As the protesters continue to occupy Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan (legislature), the leaders have modified their demands from demanding a line-by-line review of the cross-strait trade pact to scrapping it completely. The leaders might also be set to meet president Ma Ying-jeou who extended an offer to them a few days ago. Meanwhile the police’s forced eviction of protesters who invaded the Executive Yuan Sunday has stunned some people due to the forceful way it was done. It’s not surprising given how naive some Taiwanese are, because sustained protests are often met with force around the world, whether it be in the US or India or Europe. Taiwan’s authorities have already been lenient with the Legislative Yuan occupation, so perhaps they decided it was necessary to draw a line with the Executive Yuan attempt.
The bigger question is what is the ultimate motivation driving the (mostly student) protesters. If you guessed anti-China concerns, you’d be right. The cross-strait trade pact will lead to closer economic ties, with mainland investors allowed to directly start and run businesses in Taiwan in dozens of sectors (as well as vice versa). There are many concerns, among them fears that mainland companies can come in and overwhelm smaller Taiwan businesses, that mainland businessmen will immigrate in large numbers, that economic dominance by mainland businesses would lead to the reduction of political rights. Some of these are groundless, while there’s the larger issue of why mainland companies would focus on Taiwan, whose population of 23 million, even if relatively wealthy, is still less than most of China’s provinces (Beijing and Shanghai both have over 15 million each). Therein lies the problem – the reasons against depend on various and nebulous reasoning and possibilities, and is guided by anti-China paranoia.
I previously said I admit the protesters (those who occupied the Legislative Yuan and the peaceful ones outside) showed some courage, especially as unlike a lot of their compatriots, they got off their asses and showed they care a bit about politics and the world around them. Their anger at the KMT’s attempt to rush through the trade pact (which owed a bit to the DPP’s refusals to engage in constructive debate in the legislature) and their attempts to distance themselves from the DPP are also understandable and laudable. If this is about trying to improve Taiwan’s democracy and stop the bullshit politics between the main parties, I think it’s a credible attempt. But going back to the main undercurrent of anti-mainland concerns, it is terribly misleading.
It’s no secret that Taiwan businesses operate and prosper on the mainland, as well as dominate certain sectors. Further to that, Taiwan professionals work, actors and musicians act and perform (some mainlanders struck back at certain Taiwan celebs), students study, and retirees are buying homes on the mainland. Taiwan has benefited from close ties with the mainland for a long time now, and there’s a certain amount of ignorance and hypocrisy to be so emotional about mainlanders being able to come to Taiwan to run businesses.
Going back to anti-China paranoia, it’s striking that a few Hong Kongers see fit to lend their paranoiac and xenophobic support to Taiwan.
The DPP, Taiwan’s main opposition party, shows yet again a pitiful example of how it contributes to Taiwan democracy. Go to the bottom for the best part:
“Before the interpellation started, DPP Legislator Chen Tan-sun (陳唐山) walked up to MOI Minister Chen Wei-zen, Wang and Lee, and said that he was recently denied entry to the Legislature by police, and that he was forced to scale the wall in order to get in.
“What have the police been doing? What have you been doing as minister?” the lawmaker asked.
“The public can discern right from wrong,” the minister said, to which the legislator replied, “You can eat shit.”