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Students take over Taiwan's Legislature amid China trade pact protests
March 23, 2014 8:38 PM   Subscribe

Students take over Taiwan's Legislature amid massive protests against a trade bill with China. Student protesters stormed Taiwan's Legislative Yuan last week, overwhelming police, and have occupied it since as protests grew outside. Last night, another group of students stormed the Executive Yuan, but were removed, sometimes violently, by riot police. The Presidential Office is surrounded by barricades and police checkpoints. The protests began after the ruling party, the Kuomintang, declared a review of a China trade pact to be concluded after months of wrangling between it and the opposition in the Legislature. The students originally wanted the review to continue, but they're now demanding that it be scrapped altogether.
posted by Poagao (22 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
Another report.
posted by Poagao at 8:50 PM on March 23


Hmm Mrs Jimbob has been in Taiwan for the last month, and it seems she had no idea it was going on, and neither did I. I've got som reading to do.
posted by Jimbob at 10:09 PM on March 23


Thanks for writing this post — I was in the middle of writing this up.

Protestors are against a trade pact with mainland China that was run through legislative approval without review. The trade pact, they claim, use economic means to further goals of reunifying Taiwan with mainland China. The protestors, mostly students, have occupied the parliament building for the past week and have issued ultimatums to the president to have the law removed. Police have now gone in to remove them.

There's some more coverage here in The Economist, and some unvetted reports of police violence against students (and doctors treating victims) over here.

From my discussion with someone who lives there, students are normally fairly passive about politics and corruption in Taiwanese government, but this trade pact and the way it was run through without most democratic checks have triggered widespread and popular dissent. The president of Taiwan is very unpopular and is something of a "Teflon don", in that political corruption scandals have brought down most of those around him, but he has managed to keep his position and power.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:30 PM on March 23 [1 favorite]


I just read an article quoting some official Chinese newspaper saying that Taiwanese students "lack courage and determination" (oh yeah, you can see that in the bloody photos!) and just want to "defend the status quo." Well, yes. The status quo is independence, even if most of us in the world are too cowardly to recognize it, and democracy (even if it's not perfect).
posted by wintersweet at 10:37 PM on March 23 [8 favorites]


I suppose they maintain the party line that democracy is a bourgeois illusion? I'm really looking forward to witnessing the CCP collapse in my lifetime. That's gonna be a moment way up there, for sure.
posted by quincunx at 11:14 PM on March 23 [1 favorite]


I'm really looking forward to witnessing the CCP collapse in my lifetime.

Sure. But I'm not looking forward to see what it's replaced with...
posted by Jimbob at 11:43 PM on March 23 [1 favorite]


What isn't a bourgeois illusion?
posted by vicx at 11:46 PM on March 23


But I'm not looking forward to see what it's replaced with...

Potentially it could suck worse, but really I don't like the "necessary evil" argument. That's what the CCP uses all the time. Democracy is imperfectible, might as well not try! Without authoritarianism there is only anarchy and chaos! No other options!

Anyway it's really only a matter of time now.
posted by quincunx at 11:59 PM on March 23


I'm just trying to understand what's going on a little better. Are the protesters against the trade pact because it would increase Taiwan's economic ties with China? The Economist article seems to imply that this is the case. Do most Taiwanese people want their country to officially declare independence?
posted by Kevin Street at 12:02 AM on March 24


Potentially it could suck worse, but really I don't like the "necessary evil" argument.

Oh absolutely, I wasn't really making a "necessary evil" argument. I'm just considering how well democratic, capitalist Russia has been turning out lately.
posted by Jimbob at 12:04 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]


Are the protesters against the trade pact because it would increase Taiwan's economic ties with China?

The official theme is procedural justice. The government pushed through the trade pact without due process*. Most of the protesters and the scholars supporting them actually agree that a trade pact to improve economic cooperation with China is needed; but the way the trade pact was handled does not inspire confidence.

* It's a fairly complicated mess. Long story short: Taiwanese law decrees a process for signing international treaties of this nature, but the China-Taiwan relationship is not international according to the constitution. Prior laws governing China-Taiwan relations establish some checks and balances for treaties that modify prior laws, but this trade pact does not, so it's held to much laxer standards.

Civilian groups knew there was a problem and called for action years ago, but the party in power had no use for more hurdles on their road to better relations with China. The opposition party actually wanted independence; they had little interest to push for laws governing the process, when they could gain more political capital simply opposing these trade pacts in the first place.

So, here we are. In order for the governing party to follow due process, first they must make laws to establish a process. Then they must go over the trade pact item by item with the opposition according to that process. By the time everything is done the right way, a bunch of other Asian countries will have left Taiwan in the dust with their trade pacts. This is a clusterfuck with no conceivable way out.

Mrs Jimbob has been in Taiwan for the last month, and it seems she had no idea it was going on, and neither did I.

My entire family live in Taiwan and none of them pays much attention to it. Without international** support, any action on Taiwan's part to distance itself from China dooms Taiwan. Most people in Taiwan's rapidly aging population realize this, which is why Kuomintang won in 2012.

** The ~international community~ might be interested to note that Taiwan has many of the same territorial disputes with its neighbors that China has. While the neighbors and China exchange diplomatic words of war ("u r Voldemort!" "no u r!!!" "stfu HP stans SOMEONE STOP HITLER" - is this real life, or is this terribly written fantasy?), absolutely no one gives a single fuck about Taiwan's claims.
posted by fatehunter at 1:39 AM on March 24 [4 favorites]


I think everyone should calm down. And stop fighting about claims. *leaves*
posted by evil_esto at 3:03 AM on March 24


Do most Taiwanese people want their country to officially declare independence?

