Skip to main content

Activist Throws Book 'Formosa Betrayed' at Taiwanese President Ma Yingjiu

On September 26 Taiwanese President Ma Yingjiu was hit by a book hurled at him by Yan Mingwei (顏銘緯), a student activist. Ma Yingjiu had just attended a gala organised by the International Franchise Association. According to the Taipei Times, that day an event of the pro-independence Northern Taiwan Society was hosted in the same building. When Ma left the venue, a journalist asked him to comment on Xi Jinping's recent remark that the 'one country, two systems' model is the only way to solve the China-Taiwan issue. The activist then threw the book at the President, hitting his abdomen. 

The 18-year-old Yan Mingwei is a student of sociology at Zhongshan University, and a member of Flanc Radical (基進側翼), an anti-Guomindang organisation. The President's spokesperson, Ma Weiguo (馬瑋國) said that the government accepts the people's right to express their opinions rationally, but condemns every form of violence. 

At a press conference held by Flanc Radical the day following the incident, Yan Mingwei appeared calm and unrepentant. He held in his hands a copy of 'Formosa Betrayed', a book written in 1965 by US diplomat George H. Kerr. Kerr sharply condemned the Guomindang dictatorship in post-war Taiwan and advocated Taiwan's independence. Since its publication the book has become one of the most influential text of anti-Guomindang and pro-independence discourse. The Chinese title of the book, 被出賣的台灣, literally means "Taiwan has been sold out," a phrase often used by anti-Guomindang activists to describe Ma Yingjiu's policies towards China. 

"If you're called 'mob' if you just throw a book at a person who behaves like a dictator," said Yan, "if they label us a mob, if Taiwan since 2008 has been sold out, has been moving towards reunification, then the only way is to use our own flesh, to resist. What this dictatorial regime, the Chinese Nationalist Party, has done to the people of Taiwan is something that the young generation of Taiwanese shouldn't allow to happen." Yan justified his action by saying that the real 'mob' is Ma Yingjiu who has been selling out Taiwan.

What should we make of this incident? Does the young student deserve praise, or should he be condemned?

In a democracy, all citizens have the right to express their view and to protest peacefully. But violence should not be excused. 

A few months ago, during the occupation of the Legislative Yuan by students and activists, I criticised the behaviour of the protesters. I was and probably still am in the minority, and I was fiercely attacked because of my opinions. But so far I haven't changed my mind. Although Taiwan is mostly a peaceful and civilised society, I see some groups of radical activists, journalists and other intellectuals who are spreading hatred against the Guomindang and China.

The occupation of the Legislative Yuan was an undemocratic act per definition. If you disagree with the government, you may protest, you may vote them out at the next election, but you don't paralyse the institutions by force. No state and no democracy can exist if a government can be ousted or blocked by the crowd at any moment. I disagreed with George W. Bush's policies, but I wouldn't have supported a Sunflower Movement in the US. I never liked Margaret Thatcher's neoliberal policies, but she was elected and had the right to govern. Democracy is about pluralism, fairness, and the respect of the rules of the game. 

Ma Yingjiu was democratically elected, twice. He has received a popular mandate. In the next elections, the voters can withdraw this mandate. But he is not like Leung Chun-Ying in Hong Kong, who has not been chosen by the voters in fair, open and fully democratic elections. From this point of view, Hong Kong and Taiwan are completely different. I support 'Occupy Central' in Hong Kong, because Hong Kong has no democracy. But Taiwan has a democracy. It is not a perfect one, but it has been steadily improving over the years and can still improve. 

Calling Ma a dictator, occupying the parliament, throwing objects at him, are just the denial of the reality in Taiwan today: namely that it is a democracy. If the majority of the Taiwanese do not like the Guomindang's China policy, they can punish it by voting other parties. That democracy should be nurtured and improved, is a good reason to fight. But populist radicalism that denies others the right to exist and govern, is the opposite of democracy. 

