China Times Editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
August 4, 2016
Executive Summary: Looking ahead, the DPP is likely to morph into an authoritarian political party. Politically, it already controls the legislative and executive branches. Rhetorically, Taiwan independence populism has already become young peoples' mainstream ideology. They may become the vanguard of a new authoritarian regime. Coupled with state violence, they will be able to impose their will on individuals belonging to different parties, who subscribe to different ideologies. Not being subject to judicial constraints, a reversion to authoritarianism is entirely possible.
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The ruling DPP was once “dang wai”, i.e., “not part of the ruling KMT”. Its banner was "democracy". Its clarion call was opposition to one-party rule and authoritarianism. The dang wai movement began in 60s with Lei Chen, Lee Wan-chu, Kao Yu-shu, who founded the China Democracy Party. They opposed Chiang Kai-shek's re-election to a third term. They later founded the Democratic Progressive Party, based on democracy and human rights.
Beginning this year, the DPP will enjoy “total government”. People are waiting to see what the DPP will do. Will it consolidate democracy, or endanger it? Will it defend human rights, or despoil them? Will it implement democracy, or betray the electorate? Will it cast off the guise of democracy, reveal the face of Taiwan independence populism, and transform into an authoritarian fascist regime?
Based on developments over the past several months, the outlook is not bright. A number of superficially unrelated events, if strung together, reveal clear authoritarian tendencies. Recently the DPP used its numbers to ram through the "Articles for the Handling of Assets Improperly Obtained by Political Parties and Affiliated Organizations". This regulation allows the Executive Yuan to establish an "Improper Party Assets Cleanup Committee" that can target any political party and its affiliated organizations. It allows the Executive Yuan to investigate the Nationalist Government's recovery of Taiwan In 1945, to summon people at whim, to search the premises of any institutions, organizations, or individuals with help from police.
According to the current system of justice, if police wish to search the premises of any group or individual, they must first obtain a warrant from a judge. but the Improper Party Assets Cleanup Committee could ignore judges. As long as the committee has decided that certain groups or individuals have relevant information, it can show up anytime accompanied by police and conduct a search.
From the end of World War II to the end of authoritarian rule, the KMT made no distinction between party and state. This process was hazardous for democracy, but also enabled the government to develop the economy. The Articles for the Handling of Assets Improperly Obtained by Political Parties and Affiliated Organizations are rooted in the former, but the scope of the investigation includes the latter. The committee will gradually discover that many pioneering economic policies were underwritten with KMT party funds. They include agriculture, forestry, mining, textile, the chemical industry, trade, development banks, securities trading, securities financing, securities investment trust industry, the stock market, the semiconductor industry, and the information industry.
Party assets financed economic policy. Therefore all sorts of industries and individuals are likely to be subjects of investigation. Is the Executive Yuan determined to establish a reign of terror? Is it determined to create a modern version of the Dongchang, the Ming dynasty secret police? If so, the
Articles for the Handling of Assets Improperly Obtained by Political Parties and Affiliated Organizations give the committee carte blanche, unrestrained by the rule of law. The articles constitutes a major step in the direction toward authoritarianism.
There is also the intimidation of career officials. DPP legislators without portfolio have denounced the Commissioner of National Health in the Ministry of Health and Welfare. They said “This woman is uppity” and "doesn't know her place". They said she served as Ilan County Chief under the KMT, and is now serving a second term as a Level 3 civil servant under the DPP. They demanded that the Ministry of Health and Welfare “deal with the matter” as soon as possible. Sure enough, she was promptly removed from her current position. Under the rule of law in a democratic society, as long a career officer makes no mistakes at work, she may not be persecuted based on her party affiliation. The vendetta waged by these legislators without portfolio will have a chilling effect on all career officials. It too constitutes a major step towards authoritarianism.
The third matter worth noting, is state indoctrination in Taiwan independence and the rise of populism. During her election campaign, President Tsai claimed that Taiwan independence has become a "natural component" of young peoples' identity. Actually, what young people consider "natural Taiwan independence" or "natural Taiwanese identity" may need to be vetted by many more elections. Besides, for young people on Taiwan, this so-called “natural component” is hardly natural. It is artificial, man-made, inculcated. Since 1996, primary and secondary school textbooks have swung like a pendulum from one extreme to the other. From the KMT, to the DPP. This course curriculum has relentlessly indoctrinated young students with radical Taiwan independence thought and cookie cutter responses.
Looking ahead, the DPP is likely to morph into an authoritarian political party. Politically, it already controls the legislative and executive branches. Rhetorically, Taiwan independence populism has already become young peoples' mainstream ideology. They may become the vanguard of a new authoritarian regime. Coupled with state violence, they will be able to impose their will on individuals belonging to different parties, who subscribe to different ideologies. Not being subject to judicial constraints, a reversion to authoritarianism is entirely possible.
To prevent this from happening, at least two forces are required. President Tsai herself must decide what she values she subscribes to, and what historical legacy she seeks. She must firmly guard democracy, and resist the temptation of authoritarianism. She may believe in Taiwan independence. But she must give priority to democracy and human rights. She must not use authoritarianism to impose Taiwan independence ideology upon the Taiwan public. She must keep the common people in mind, maintain cross-Strait peace, restrain nativist sentiment rooted in hatred of “the other”. She must cease indoctrinating the next generation with such thinking.
The second force is Taiwan society, especially media ovesight and public resistance. When President Chen Shui-bian was in office, his corruption triggered massive protests. If Taiwan reverts to authoritarian rule, the media and the people must rise up and fight. They must not wait until it is too late. They must come forward at the very beginning. Democracy and human rights are universal values. They are something Taiwan can be proud of. The people must never tolerate their destruction and repression.