Will Social Unrest Return to the Streets?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
August 26, 2013
Summary: The administration always waits until after the fact to communicate with
the public. The legislature views "harmony" as more important than
convening sessions. The Control Yuan feels it "may as well close up
shop." The opposition DPP is content to watch as the ruling party
embarrasses itself. This leads to political impotence. This leads to
street protests. The machinery of state becomes the tail wagging the
dog. Those truly lost, are society's silent majority.
Full text below:
Last year's protests against the demolition of Wenlin Yuan continue. This year street protests on Taiwan have proliferated. People from all walks of life are concerned about nuclear power generation. Up to 200,000 White Shirts have appeared on Ketegelan Boulevard. Protestors include opponents of the demolition of Ta Pu and opponents of the eastward relocation of the Tainan railway line. They even include opponents of media cartels and TISA. This shows that discontent on Taiwan is prompting a new wave of protests.
Some of the protests fall outside the framework of traditional ideological struggles. Today the Green Camp is no longer able to lead these protestors around by the nose. It can no longer manipulate them or support them from behind the scenes. Some protestors have kept their distance from the DPP. They have refused to allow the DPP to participate, in order to "avoid contamination." Social protests today are more autonomous. They are increasingly depoliticized. This is gratifying indeed. But some protests are immoral and irrationa. Neverthelss the ruling and opposition parties have failed to respond to them. This has exposed the emptiness and impotence of Taiwan's politics.
Closer examination of these street protests reveals that each has its own agenda. Some White Shirts have formed a "10,000 people bid farewell to Chung-chiu." Theirs was largely an expression of sentiments. Other protest banners invariably begin with "We Oppose... " signifying their opposition to specific policies. They can be further subdivided into several categories. The first category opposes the exercise of public authority, based on personal interests. Examples include those opposed to the demolition of Wenlin Yuan, Ta Pu, and the eastward relocation of the Tainan railway line. These pertain to land expropriation. The second category of protestor is concerned about human lives, safety, and rights. Examples include those demanding the abolition of nuclear power and those protesting abuse within the military. These protests are more universal in their concerns. The third category of protestor is concerned about the Chinese mainland. Examples include those opposed to TISA and media monopolies. These have "anti-China" overtones. Members of these protest movements often overlap.
In mature democracies, different public interests expressing different views is normal. It is nothing to be concerned about. Take Taiwan. White Shirts constitute the largest number of protestors on Ketegelan Boulevard. They have the greatest influence, But if one examines their motives, their moderate behavior, and their single-mindedness, one realizes they are the least worrisome of all. These protestors include the "Mothers Alliance for the Oversight of Nuclear Power Plants." These protestors are all examples of rational expression of opinion. By contrast, the anti-Ta Pu protestors are considered "outsider" by the local residents. They have escalated their protests to the point where they are demanding the "dismantling of government." They even forced their way into the Interior Ministry. They even used "civil disobedience" to rationalize their conduct. They have made the public uneasy.
Social protests have returned to the streets of Taiwan. The most intriguing question is: Why? Take the categories of protests listed above. The third category of protestor is motivated by "anti-China" hatred. This is a continuation of traditional Green Camp political protests. The other two categories exhibit greater diversity, both in their concerns and their constituency. They show greater autonomy, but also involve considerable danger. Regardless, together they reflect a failure in the machinery of state. This failure forces people to speak out and vent their anger in the streets.
This failure of the machinery of state refers to more than the executive branch and Ma's leadership. It includes central and local government representative bodies. It includes the opposition parties. All are caught up in negativity, regression, or passivity. Simply put, the government is either less and less able or less and less concerned about solving peoples' problems. This includes cross-ministry and cross-party entities. Long-standing parochialism and selfishness has created problems. This has led to hampered coordination, limited cooperation, and even outright Schadenfreude. This has prevented government and opposition agencies from responding effectively to public expectations. They have tied each other up in knots, making it impossible to get anything done. The ruling party must be alert to this, and the opposition must as well.
The most obvious example is the retention or abolition of nuclear power plants. A public referendum should be a last resort in a democracy. But the opposition DPP has made its calculations, and is dragging its feet. The public is not even getting the chance to vote in a referendum. Take TISA for example. Only the legislature can effectively resolve the issue. But the legislature remains deadlocked. Therefore the ruling and opposition parties should demand a "Ma Su Debate" to ensure that it becomes a reality. In recent years, Taiwan resembles a magician who swallows poison. He uses the most extreme methods in his magic act. Every time his thrilling tricks depletes everyones' energy. In the end, he may even lose his own life.
The administration always waits until after the fact to communicate with the public. The legislature views "harmony" as more important than convening sessions. The Control Yuan feels it "may as well close up shop." The opposition DPP is content to watch as the ruling party embarrasses itself. This leads to political impotence. This leads to street protests. The machinery of state becomes the tail wagging the dog. Those truly lost, are society's silent majority.
2013.08.26 02:53 am