Showing posts with label freedom_square. Show all posts
Showing posts with label freedom_square. Show all posts

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

I attended the Taipei commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre and...

The event was emceed by Lin Fei-fan and Miao Poya

...I'm not going to give you a rundown. You can read one here (it comes after discussion of a conference that took place last weekend leading up to the event, which I was unable to attend for work reasons.


I'll just say briefly that I've attended in years past, when the crowd was smaller and perhaps a bit more casual, there to remember the events of June 4th, 1989 but not terribly weighed down by them.

This year's event was better-attended than those in years past. 

This year, I don't know what it was. I would simply expect that there'd be a greater number of PRC spies in the audience than usual, though I can always assume a few are around at any civil society event in Taiwan, so that wasn't it. Perhaps it was the importance of this being a 'Big 0' anniversary. Perhaps trepidation over China's increasing global influence, expansionism and belligerence. Perhaps its increasingly annexationist and violent rhetoric regarding Taiwan. Perhaps a latent knowledge and fear that political conditions in China are worsening, that a genocide is going on while the world shrugs its shoulders ("never again" my ass), that they've already silenced Hong Kong and Taiwan could be next - they intend for Taiwan to be next and this grows more obvious by the day. But I don't really know.

It was something though, and another friend picked up on it too.

I got to meet Miao Poya

"Why does the crowd feel different?" he asked. I'd noticed it too, but couldn't put my finger on it.

I thought for a minute and answered, simply -

Vice-President Chen Chien-jen speaks



Sunday, May 26, 2019

I didn't need to yell at those bigots

The future

I set out yesterday with two goals: to check out the inflatable 'tank man' (the iconic protester from the Tiananmen Square massacre) that has appeared in front of Murderous Dictator Memorial Hall as this is the 30th anniversary of those tragic events, and to get some reading done for my dissertation. My route took me through Freedom Square, where I encountered some anti-gay protesters near the arched Freedom Square gate.

They claimed to be against the new same-sex marriage law because it went against "the will of the people" as laid out in that messed-up referendum last November, but in truth, they were simply anti-gay. Here's how you can tell.

A woman shouting into a microphone made points like:

"We voted against gay marriage in the referendum. But they passed it anyway. I ask you - is this democracy?"

Of course, that's not what happened in the referendum. As black metal frontman and Sexy Legislator Freddy Lim helpfully pointed out, the referendum didn't do that: it specifically (though unclearly) asked if people agreed with changing the civil code to allow same-sex couples to marry, or if that should be done by a separate law. The people voted not to change the civil code, but for 'the rights and interests of same-sex unions to be protected' (if I'm translating that right) through some other law. That is what the referendum questions said. Period, end of story, the end, buh-bye. They did not ask if we should not allow any kind of same-sex unions. 

When the government voted to allow same-sex couples to register their marriages (and make no mistake, they are marriages), they not only did so through a separate law just as the referendum asked them to, but even took out the word 'marriage' in one of the articles as a compromise in a bill that was already a compromise. The bill does say couples can register their "marriage" in another article, but...that is what they have, isn't it? What else would it even be called? What gives the anti-gay side the right to define that word?

In any case, a referendum does not supercede a decision by the highest court. When the legislators acted, they acted in keeping with the principles of democracy (as opposed to populism), in which all people are equal under the law, and no group can vote away the rights or equality of another group. I doubt those protesters were unaware of this.

So no, they're not angry about the referendum. That's an excuse, and not a very logical one. They're angry because they hate gays.

In any case, they were all over the age of 50 or so, and there were maybe 20 of them. So when that woman said "I ask you, is this democracy?" I shouted back "YES!" (all in Mandarin of course).

"Can the government do this?"


Her: "No they can't!"

Me: "You don't understand how referendums work!"

Her: "This isn't democracy!"

Me: "If you don't like equal rights, go to China!"

I may have also laughed loudly at them. (By "may have" I mean, I did.)

So many more people than those angry folks at Freedom Square

Anyway, some very polite police officers came up asked me nicely not to do that, and recommended I go to Ketagalan Boulevard just down the road, where I hadn't realized there was a big, super fun, super gay banquet being prepared. I've been working on my dissertation, okay? I can't keep up with everything these days. Anyway, they were really nice about it, and didn't even take my name...probably because white privilege.

