(originally post on Sociological eye)
While most of the discussions on equality and political change occur around the presidential election in United States last week, events of civil rights movement are not limited to the US continent. A student-led protest for the freedom of speech and assembly is burning through out the island of Formosa. On November 3rd, the representative from China’s Association of Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), Chen Yunlin, came to visit Taiwan and met with the Taiwanese current president, Ma Ying-jeou, on trade agreements and economic cooperation between Taiwan and China. Due to political beliefs, hundreds of protestors gathered around the venue to protest against the meeting. Government officials required that all protesting activities should be shield off within Chen Yunlin’s eye-sight. Taiwanese flags were banned, protesting groups were expelled or arrested, Taiwanese songs were shut off in near by record stores and there were also violence conduct by polices against civilians. This induced a protest led by students against the “law on assembly and parade” in Taiwan. The law on assembly and parade in Taiwan restricts the people’s mobility and freedom to carry out protests, while reinforcing government agencies’ power to monitor and control such events. Liberty and freedom are crucially at stake in this political incident.
Two important aspects of liberty manifested in the protest could find their roots in theories of civil and social rights. Political and social scientist, Deborah Stone, has distinguished between two kinds of liberty: negative liberty and positive liberty. Negative liberty defines rights as the absence of constraint among citizens, while positive liberty defines rights as active provision of opportunities and resources by the government to citizens. The freedom of speech and assembly could be seen as a negative liberty. There should be as less government intervention as possible when members of a society attempt to express their opinions and ideas, no matter what form they take on. A positive notion is also at work in framing the concept of liberty. In order to enable minority groups to express their opinions and ideas more freely, and voice beyond the overwhelming oppression of mainstream ideologies, official agencies should actively provide a secured space and platform for expression. In this on going protest, the students merely request for negative liberty, trying to lift regulations violating basic human rights. Before the law on parade and assembly is abolished, it is hard to ask the government to assure more positive liberty for the freedom of speech.
However, in terms of legal conflicts of the act of the protest itself, a dilemma occurs. The law on parade and assembly demands that protestors have to apply to protest six days before the event. Certain issues are banned and certain locations are not allowed for assemblage. The protest follows the idea of “civil disobedience,” by the philosoper, Thoreau. The students insist on not applying for permission in order to manifest and protest against the absurdity of the law. They also insist on gathering in forbidden locations before expelled by force. The question here is: if citizens do not have to conform to the law when they see it as “illegitimate,” what authority would the law still retain in its ruling over members of the society?
Originally posted in free speech in Taiwan
Protest in Taiwan continues, named “Wild Strawberry Movement”
(Alice Ju, Taiwanese student)
The protest initiated by professors and students in Taiwan has been longer than 96 hours, and protesters voted to name the protest as Wild Strawberry Movement on Nov. 9.
Strawberry is a symbol that mainstream media often used to satire young people who was born in 1980s by calling them “group of strawberry”. Born at the economic rising age, this generation is thought less painstaking than their parents and with less anti-pressure ability, just as strawberry couldn’t be pressed anymore. Students choose “Wild Strawberry” to counteract the stigmatization imposed by media.
This movement is the biggest student movement after the Wild Lily student movement in 1990. Both movements are launched by students, and are held in the same place, Liberty Square, which used to be Memorial Square before 2008. In Wild Lily student movement students demonstrated for democratic reform and now students are seeking the freedom of assembly and parade.
Wild Lily student movement is regarded as a major event in the evolution of democratic in Taiwan. They sought direct elections for president and vice president, which came true in 1996, after six years of the protest.
A lot of the demonstrators are now members of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), the opposite party, including the protest leader of the Wild Strawberry movement, so some people doubt the movement was controlled by DPP.
Originally posted in free speech in Taiwan
Action Statement from the “Wild Strawberry Movement”
We are a group of university professors, students, cultural workers, and
citizens who are concerned about Taiwan’s current state of disorder and
future development. Over the past few days, we have seen numerous
instances of police overreaction and suppression, which have caused injury
to citizens exercising their right to free speech. 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 challenging and
attacking civil society. Our concern over this state of affairs led us to
peacefully protest at the gates of the Executive Yuan, beginning at 11AM on
November 6. At 4PM on November 7, we were dispersed by the police. We
have since regrouped at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall , where we plan to
engage in a long term struggle.
Oppose Police Overreaction and the Suppression of Human Rights by the
Unconstitutional Assembly and Parade Law
Inappropriate acts taken by police in recent days include the following:
Forcibly shutting down major highways. Prohibiting citizens from waving the
national flag in public. Prohibiting citizens from stating that “Taiwan does
not belong to China” in public. Confiscating the personal property of
citizens, such as flags and signs with slogans. Forcibly detaining citizens
filming areas near the Grand Hotel with handheld camcorders, without
following due process. Preventing citizens from flying balloons protesting
toxic Chinese food products. Forcibly detaining citizens on a moped carrying
a Tibetan flag. Ordering the closure of a music store playing Taiwanese
music. The police have tried to justify these repressive actions by claiming
violations of the Assembly and Parade Law, the Social Order Maintenance
Law, and invoking the Regulations on Police Duties, while ignoring the fact
that their actions are in violation of the Constitution, Civil Law, and other
higher level laws guaranteeing the peoples’ free speech and property rights.
On the Importance of Personal Freedom
We believe in the importance of freedom. Imagine for a moment what
would have resulted had the government ordered the police to crack down
on the 2007 Red Shirt demonstration in front of the Presidential Office. The
citizens of Taiwan would not have had the opportunity to listen to other
opinions. It was only because they were not dispersed that different voices
could be heard. Only by being exposed to numerous different viewpoints,
can we learn how to determine for ourselves the quality of different
opinions. This is an essential requirement for a functioning civil society, and
illustrates the importance of free speech.
