I've heard a lot of talk on both sides about the protests currently going on - which, if you hadn't noticed, I wholeheartedly support to the point of going down there 2 days in a row, with a sign, and even giving a speech.
If people are going to oppose these protests, I do hope they'll do so on their own merits and not on grounds that are simply not true.
With that, here are the main reasons why those opposed to the protests feel as they do, and why they're wrong.
1.) "these protests are anti-free trade, which shows that they don't know what they're talking about"
The protests are not anti-free trade or even anti Fu Mao (although it is true that most of the protesters have serious reservations about Fu Mao). The protests are about the way it was forced through the legislature. At this stage it doesn't actually matter what's in Fu Mao, because the people don't know (the KMT has not seen fit to tell us - hmmm....I wonder why. Perhaps because they know it'll be good for them and their cronies but bad for Taiwan?) - what matters is that it was passed in a despicable, underhanded, dictatorial, autocratic way that is simply not acceptable in a democracy.
The fact that the protesters don't know the details of Fu Mao is precisely the point - the KMT hasn't told the public. The public need to know. It is their right. How can they be expected to support this black box?
That is what's being protested - the way Fu Mao was rammed through. Nothing more, nothing less. What's in Fu Mao can be discussed and protested or supported later.
If you're going to oppose the protests, oppose it based on what is actually being protested, not some "they hate free trade" bogeyman.
2.) "the students are silly, they don't know"
Well, again, **that's the whole point**. They don't know because the KMT has purposely kept the Taiwanese in the dark about what's in the pact.
And if you go talk to those students and their supporters, you'll find that they aren't silly at all. They're knowledgeable, politically astute, and they want to discuss issues in calm, rational ways. Spontaneous discussion groups have formed on the street during these peaceful protests - I've been in some of them - and what's being said is quite knowledgeable and fluent in the issues facing Taiwan. The speakers at the open mic in front of the Legislative Yuan - which is just beautiful, an open mic for the public to speak in front of the office of a governing body that is meant to follow through on their voices, not quash them - were eloquent and knowledgeable as well.
If you're going to oppose these protests, don't pretend it's because the protesters are idiots. They are not. It's not just insulting and rude to say so, it's also ignorant.
3.) "they're egged on by the DPP"
NOT TRUE. They're alienated by both parties and keeping the DPP at arm's length. The DPP supports them, but did not instigate these protests and they're self-sustaining, not being egged on by outside political forces. (In fact the protesters are not really happy with the way the DPP seems to be taking over some of the protesting - this isn't a green or blue thing - this is a citizens' concern thing).
How insulting, to suggest that anyone with the will to protest must be the pawn of some political party. As though intelligent, concerned citizens - including students - can't have minds and voices of their own to speak out. In this case it is simply not true, and that's one of the most important and significant things about this protest. In fact, the speakers who took the open mic in front of the Legislative Yuan (it must take a lot of anger, or at least a lot of concern, to get people to come up and speak as they have - it's not like Taiwanese culture is known for speaking out when you are upset!) many said openly that "this isn't about green or blue, and I'm not loyal to any political party."
If you're going to oppose these protests, don't pretend it's because they were "organized" by the political party you don't like.
4.) Sure, protest if you want but don't take over the Legislative Yuan! That's selfish/crazy/embarrassing/whatever.
The legislature serves the people, not the other way around. A democracy is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people (to borrow an American cliche). That building belongs to the people, and those who work in it serve the people. The people have every right to it.
Under normal circumstances it would have been better to go through more directly democratic means to make your voice heard, but come on. This was a bill that was shoved through the legislature in a despicable way. It's easy to ignore street protests - which I think is precisely why opponents say "you can protest in the street, but don't take over the Legislature". Yeah, you can protest in the street, but nobody in power is going to pay one whit of attention. And those who support this view know that. They don't actually want anyone to pay attention to the concerns of the people, because they want this bill to pass so that they and all their rich friends can start making ca$h money as soon as possible.
Protesting in the street would never have forced Fu Mao out of passage and back into a clause-by-clause review. The students did what they did because they had to - there was no other way to insist that democratic process be followed in this particular case.
5.) These protests are undemocratic.
Protesting is a democratic right. Civil disobedience is what forces reform on a government that has ceased to hear the will of the people. It's what turns dictatorships into democracies and brings about civil rights reforms for minorities and the oppressed. There is a place for it in any healthy democracy.
Or would you prefer dictatorships never be overthrown, civil rights never be passed, and have apartheid still in existence?
If you want to point your finger at something undemocratic, point it straight at the legislators who pushed this bill through.
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