Polls are generally about 20% wanting independence, 60% wanting the status quo and 15% unification. This has more on recent polls and the meaning of the status quo option.

There isn't universal agreement amongst economists that the trade pact would be good for Taiwan. There is a growing concern amongst young people especially that the benefits of closer ties with China are primarily for the 1%, not the ordinary Taiwanese, and the KMT government is returning to its authoritarian past and ignoring their views.

J Michael Cole's blog is a good source of considered analysis on Taiwan.
posted by kerplunk at 6:23 AM on March 24 [2 favorites]


There's been a lot of attention and sympathy for the protests over here in Hong Kong - both places have been benefiting for years from trade with China and investing in the mainland. I would say that while business leaders and the rich are keen to strengthen ties, normal people have more mixed feelings towards this. The influx of tourists and immigrants can be overwhelming at times and there hasn't been much assistance given to smaller local businesses or young people.

There's also the fact that Taiwan actually has a functioning democratic system that we're trying so hard to develop (Current Beijing suggestion is a sham: they get to control who can run, with "patriotism" requirements to weed out any undesirables). They're what HK wants to be and HK represents Taiwan's reunification nightmare. Granted we gets to join all sorts of international organisations and other goodies but we'll never get democracy. Taiwan has democracy but nothing else a proper country should have because China throws its weight around and completely isolates them. And both places cannot survive without Chinese money. You're kind of fucked either way when dealing with China.
posted by monocot at 7:23 AM on March 24 [9 favorites]


J Michael Cole's blog is a good source of considered analysis on Taiwan.

Frankly, writers for Taipei Times (published by the pro-DPP, pro-independence Liberty Times Group) are not a good source of balanced reporting; neither are writers for the pro-KMT United Daily News and China Times. One of the worst aspects of Taiwan's political scene is how everything falls into the same old pan-Green (DPP) versus pan-Blue (KMT) trap. The only major news source that could be considered somewhat politically neutral is Apple Daily (by Next Media from Hong Kong), whose mandate is gross sensationalism and whose political leaning is populist.

A major goal for Liberty's English reporting is to gain international support for their cause. It's often the sole provider of English reporting on major events in Taiwan, because it's the only side that cares. UDN and China Times would rather be noticed by the mainland Chinese. Too bad that neither side has any significant presence on their preferred scene. Apple Daily gets more international and mainland Chinese exposure through its animated news and paparazzi reporting, in addition to having the most readers at home by a wide margin.

You're kind of fucked either way when dealing with China.

This, pretty much. For example.
posted by fatehunter at 9:30 AM on March 24 [3 favorites]


J Michael Cole no longer works for the Taipei Times, partly over their partisanship hiding the real issues from foreign readers.
posted by kerplunk at 10:10 AM on March 24


Good for J Michael Cole. I have no use for his endless Sinophobic reporting, but I'm glad that he ditched Liberty, which was always beneath him.

Oh lord, I like his takedown of a smear piece by UDN. The quality of journalism in mainstream Taiwanese media is so low, it would be an improvement to replace them all with people from Gawker.
posted by fatehunter at 11:20 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]


Are there any particularly good bloggers on Taiwan who aren't biased?
posted by Apocryphon at 2:02 PM on March 24


Do most Taiwanese people want their country to officially declare independence?

Polls are generally about 20% wanting independence, 60% wanting the status quo and 15% unification.


This is really quite a complicated question, but a key thing to remember that the decision between independence, unification and the status quo is strongly colored by the fact that China has lots of missiles aimed toward Taiwan (largely on the Fujian coast, across the 180-km strait) and that it has explicitly stated it will use force if Taiwan were to declare independence. Furthermore, an ever-increasing amount of Taiwan's economy consists of trade and investment in China, and an abrupt halt to that for whatever reason would be sharply disruptive to the island, to say the least.

This is a completely personal analysis, so I'm happy to be taken down, but it's my personal assessment that in a perfect world a majority of -- but certainly not all -- Taiwanese people would prefer an independent Taiwan, at peace with China, likely with strong economic ties to China but with full international recognition.

However, this is an exceedingly unlikely scenario, and the status quo represents what is generally considered to the best possible outcome at this time. Immediate unification is undesirable because of sharp political and economic differences between the mainland and Taiwan; immediate declarations of independence are undesirable because that is basically provoking an attack that will end well for nobody involved. So, the status quo is sort of the de facto best solution.
posted by andrewesque at 5:12 PM on March 24 [2 favorites]


Are there any particularly good bloggers on Taiwan who aren't biased?

I have personal favorites, but none of them blogs in English. Most truly balanced reporting (or as balanced as it could realistically get) is on local issues for the local audience. "Good" is arguably even harder to come by than "unbiased".
posted by fatehunter at 6:41 PM on March 24


Thanks for posting this, Poagao.
posted by homunculus at 7:31 PM on March 24


You're welcome; I was surprised nobody had posted it yet, but then again, Taiwan is kind of a media black hole in many ways. I know Michael and have met him several times at the protests as we have both been photographing in and around them since they began. They reminded me at first a bit of the Wild Lily Student protests that I joined as a student in 1990, but the tone has changed over the past few days as more groups and people got involved for various reasons.
posted by Poagao at 8:30 PM on March 24


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