Paradoxically, some radical groups have inherited a few of the bad traits of the martial law era Guomindang. They embrace nationalism (they have just replaced Chinese nationalism with Taiwanese nationalism), they use China as an excuse to justify illegitimate acts aimed at destroying their opponents, and they have little respect for the spirit of democratic institutions. People congratulating Yan after his "heroic deed" show how low some groups in Taiwan have fallen. They are, unfortunately, aided in their hateful rhetoric by a large number of foreign and local intellectuals, who spend most of their time declaring the Guomindang and those who vote for it "un-Taiwanese."

This doesn't mean that I am against criticism of the Guomindang or China. I am opposed to one-party rule, and I think that Taiwan should never become part of the People's Republic of China. I fully respect the point of view of activists who try to protect Taiwan from becoming part of the Communist state. Is Ma Yingjiu harming Taiwan? Perhaps. Does he believe that his policies will lead to the downfall of the Republic of China and the ultimate triumph of the Communist regime? I doubt it. 

No matter what we think, democracy offers a civilised, peaceful way to deal with political opponents: elections. Use the free media, protests and activism to convince as many people as possible not to vote for the Guomindang. These are the weapons of democracy. 


Popular posts from this blog

Will The Huawei Case Finally Awaken Democrats To The China Threat And The Danger Of Faux Free Trade Rhetoric?

On January 28 the Department of Justice of the United States unsealed two cases against Huawei, China's largest telecommunications company, and its chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou. 
Huawei has been accused of trying to steal trade secrets, committing bank fraud, breaking confidentiality agreements and violating sanctions against Iran. One indictment claims that Huawei attempted to steal trade secrets from T-Mobile by promising bonuses to employees who collected confidential information.
Huawei is not a company like any other. Over the years it has benefited enormously from the support of the Chinese Communist regime. The founder of Huawei, Ren Zhengfei, joined China's army during the Cultural Revolution. In 1978 he also joined the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). 
In the early years Huawei's sources of capital were high-interest loans (20%-30%) from Chinese state-owned enterprises. Ren also secured soft loans from the local government of Shenzhen thanks to his personal co…

Chinese Dissident Zhang Jilin Detained By Police In Chongqing After Calling On Xi Jinping To Resign

Chinese dissident Zhang Jilin (张吉林) has been detained by police in the city of Chongqing after publicly saying that President Xi Jinping should be removed from office.
According to Taiwan-based Apple Daily, on January 17 Zhang talked about China's current affairs on a WeChat group. His ideas received praise from the group members, and he later told friends that he wanted to give a public speech based on the thoughts he had expressed online.
Other dissidents urged him to be careful, but he insisted that he had "the right to free speech." On January 19 Zhang went to Guanyinqiao Square, in the city of Chongqing, and delivered a speech about China's political situation, calling on Xi Jinping to be removed from office.
"I think it's time for Xi Jinping to be removed from office," Zhang told a crowd according to an audio recording. "The Chinese Communist Party will not do anything to the people. If you don't believe me, look, I have been giving a speech…

Quali sono i valori di sinistra? Alcune riflessioni

Mi capita a volte di avere dibattiti sui valori di sinistra con persone di diversi colori politici. Spesso, però, mi sembra che ci sia confusione sul loro significato. Ho dunque deciso di spiegare brevemente quali siano, secondo me, i valori di sinistra, e di delineare alcune politiche economiche per metterli in pratica.

1) democrazia parlamentare, diritti umani, separazione dei poteri, Stato di diritto;

2) progresso economico e sociale a beneficio della maggioranza dei cittadini, e non solo di una minoranza;

3) difesa del lavoro e della dignità dei lavoratori;

4) Stato sociale;

5) economia di mercato mista;

6) commercio equo.

Quali politiche secondo me dovrebbe sostenere la sinistra?

1) difesa dei diritti e del potere contrattuale dei lavoratori;

2) salario minimo;

3) mantenimento e, dove necessario, miglioramento del reddito di cittadinanza;

4) creazione di un sistema di gare pubbliche per imprenditori, e selezione tramite voto popolare di aziende da sovvenzionare con denaro pubblic…