I said "but they just hate gays! They don't care about the referendum!"

Police officer: "Yeah, I know. But they registered their little protest." (translated but pretty direct quote, which I think was pretty cool.)

I did leave - the police were super chill about it and that's fine - but not because I thought it was wrong to shout at some anti-gay protesters. They have the right under freedom of speech and assembly to voice their (bigoted) views. They don't have the right not to face consequences for those views, like being told they're bigoted in public. I didn't force them to stop or take away their microphone, and I couldn't have ejected them if I'd wanted to as it's public space and that's what freedom of speech means. So, no regret there. 

I don't even regret doing it as a foreigner - they probably aren't going to be convinced that same-sex marriage is a local cause in Taiwan. They probably don't care that the anti-gay side is the one that turned to Western hate groups for funding and advice whereas pro-equality groups mostly kept their effort local (though I've heard that some foreign donations did come in late in the game). And I live here too - this is my home and what happens here affects me. As a resident, I also have the right to freedom of speech (really - look it up.)

But, I'd made my point and it was time to move on.

I passed the mass wedding banquet as it was being set up - a friend noted that it was organized by TAPCPR (the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights) and again on my way home when it was in full swing. There were photo backdrops, musical performers, a huge 'flower car' stage and some vendors selling beer, water and promotional goodies. As the banquet was an official function, people who wanted to celebrate but weren't on the guest list came and pickicked on the perimeter. A large screen showing the events on stage was set up for them. The crowd was young, vibrant and enthusiastic. They'd finally grabbed a tiny corner of the privilege to be treated equally and humanely that society had denied them for so long. They were the future.

Picknickers - the main banquet was closer to the Presidential Office

And let me tell you - it was huge. The crowd of thousands (including the banquet-goers) dwarfed the twenty or so oldsters across Jingfu Gate screaming falsehoods about the referendum. Though I didn't see it, I'm also told the oldsters had an audio recording of crying sounds and a hearse (!) at some point.

Which, LOL. Okay. I guess if you're that self-victimizing (seeing as same-sex marriage doesn't affect them at all) and imagine yourself downtrodden (despite being in the age and class that has held so much power and privilege in Taiwan for so long) you have to turn to histrionics.

So in the end, I went home thinking that I didn't really need to yell at them. Not because I was wrong to do so - I truly don't believe that I was, and don't think I actually broke any law - but because it simply wasn't necessary.

The huge crowd across the street, and all the happiness they exuded, made the same point far more effectively.

The aging protesters will look more and more ridiculous as marriage equality slowly becomes an accepted norm in Taiwan, and normal people realize that the sun is still in the sky and the Earth is still spinning and nothing has changed about their own lives, and that if they don't like same-sex unions they don't have to have one. They'll cry and weep and rend their garments, and we will ignore them. (Though let's not get complacent about 2020 - we will eventually win but they will certainly try to use this against Our Lady of Spice, Tsai Ing-wen).

The future held a much bigger party, a much younger party. They won, love won, and Taiwan won, and the angry oldsters with their hearses and black signs can die mad about it. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

It's like air: Tiananmen in Taipei, 2018


Honestly, I feel the need to write about the Tiananmen Square memorial event held yesterday, June 4th not because I think I have anything unique to say about it that others couldn't, but because this year it felt so lightweight that if we don't note it down for the collective Internet memory, the event as a whole will just float away, as though it never happened. Which is, of course, exactly what the Communist Part of China wants. Nobody likes the world remembering massacres they perpetrated.

The event was mostly in Chinese, with a few speakers addressing the crowd in English. I would like to suggest here that the entire event should be bilingual, and next year's 30th anniversary event might actually make the news, so it would be smart to have translators ensuring all talks are available in English and Chinese. I can follow the Chinese, but I can imagine many foreigners in Taipei who'd be otherwise interested in attending might not, because it's not very exciting to hear speeches in a language you don't understand.

As usual, the event featured a number of speakers from a variety of activist groups across Asia, including recorded talks from Uighur activists, two speakers from Reporters Without Borders (based in Taipei) and a particularly electrifying speech by Vietnamese activist and Taipei resident Trinh Huu Long. Yu Mei-nu, Yibee Huang and Zheng Xiu-juan (Lee Ming-che's boss, although that sounds odd to say in English) were some of the Taiwanese speakers.

