taiwan-related. On 9/13, she’ll be out on streets telling people why she supports Taiwan.
Read more on the history behind Keep Taiwan Free: http://www.taiwaneseamerican.org/2014/09/keep-taiwan-free-2014/
Photo Credit: Tim Lee