China Times editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, Republic of China)
March 20, 2014
Summary: The "Democratic Front Against Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement" and other pressure groups stormed the legislature last evening and occupied the legislative hall. Speaker of the Legislature Wang Jin-pying insists that he is neutral. He refuses to invoke his police power to restore the dignity of the legislature. He has long abetted the DPP minority overriding the democratic majority. The result has been a tragedy for democracy.
Full text below:
The "Democratic Front Against Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement" and other pressure groups gathered outside the Legislative Yuan last night. They objected to the submission of the "Cross-Strait Agreement on Trade in Services" to the Legislative Yuan for review. The protestors consisted mainly of students. They stormed the legislature last evening and occupied the legislative hall. They held a press conference and made three demands. They demanded that police immediately withdraw from the legislature, that President Ma Ying-jeou apologize, and that Premier Chiang Yi-hua step down and reject the cross-strait agreement in trade in services. Let us be blunt. If the administration bends to their will, the ROC government may as well close shop.
We are deeply disappointed. Political competition on Taiwan may be fierce. But we do have a clear consensus. We are a democracy under the rule of law, When we hold any election, pass any bill, we must follow proper procedure. We have a democratically elected government. This government has a mandate from a majority of the voters. It is responsible to the overwhelming majority of the people and their interests, as expressed in the proposed bill. The bill was passed by a democratically-elected legislature, in accordance with due process. We are proud of our democracy. it operates according to these rules. We do not believe there is an alternative.
Unfortunately, the laws of democracy were violated late at night, on the day before yesterday. A mob established a "front." Its members gathered before the legislature. They injured policemen attempting to maintain order. They occupied the legislative hall. They forced the legislature to change its schedule. They demanded that the premier step down. They demanded that the president apologize. If the premier and president failed to comply, they threatened to continue their occupation until their demands were met.
Who are these people? Who gave them the power to tell an elected legislature how to legislate? Who gave them the power to flagrantly occupy the hallowed halls of the legislature, and order the police out? The premier is answerable only to the democratically elected legislature. Who gave them the power to demand that he step down? Who gave them the power to demand that an elected president apologize? Today's Taiwan is proud of its democracy. If the mob is permitted to get away with this behavior, why bother to hold elections? Why should we respect the democratic legislative process? After all, if one can muster a hundred or so people, one can occupy the halls of the legislature, and demand to be heard. Others will have no choice but to listen. Simple, right? But the democracy we strived for so many years to achieve will be destroyed in such a manner.
The cross strait agreement in trade and services can be debated. It has already undergone lengthy debate. The pros and cons and relevant factors have all been discussed. Everything that can be discussed, has been discussed, Everything that can be evaluated, has been evaluated. How can industries that benefit increase their competitiveness? How can industries that might be harmed minimize the harm? Everything that can be thought of, has been thought of. Furthermore, opinion polls show that most people support the cross strait agreement in trade in services. President Ma was democratically elected by a majority of voters. So was the ruling party in the legislature. They reflect majority opinion on Taiwan. They support the cross strait agreement on trade in services bill. The bill reflects the will of the majority. If opposition parties have different views, they may express them, then seek to rule after the next election. But they may not engage in irrational obstructionism. They may not incite students to occupy the halls of the legislature. Unfortunately, this is precisely what has happened on Taiwan.
We sternly condemn the DPP. You are heading step by step in the direction you once opposed. You want to steer the ship of nation. You are welcome to do so. But you must first win majority support. If some day win a majority, then of course you may review the merits of the cross strait agreement in trade in services. But today you are in the opposition. Please respect the rules of the game. Is all you know how to occupy the podium? Is all you know how to engage in technical obstructionism? Are you afraid to state aloud your objections? Your approach demeans democratic values. It is populist demagoguery. Suppose one day you become the ruling party? Surely you don't expect the KMT to pay you back in kind, by engaging in obstructionism to the bitter end?
Your behavior behind the scenes is even more immoral. You encourage students to stand on the front lines. You encourgage them to engage in anti-democratic behavior, to irrationally trample on the dignity of the legislature, to assault law enforcement officers, and to humiliate heads of state and the premier. Worse still, you let the entire world to watch as young students on Taiwan failed the literacy test on democracy, and undermined democracy. You harmed these young students. You urged these youth to engage in violence and subvert the democratic process, This crime is one for which you cannot escape responsibility .
We appeal to the students occupying the halls of the legislature. Your behavior is not an expression of democracy, but the undermining of democracy. The bill is a solemn legal matter. It is not something you can get your way on by occupying the halls of the legislature and demanding whatever you want. Rethink your behavior. Do you wish to oppose the cross strait agreement on trade in services? Then please study the cross strait agreement on trade in services first. Study it carefully. Do not alllow yourself to be manipulated by politicians. Is your purpose merely to pad your resume, to ensure your future in politics? Or are you indifferent to the humiliation of the legislature, the trampling of the legislative process , and the sacrifce of democracy and the rule of law? If you are, we have nothing more to say.
Speaker of the Legislature Wang Jin-pying insists that he is neutral. He refuses to invoke his police power to restore the dignity of the legislature. He has long abetted the DPP minority overriding the democratic majority. The result has been a tragedy for democracy. Speaker of the Legislature Wang must restore the dignity of the legislature. Otherwise democracy will perish. How then can we restore public trust in our democratic ideals?