Zheng likened China's human rights abuses to its intractable pollution problem, saying that "human rights are like air" - when you're breathing comfortably you don't notice them, but when the pollution ratchets up to PM 2.5, you realize how vital clean air to breathe is, and suddenly you're suffocating. (I'm translating roughly from memory here).

Zheng Xiu-juan (鄭秀娟) and Yibee Huang (黃怡碧)

There were also performances, including a memorable entrance by Taiwanese rapper Chang Jui-chuan (張睿銓), who sang one of his newer songs, Gin-a. The lyrics (in Taiwanese) discuss Taiwanese democracy movements and freedom fighters post-1949:

Killing after killing, jail after jail...
Hey kid, you must remember

Their blood and sweat, torment and sacrifice
Gave you the air you're breathing

Empty chairs at empty tables

And that's just it - the 6/4 event, held every year, feels like a part of the air here in Taiwan. It just happens, everyone knows it happens, and they assume others will attend so they take it for granted. It's there, it's always there, maybe next year, someone will show up. I don't need to worry about it. Ugh, Monday night.

What you get, then, is an attendance rate that looks like it might have been less than 100 (but damn it, Ketagalan Media made the effort. We showed up.) Which, again, is exactly what the CCP wants - for us to forget.

In 2014 this event was huge, with camera lights stretching back into the distance and prominent Taiwanese activists showed up - including Sunflowers fresh off the high of electrifying society and about to watch the tsunami they started wash across the 2014 elections. We thought we could change Asia. We thought it was within our grasp...and now there are empty chairs stretching back, and nobody seems to notice the air they're breathing.

Some say it doesn't matter, or is odd to hold in Taiwan, as China is a different country. It's true that China and Taiwan are two different nations. What happens in China affects Taiwan, though, and hosting memorial events so close to China and in venues where a number of Chinese are likely to walk by does make a difference, if a small one. We're on the front lines in the fight against China's encroaching territorial and authoritarian expansionism, so it means something to take a stand - even a small one - here.

In 2016 an entire group of Chinese tourists walked right past the event - this year, someone seems to have ensured that wouldn't happen again. For once, Dead Dictator Memorial Hall was completely devoid of Chinese tour groups and I doubt that was a coincidence. What I'm saying is, somebody noticed.

It also serves as a reminder that Taiwan is not China - we can and do hold these events here, and we do so freely and without fear. We talk about our history, as Chang does in Gin-A. We discuss our common cause, as democracy activists from across Asia did last night. What we do - let's not forget human rights abuses that happen in Taiwan - may not perfectly align with what we stand for, but we talk about it, and we have the space and air we need to work toward something better. In China you can't breathe at all.

But the people who died at Tiananmen 29 years ago are among those whose sacrifice may eventually give China the air it needs to breathe - though I grow less sure that it might happen in my lifetime. Fighters like Lee Ming-che, thrust into the national spotlight and just as quickly forgotten even in Taiwan, give Taiwan the air it needs to breathe. We give ourselves air and beat back the oppressive particulates trying to suffocate us, by standing up for what's right and refusing to forget the massacres of the past.

We must remember. We can't let this event float away on the air, as though it doesn't matter, or it doesn't matter for Taiwan. It absolutely does.

I mean, I get it - I'd like to feel totally safe knowing my freedom and guaranteed access to human rights was not in question. I'd like to sit on the couch and eat Doritos and not even worry about it, because I don't have to. It's tiring to keep showing up. Unfortunately, Taiwan really is on the front line, and we can't do that - we can't pretend it doesn't (or shouldn't) matter.

Next year is the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Mark your calendar now, make sure you're free, and show up.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

One Hundred and One Flowers

(Disclaimer: the rant below is directed at the Communist Party of China, not the people of China nor Chinese culture. Just in case someone decides to get all wonky on me.)