It is because free speech is so important that its protection is enshrined in
the Constitution. Other laws must support the Constitution, facilitating its
execution and specifying its limits. Despite this, the Assembly and Parade
Law – left over from the authoritarian days of martial law, gravely damages
the right to free speech. By requiring protesting citizens to acquire a permit
for a lawful demonstration, rather than simply notifying the government
beforehand, it allows protests to be declared illegal before they even take
place. Its excessive provisions for restricted areas off limits to protesters,
allows governmental organs to insulate themselves from being challenged by
public opinion. By granting the police excessive powers, it allows the police
to take the place of judges in a court of law.
Amend the Assembly and Parade Law
We provide the following suggestions for revising the Assembly and Parade
Law: (1) Change the current permit system to a notification system. The
government has no right to examine the peoples’ motivations beforehand,
and declare unfavorable demonstrations to be illegal before they even take
place; (2) Reexamine the current provisions for restricted areas.
Demonstrations and marches allow unarmed citizens without any other
means to make their grievances known and petition for redress. The current
restricted areas do not allow the people to challenge governmental
agencies; (3) Clarify permissible actions by the police in enforcing the law.
Do not grant a blank check for the police to exercise whatever methods they
see fit; (4) Make the new law an administrative law, rather then penal law.
Compared to other laws, the current Assembly and Parade Law calls for
heavier punishment for the same illegal actions, violating the principle of
Punish Police Personnel Engaging in Inappropriate Behavior
The recent clashes between the people and the police have left us with a
great sense of sorrow. We have been asked why we have not stood out to
condemn violent mob behavior. To this, we provide the following response:
We are determined to protect and support the people in freely expressing
their opinions, and condemn any and all acts of violence, be they from the
people or the police. From the many events of the past few days, we have
seen that while violent acts on the part of the people can be regulated by
law, law enforcement agencies can also abuse their power to justify
unlimited brutality without any appropriate restriction or regulation. It is
because of this that we condemn the government and the police for
increasingly ignoring the law, and for inappropriate use of force to violently
suppress the rights of the people to freely express their views. We request
that a full investigation be carried out to identify police officers who abused
their authority, and that appropriate punitive measures be taken.
Additionally, the directors of the police and national security agencies who
are ultimately responsible must step down.
President Ma must Apologize
The use of force by police is a symbol of state sponsored violence, and
should only be used when absolutely necessary to safeguard the rights of the
people to life, liberty, and property. Its use should never be employed
without the utmost care. However, police agencies are only passive
mechanisms that execute the orders issued to them. The positions and
directives of the government, as well as the ruling party, will directly
impact how rank and file police officers go about their duties. We condemn
the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou for trampling on the spirit of
freedom and democracy that are fundamental to the foundation of our
nation, and demand that he apologize.
Creating a movement of Civil Disobedience
We are a movement of civil disobedience initiated by students, and with
students as our core. When the government invokes the unconstitutional
Assembly and Parade Law, or abuses lawful governmental authority,
subsequent governmental actions are illegitimate. The people have a right
to refuse to obey illegitimate governmental actions. We hope that all people
who agree with our statement will join us in this movement to demand that
President Ma Ying-jeou and Premier Liu Chao-shiuan apologize to all
citizens; that National Police Agency Director-General Wang Cho-chiun and
National Security Bureau Director Tsai Chao-ming step down; and that the
Legislative Yuan immediately amend the Assembly and Parade Law so that it
does not threaten the rights of the people.
(Translated by Loren Chang,海天)
(Alice Ju,Taiwanese student)
The protest launched on Nov. 6 by professors and students in National Taiwan University has not finished, and students in Kaohsiung, Tainan, Taichung, and Hsinchu begin to protest.
There were still 700 students in the Square of Freedom outside the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall at 3 a.m. on Nov. 9.
Originally posted in free speech in Taiwan
(Jiaoyan Huang,Taiwanese student)
Since 1949, Taiwan has been governed by KMT (a political party from China), and there was no human right or speaking freedom. However, people in this country wanted these rights back in 1980s. There was an important person, whose name was Nanrong Zheng, and he tried to stand against the government and to correct the unreasonable political situation at that time. He was accused of violating the law of election and was put in prison in 1986. After discharged, Mr. Zheng worked for the Taiwan independence and for the particular 228 incident, which was an event about how KMT crucified Taiwanese in 1947. Because he published many magazines and tried to present the ideas different from KMT, he was considered as the betrayer of ROC by KMT in 1989, but it was not the truth. He claimed that unfortunately, KMT can imprison body but not the spirit. Then he stayed in the office from January 21 and committed suicide burning himself in April 7. He sacrificed himself to play against KMT for free speaking and Taiwan independence.
As DDP governed the country, the recently illegal protests became legal immediately, such as red-cloth protest (2006) and the invalid election of Taiwan president (2004). However, this time, KMT allowed police to overuse the power and prohibit Taiwanese to say anything which is different from KMT. Compared with Mr. Zheng, the recent protests are more peaceful; however, I still hope Taiwanese can live without scare. Now KMT governs the operation of Legislative Yuan, so they have the power to amend the law. If this unreasonable law can be corrected, the minor ideas can be spoken out. I wish Taiwan can step into next stage after this protest. The law can become more complete, and the government can put the rights of people ahead more.
Originally posted in blog 1106