University of Wisconsin–Madison

On Politics

When I came to Taiwan, I swore I would not discuss politics, ESPECIALLY on the internet. Taiwanese politics, especially in regard to cross-strait relations, are an extremely complicated and sensitive issue. I’m taking an entire class just on the issue, and I openly admit that even after the semester ends, I will still not have a comprehensive understanding of all the ins and outs of what goes on in Taipei domestically, and between Taipei and Beijing. As an American, I believe I should have an opinion, but it’s not my place to get especially involved in any political activity, especially because I am only at NTU for one semester. And so, I imagined, I would come here to study politics in books and newspapers, leaving a wide gap between myself and the potentially explosive nature of political arguments.

That is, until this week.

I can feel the internet flames already. Stick with me. Trust me, I’m NOT looking for a fight.

On Tuesday, Taiwanese citizens staged a protest of a cross-strait service trade agreement (and the sly and illegal means by which it was handled) by taking over the Legislative Yuan (highest legislative body). Most of these citizens were students from NTU, and many of the leaders of the occupation come from my department. Talk of the trade agreement and the protest has taken the university by storm. Now, the protests have attracted thousands upon thousands of Taiwanese. Even in my all-foreign-student classes, the main topic of discussion has been the protests. My Facebook newsfeed is flooded with new articles and opinions by the minute. To put it lightly, the protesting seems to be a very big deal.

I can’t help but think back to the capitol protests of 2011, when my classes dwindled down to about 5 people, with the rest out protesting. The feeling here is much the same.

I must say, the protests themselves have been very peaceful so far, even with thousands of *angry* people showing up. The majority of people are calmly mingling, talking, and listening to speeches. So, family, you can breathe a sigh of relief; I’m completely safe and fine.

What makes this complicated is that information is being spewed out in rhetoric-laden heaps, and it is difficult to know exactly what is going on. I’m not clear if many of the Taiwanese news channels are actually controlled by the government, or just have strong de-facto political interests in not reporting the protests, but at any rate, most information about what is going on is not happening through the news channels. So most students are sharing information through Facebook. Of course, the problem with this is… its Facebook. Not exactly the most reliable of all sources. There is lots of information going around from both sides of the argument, but it’s hard to tell what is legitimate. Add on top of that the fact that Mainland media channels are depicting the students as “Taiwanese Red Guards” (linked below), and the whole matter just gets very, very, very messy.

I’m not going to waste your time telling you my own personal opinions, but I encourage you to look through the stories below. I’m in no way saying these stories are the clearest, most well-informed, or most objective, but they are the stories that I’ve seen floating around the most online. I encourage you to take a look over them, and to form your own opinion. No matter how you feel about the trade agreement, the KMT and DDP, and the protests, one thing is for sure, this issue is HUGE, and will continue to have a lasting impact here.

Chinese

http://www.wetalk.tw/thread-10607-1-1.html

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1sGE4UTM-u4m53fb0f62xW7uqkuvXHu2nFg6-o12nQ0g/mobilebasic?pli=1

… many more than this, but as most of you reading this can’t read Chinese, this seems sufficient for now…

English

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/03/19/world/asia/taiwan-student-protests/index.html

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asiapacific/experts-say-taiwan-has/1042840.html

http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-1108379 (note, this is a “citizen report”, not an
article written by CNN)

http://www.buzzfeed.com/kevintang/taiwanese-students-occupy-parliament-to-protest-illegal-chin

http://www.scmp.com/news/china-insider/article/1453137/isnt-democracy-we-want-taiwanese-students-occupation-legislature (article with reference to Taiwanese Red
Guards)