As if you needed one, here's another reminder of why Taiwan is better than China, and you - whoever you may be - are better off living in Taiwan than China:

In China, Would-Be Protesters Pay a Price

China promised an outlet for protesters and free speech during the Olympics. We all remember - we should remember - how that went down when those elderly ladies attempted to bag a permit to do so. They ended up detained, in jail, and unable to protest:

Two women from Beijing in their late 70s, Wu Dianyuan and Wang Xiuying, were sentenced to a year of reeducation in a labor camp for protesting their forced eviction from their homes in 2001; the sentence was reduced and later rescinded, but the women said in an interview that they are being closely monitored by local police and that cameras have been installed outside their homes.

Tang Xuecheng, an entrepreneur in his 40s who had gone to Beijing to protest the government's seizure of his mining company, was detained by local officials and sent to a "mental hospital for mental health assessment," according to a public security official in his home town in Chenzhou city in Hunan province. Tang was released several months later.

Zhong Ruihua, 62, and nine others from the industrial city of Liuzhou who tried to petition against property seizures were arrested and have been charged with disturbing the public order. Zhang Qiuping, Zhong Ruihua's youngest daughter, saw her mother for the first time since August on Feb. 23, during her trial.

And now this...

In the end, official reports show, China never approved a single protest application -- despite its repeated pledges to improve its human rights record when it won the bid to host the Games. Some would-be applicants were taken away by force by security officials and held in hotels to prevent them from filing the paperwork. Others were scared away by warnings that they could face "difficulties" if they went through with their applications.

Why didn't this get more media attention when it was happening? Why isn't it getting more media attention now? It's toward the bottom of the Washington Post website although the page marker is fairly front-and-center in the print edition.

Why did people expect any different from China? The government is made up of liars and fascists. I am so tired of blog posts, commentators and even politicians explaining away China's disdain for human rights. I am nauseous about people who apologize for their horrific, oppressive regime. I am sick at heart that the realpolitik of the day (I'm looking at you, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. I had some faith in you) overrides the freedom, liberty and basic rights of millions - no, billions of people.

It is sick. Tear-running, face-reddening, blood-racing, black-moodening sick.

Ji has spent the past eight months in various states of arrest and detention. In January, he was sentenced to three years in prison, the maximum penalty allowed, on charges of faking official seals on documents he filed on behalf of his clients. Ji is appealing.

We all learned in History class about Mao's "100 Flowers" period where intellectuals were encouraged to speak out; and then were subsequently detained, investigated, interrogated, jailed and at times executed. It doesn't take a genius to see that the charges are faked, and that Ji, like others, is being detained because he dared to admit he'd like to protest against the power-gobblers who run his government. History is again repeating itself.

It's happening again and there just isn't enough rage out there. There isn't enough desire to do good. There aren't enough good people and those that exist are doing nothing in the name of national debt, geopolitical interests and profit margins. It actually makes my fingers shake - literally shake - to see a world so blithe to the national interest and defense of a functioning (if at times eccentric), prosperous, good country like Taiwan - yes, country, you Commie bastards - silently enabling Big Red across the strait to wreak its worst crimes against humanity.

There is a reason why the Falun Dafa protests where Chinese tourists are near. There is a reason why the National Democracy Memorial Hall is awash with Tibetan freedom activists. There is a reason why "terrorism" on the part of the Uighurs is seen as such a threat, and Uighurs across Xinjiang deeply despise the Chinese autocracy with a righteous venom. (I don't call it terrorism, by the way. Most "terrorist" claims are false, and those that are real should be considered freedom fighting. My great-grandfather was an Armenian freedom fighter against the wave Turkish genocide in 1915 so my own family lore knows this as a well-trodden story).

There is a reason why I left China a few years ago, after a year of teaching there. Nevermind that the water was so acidic that it rotted my teeth (I now have three crowns). Nevermind that the air was so grey that I could barely breathe, that I got bronchial pneumonia twice from the pollution and dirt (and don't say I'm weak; I've lived in India and I was fine there), that you can't trust the food supply or that the CCP is obviously corrupt and makes only the most superficial of gestures to hide it. Nevermind that despite being equal under the law, women are treated in an infuriatingly sexist manner - even in the cities. I left because I couldn't stand the lack of freedom. I couldn't stand that my boss was worried enough about my many trips to the hilltop temple - only because it was the only attractive and authentically old place in town, not because I was going all Buddhist - that he'd ask me not to go so often lest I attract the attention of the police. It bothered me when I told my local friend that I was disappointed with the lack of civil uprising, she 'shooshed' me. It stuck like a pin in flesh when the boss's brother - a man I didn't even really care for as a person - broke down in tears after drinking a few too many and told us about how he saw his best friend get shot in the face by police at Tiananmen Square, and the police had insisted later that they had done no such thing (if they had done no such thing, why was he dead? They couldn't, and didn't bother to, answer that). It stung that I couldn't access basic websites such as Blogspot, Google, Hotmail (at times), the Washington Post, the New York Times...most of those are available now, although some only are because they censored their content. They aided and abetted evil (Google, I'm looking at you). It bit, knowing that everything on TV and in the newspapers was propaganda trash. You couldn't get your hands on a fact - an honest-to-god fact - to save your life.

