The DPP's Challenge: To Transform Its Supporters
China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
December 24, 2009
Only four days after the DPP's protest march ended peacefully, Taiwan independence movement protests led to violence. A police officer was forcibly shoved off the back of a truck. His head struck the pavement and began bleeding profusely. The DPP leadership promptly expressed concern over the incident. It stressed repeatedly that the instigators of the violence were not DPP members, but that the DPP was willing to assume responsible for their conduct all the same. The DPP made a point of reminding the general public that one must not negate or obscure the protest movement's underlying demands due to an isolated case.
We solemnly urge the DPP to face a harsh reality. The Taiwan independence movement and the Democratic Progressive Party are inseparable. Nobody is ignoring the underlying demands of the DPP or the Taiwan independence movement. But is it really necessary to incite violence in order to arouse public concern? The instigators of the incident were members of "tai wan guo" (The Nation of Taiwan). After posting bail, they said they if they were wrong, they would acknowledge wrongdoing, but they weren't in the wrong. The Republic of China is a nation that protects freedom of expression. Advocacy of reunification and independence both fall under freedom of expression. But one may not express one's political position by inflicting bodily injury upon others. Advocating one's political position, advocating Taiwan independence is a right. Advocating Taiwan independence by inflicting bodily injury upon others is not.
One incident of violence after another have seriously undercut the image of the Taiwan independence movement. When the vast majority of peaceful and rational middle class voters and even DPP members speak of "Deep Green elements," they characterize them as "political extremists" who have trouble controlling what they say and how they behave. Because of this awareness, DPP members are afraid to antagonize them. They want to avoid provoking them, and making the situation even more worse.
Are all Taiwan independence advocates like this? Ever since Fei Hsi-ping and Lin Cheng-chieh left the Democratic Progressive Party, anyone who does not advocate Taiwan independence has found it hard to make a home in the DPP. Which DPP members call for violence? Even those who have left the DPP, such as Shen Fu-hsiung or Shih Ming-teh, are essentially advocates of Taiwan independence. But look at how polite they are in the political arena. Shih Ming-teh is an expert at urging the masses to take to the streets. He led masses against the KMT. He led masses against Chen Shui-bian. But during the month-long "Depose Ah-Bian" protests, there was not a single incident of mobs beating up dissenters, let alone clashing with the police. The fact is that whenever crowds gather, and time drags on, both crowds and police become physically fatigued, emotionally irritable, and incidents can easily erupt. If protests keep popping up everywhere, or follow one around like a shadow, a tiny spark can easily lead to disaster. This is basic knowledge for every leader of a social movement.
The DPP intiated its Sunday protest march. Observers repeatedly warned the DPP to establish a response center and have the maturity to invite the police to participate and maintain order, stressing that this would be a good way to avoid incidents. Who knew that even after the Chiang/Chen Meeting concluded, an incident would occur? The Chiang/Chen Meeting lasted only two days, from preparatory consultations to official signing. On the third day, Chen Yunlin began touring Taiwan and attending banquets. By then, what was there to protest? Yet protesters followed him around all day like a shadow, heckling him. After nightfall, they set off skyrockets, saying that were "bombarding Chen Yunlin." The skyrockets fired high into the air could not reach Chen Yunlin. They could not reach the Yue Yuen Hotel where he was staying. They could only hurt innocent bystanders. Was this really necessary?
Particularly appalling was the attitude of the protesters afterwards. "The policeman was an idiot. I've never seen such a stupid policeman, using his own body to block our vehicles. He fell off the truck, all by himself, and now he wants to blame us?" Why did the policeman block the vehicle with his own body? Because the Ma administration wanted to avoid bloodshed. It wanted to avoid any incidents of excessive force. It ordered police to exercise restraint, and not allow any of the protesters to be harmed. Just two days before the incident, a policeman used pepper spray on protesters who had grabbed him and were pulling him back and forth. He was disciplined and reassigned. The metropolitan police captain who was shoved off the truck and injured was attempting to prevent protesters from firing skyrockets from the back of their truck. He wasn't even carrying a baton. When he fell to the ground and began bleeding, protesters screamed, "The police are beating us!" Fortunately the police were meticulous about collecting forensic evidence. Otherwise the incident would have turned into a case of one policeman's word against the word of a hundred protesters.
The entire country watched television images of a police officer lying on the ground after being forcibly pushed off the back of a vehicle by a mob. They are no longer willing to tolerate acts of violence spun as "freedom of expression." Taichung City Mayor Jason Hu spoke of "over the line." This was considerably more than "over the line." This was simply intolerable. Taichung citizens may tolerate four or five days of sound trucks blaring "Long live the Nation of Taiwan!" But no one can tolerate disregard for law and order. No one can tolerate utter disregard for the lives and well-being of others.
If Deep Green mobs refuse to express their political positions rationally, if they refuse to deal with others peacefully, if they refuse to respect people with different views, the image of the Taiwan independence movement and the DPP can never improve.
The DPP is no longer a guerrilla-like political party clashing with the government in the streets. The DPP is a mature political party. It ruled the nation for eight years. So-called "Deep Green" mobs are the main reason the DPP has been unable to grow since its founding. If the Democratic Progressive Party wants to return to power, it must confront this problem. It must become a responsible political party. It must transform both itself and its supporters.