China Beat Archive



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November 7, 2008 in The China Beat


Copyright November 7, 2008. Used by permission.


The past few days in Taiwan have been marked by a mixture of joy and trepidation: joy at Obama’s unprecedented electoral triumph and what it means for the achievement of justice and racial harmony (dare we hope that one day a Hakka or Aborigine may become President of Taiwan?), but also trepidation over the state of Taiwan’s democratic system. Violent street protests accompanying the visit of Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Chairman Chen Yunlin 陳雲林 have shocked and dismayed the nation, prompting the normally mild-mannered President Ma Ying-jeou 馬英九 to pound the podium in rage while issuing a strong rebuke to those involved.

There is ample blame to go around for both the government and opposition, and especially for those opportunistic DPP politicians and other public figures who attempted to use the protests against Chen’s visit to gain greater notoriety and/or enhance their prospects for winning future elections. At the same time, however, simply labeling the protests as the work of some sort of violent rabble overlooks the fact that many participants were law-abiding citizens deeply concerned about their country’s future. To keep things in perspective, the pattern of largely peaceful protests dissolving into violence following the infiltration of gangsters and other anti-social elements also occurred following the Presidential Election of 2004 and the Depose Bian (倒扁) movement of 2006, the main difference being that the leaders of these protests were mostly members of the pan-blue camp or their sympathizers.