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While meeting someone next to NCKU’s Guang Fu campus university entrance the other day I noticed a new student rally. Noticing signs of “和平” (peace) and a few other political statements I figured out it had something to do with all that’s been happening in Taiwan lately regarding the cross-straight talks, the demonstrations and the way the police chose to address those. The following day it was on the news. Here’s from Taipei Times’ “New student sit-ins pop up across nation” :
Several university student groups in the central and southern parts of the country launched sit-ins yesterday in support of the student demonstrators at Liberty Square in front of National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall.
Holding up posters that read “human rights,” about 20 students launched their sit-in campaign in front of National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) in Tainan amid drizzling rain.
“We support the three statements of [the students] in Taipei. President Ma [Ying-jeou (馬英九)] and [Premier] Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) should apologize to the people while [National Police Agency (NPA)] Director-General Wang Cho-chiun (王卓鈞) and [National Security Bureau] Director-General Tsai Chao-ming (蔡朝明) should step down,” Huang You-heng (黃羑衡), the spokesman for the protesters at NCKU, told reporters.
“We hope similar campaigns will be launched at every university in Taiwan,” Huang said.
Starting on November 3, with the visit of representatives from China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) to sign various agreements with our government , police officers have engaged in numerous abusive acts against peaceful protestors from various dissenting groups, under the guise of “keeping the peace”. These acts have included arbitrary searches and prohibitions, seizure and destruction of property, physical assault, dispersion, and even arrest and detention. The vast majority of the victims of this police brutality were nowhere near ARATS Chairman Chen Yunlin, and were simply passing, standing, or photographing various areas when they were victimized.
Through reports in the media, we have come to realize the seriousness of the current situation. It is no longer a technical question of excessive law enforcement tactics, nor is it simply a partisan issue between supporters of various political parties. This is a proliferation of state sponsored violence that is provoking and attacking civil society. All these oppressive acts, which ignore human rights and democratic values are reminiscent of martial law. Even legislators from the ruling party have expressed concern over this issue to the Executive Yuan, only to see the chief authority – Premier Liu, dodge responsibility while providing only the flimsiest of excuses. We are stunned and outraged by this response, as well as ashamed and increasingly uneasy.
We must ask: Does increasing cross-Strait exchange require Taiwan to lower its standards of freedom and democracy, in order to achieve the same level of repressive authoritarian rule that China has?
In only a few short days, the liberal democracy that the people of Taiwan have fought so hard for has nearly collapsed amid massive police presence in the city, and the atmosphere of fear and repression that it brings. Behind its police state-like barricades, our government remains blinded by its delusions of a “meeting of historic proportions”, and indulges itself in its receptions and banquets. Through this all, the peoples’ constitutionally guaranteed rights to freedom of speech and movement have been cast aside, and even forgotten.
As many of their actions are unconstitutional, it is not surprising that not a single police officer before the cameras has been able to definitively state what law empowers them to carry out the orders issued to them by their superiors. Police officers are supposed to be civil servants charged with protecting the people. Yet under the outrageous requests issued from above, they have become thugs restricting and punishing the people for expressing their opinions. We have no intention of blaming individual police officers who can only obey orders issued by their superiors. Rather, we solemnly demand that the highest authorities in the government bear the largest share of political responsibility for these abuses.
We are simply a group of university professors, students, cultural workers, and citizens who are concerned about Taiwan’s current state of disorder and future development. At 11AM on November 6, without any support or mobilization from any political party or civic group, we will assemble at the gate of the Executive Yuan in black clothes and face masks symbolizing our painful protest, and will join hands sitting in civil disobedience until our requests are met. Our requests include:
- President Ma Ying-jeou and Premier Liu Chao-shiuan must publicly apologize to all citizens.
- National Police Agency Director-General Wang Cho-chiun and National Security Bureau Director Tsai Chaoming must step down.
- The Legislative Yuan must revise the Parade and Assembly Law, which currently restricts the rights of the people.
The protest is also broadcasted live using Yahoo Live :
An interesting anacdote is that I have a friend working at the NCKU consulting services center and I was told there’s been an influx of worried parents calling the center suggesting that the NCKU kids protesting on TV are undergoing some mental breakdown and that they believe the university should step in to heal the students’ mental illnesses. I kid you not.
I also had a few conversations with Taiwanese student friends that thought this might be “too extreme”. Really? If this was in Israel (/France?), no one – student or teacher – would be allowed in campus, the sit-down might have been taking place in the middle of the major highways and I don’t think it would be stretching it too far to say there would probably be a few burning cars and tires to spice things up (students’, not anybody elses’). It’s not as fun if there aren’t at least a few student leaders arrested for testing law boundaries and refusing to cooperate. Democracy and human rights have to be fought for and public attention should be directed to discussing those issues. Students, anywhere in the world, are usually the ones who lead the fight. :)