Thursday, January 3, 2013

Inaugural Protest Marches Compared: Su Tseng-chang vs. Tsai Ing-wen

Inaugural Protest Marches Compared:
Su Tseng-chang vs. Tsai Ing-wen
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
January 4, 2012

Summary: Su Tseng-chang announced that the DPP will hold a "Raging Citizens Protest March" on January 13. This symbolic act, made upon assuming the party chairmanship, attempts to build consensus. It also suggests the path Su intends to take. Contrast this with several "inaugural protest marches" that Tsai Ing-wen led upon her own inauguration as party chairman. The differences underscore the changes that have taken place within the DPP over the past four years, and the DPP's current dilemma.

Full Text below:

Su Tseng-chang announced that the DPP will hold a "Raging Citizens Protest March" on January 13. This symbolic act, made upon assuming the party chairmanship, attempts to build consensus. It also suggests the path Su intends to take. Contrast this with several "inaugural protest marches" that Tsai Ing-wen led upon her own inauguration as party chairman. The differences underscore the changes that have taken place within the DPP over the past four years, and the DPP's current dilemma.

When Tsai Ing-wen became party chairman on May 20, 2008, she faced two major problems. One. The Ma administration's new cross-Strait policy was about to go into effect. Two. The Chen family corruption case was about to be tried in the courts.

Amidst this atmosphere, several "inaugural protest marches" took place in swift succession. On August 30, 2008, Taiwan independence hardliners launched a "Prevent hunger, Defend sovereignty, Seek sunshine" protest march. Tsai Ing-wen initially expressed reservations about participating. Later, under duress, she and the DPP participated. But she made clear that the DPP was "merely a participating organization and not the initiating organization." The DPP agreed to join the protest march, but a proviso was added. No Taiwan independence banners would be displayed, and no pro Ah-Bian slogans would be shouted. On October 25, Taiwan independence organizations came forward yet again. They held an "Oppose blackhearts, Defend Taiwan" protest march. This time the DPP was unable to block Chen Shui-bian. Chen Shui-bian held forth from atop a sound truck, causing a sensation. Then, between November 3rd and November 7th, Chen Yunlin arrived on Taiwan for the second Chiang-Chen Meeting. The DPP launched a string of protests. They held high banners reading, "Chen bandit Yunlin get out!" and" Commies get out!" In June their "Surround Chen" protests continued into the night, leaving the streets of Taipei in shambles. Later, Tsai Ing-wen made clear that the Democratic Progressive Party's participation ended at dusk.

Contrast Tsai Ing-wen's string of "inaugural protest marches" with Su Tseng-chang's "Raging Citizens Protest March."

First of all, the protest marches Tsai took participated in had some purpose. They expressed opposition to the Ma government's new cross-Strait policy. They expressed the concerns of Chen Shui-bian supporters. By contrast, Su Tseng-chang's "Raging Citizens Protest March," which demandds "Survival, Democracy, and Reform" feels like a case of clutching at straws.

Secondly, in 2008, following the defeat of the Democratic Progressive Party in the presidential election, the Green Camp experienced a sense of crisis and solidarity. The protest marches Tsai Ing-wen took part in felt like bottom-up, outside-in affairs. Tsai Ing-wen hastened to add that she and the DPP were merely participating in, not initiating the protest marches. By contrast, Su Tseng-chang's "Raging Citizens Protest March" cannot paper over the schism that has developed within the Green Camp. On the one hand Frank Hsieh's "trail-blazing journey" has a sequel. On the other hand, the Taiwan independence hardliners are even more arrogant than they were in 2008. Su Tseng-chang could not even get his "China Affairs Committee" started. No wonder his top-down protest march is meeting with increased skepticism, even from his own camp.

Such comparisons however, merely skim the surface. Far more profound changes have taken place over the past four years. Tsai Ing-wen's "inaugural protest marches" attempted to distance themselves from Chen Shui-bian. They attempted to block the Ma government's new cross-Strait policy. The next development was opposition to ECFA and the 1992 consensus. These became Tsai Ing-wen's trademark. These became part of her 2012 presidential campaign. But this is not the ultimate answer. Tsai Ing-wen initially had reservations about supporting Ah-Bian. Today however, she has become Chen Shui-bian's champion for "medical parole." She initially denounced ECFA as a "forfeiture of sovereignty and an insult to the nation." She said it "pandered to [Mainland] China, and sold out Taiwan." Later however, she reversed herself. She said "If the Democratic Progressive Party returns to power, it will continue the previous administration's cross-Strait policy." She said she "unconditionally accepts ECFA." Such are the paradoxes of political calculation.

Tsai Ing-wen participated in several high profile "inauguration protest marches." She attempted to distance herself and the DPP from Ah-Bian. She led crowds who shouted "Chen bandit Yunlin get out!" She denounced ECFA as "pandering to [Mainland] China, and selling out Taiwan." Today, four years later, people are asking questions. Will they get any answers?

Now no one in the DPP utters a peep about ECFA "pandering to [Mainland] China, and selling out Taiwan." Instead, DPP members mutter about "reform." This shows that the DPP is unwilling to reform its cross-strait policy. No one dares to utter a peep about distancing the DPP from Ah-Bian. Instead, DPP members mutter about "medical parole." This shows that Taiwan independence hardliners have taken over the DPP, the way cancer cells take over a body. In fact, Su Tseng-chang is dealing with the mess left behind by Tsai Ing-wen.

Taiwan society has never lacked "Raging Citizens." The DPP has never failed to exploit raging public anger and grievances. Tsai Ing-wen's "Inaugural Protest March" was dominated by "Raging Citizens." When these citizens surrounded Chen Yunlin that night, they threw rocks, human feces, and Molotov cocktails. They proved they were raging alright. But what has happened to her leadership and the DPP since then? What has happened to the rage incited by the "Oppose ECFA" and "Oppose the 1992 consensus" protest marches? It has become dead political ashes from which no smoke emerges. Yesterday's fearsome rage has become today's ridiculous tantrum.

When we contrast Su Tseng with Tsai Ing-wen, we must look at more than Tsai's high profile "inauguration protest marches." We must also look at the rage felt during the "Oppose the 1992 consensus" and "Oppose ECFA" protest marches. Today those flames have burned out. So-called "distancing the DPP from Ah-Bian" has become a joke. Today Su Tseng-chang is desperately attempting to reignite the raging fires that burned when Tsai Ing-wen was chairman. Naturally he feels impotent, and plagued by doubt.

Actually, the history of the DPP is a history of rage. During the early years of martial law and the "ten thousand year assembly," the DPP raged. When the DPP promoted liberal democracy on Taiwan, it raged. But when it came time for Tsai Ing-wen to "Oppose the 1992 consensus" and "Oppose ECFA," the DPP's rage burned out. Now it is Su Tseng-chang's turn. The DPP raged over gasoline price hikes, electricity rate hikes, the capital gains tax, and U.S. beef imports. They raged so intensely they held a five day/four nights sleepover on the legislature floor. This too will become a footnote in history.

Su Tseng-chang's "Raging Citizens Protest March" has clearly not received the same applause as Tsai Ing-wen's numerous "inaugural protest marches." Tsai Ing-wen has long ceased opposing ECFA. She has long since ceased shouting "Chen bandit Yunlin get out!" But her past rage makes her by far the most popular politician on Taiwan. Is Su Tseng-chang jealous of her successful exploitation of rage?

But Su Tseng-chang should not complain. How can he rekindle a raging fire from the dead ashes left by Tsai Ing-wen? Besides, after he finishes raging, what will he be left with? Other than the bitter ashes from some meaningless memories?

2013.01.04 01:52 am















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