Then the government wonders why it faces so much scrutiny? Lee Kuan Yew, the Prime Minister of Singapore, asks why people laud India's development but abhor China's? India is free, or mostly so. China is emphatically not. The Chinese government is not facing nearly enough scrutiny. If that makes them uncomfortable, well, tough.

There is a reason why so many who are wronged by China, or see others being wronged by China, revile their government like a fang stuck in their hearts.

Because - not to put too fine a point on it - the Chinese government sucks and they need to be deposed. NOW. I don't care if that "hurts the feelings of the Chinese people" (which it doesn't). I'm sick of playground diplomacy and bratty tactics. "You want to meet with the Dalai Lama? Waaaah! Nooo! You hurt my feeelings!"

Only 77 applications were officially filed. Even so, all but three were subsequently withdrawn, the state-run New China News Agency said, after authorities "satisfactorily addressed" petitioners' concerns.

Yeah, right. Satisfactorily my lilly-white arse. They were bullied and pushed into withdrawing them. Then the state lied about it the way they lied about TiananmenAnd what about the thousands - hundreds of thousands - who would like to file such a petition but are afraid to do so, for exactly the reasons why the applicants of three non-withdrawn petitions have been harassed.

Why is this OK? Why do we live in a world where this is OK? Why is a situation allowed to exist where a free and functional country like Taiwan- exactly the sort of system the US has lied about trying to foster around the world and exactly the sort of country China should aim to emulate - is pushed aside in the name of "pragmatism"?

Before you get all realistic on me, I submit that it doesn't have to be this way. The USA insisted on having its way in Iraq and it still has enough sway with China - our economic crisis is their economic crisis, after all, and their trade profits are our trade deficits - to tell it to stop. Just...stop.

Panama - Panama, for crying out loud - recognizes Taiwan. Let me repeat that again. Panama. They have a nifty canal, if you recall. That canal is enough of a counterweight against their rebuttal of Chinese governmental deathmongering, and yet the entire might of the USA, as weakened as it might be, isn't? Come on.

Instead, we get the optimists of China, the best and the brightest that that grey, bleak political wasteland has to offer, being stomped down with a fury that the rest of the world should not tolerate:

But at his core, Ji was an optimist and believed that change was possible from within the system. He decided he would learn the letter of the law so that he could help laobaixing, or ordinary people, deal with their grievances. He took on cases for free and lived on 3 yuan, less than 50 cents, a day....

When Ji went to Beijing in August armed with carefully prepared documents about a dozen local cases -- including one about a man who died in detention and others about illegal land seizures -- he was convinced that because China had passed a law allowing him to file a protest application, nothing bad could come of it.

He had recently been evicted from his home office in Fuzhou on suspicion of trying to incite people to petition in Beijing, friends said, but even then he didn't waver from his conviction that China's central government would keep its promises to allow public dissent during the Games, according to his sisters and friends.

If the USA and the EU got together and said "Hey China - stop it. Now. Be nice to Tibet and Xinjiang, let Taiwan decide its own fate, stop stealing the property of the poor for the good of the rich and for goodness sake, stop arresting and killing people"...guess what? China would stop it. They'd have to.

No, I am not wrong.

Yes, we on the 'free', liberal democratic end of the spectrum, the end that Francis Fukuyama once called the final destination of human civilization, do have the power to make it end. We don't even need to fire a bullet.

"Everything is fine here, please don't worry! Please believe that I only have done good rather than brought harm to our people and country. I will win the lawsuit in the end," Ji wrote.

His sister Ji Qiaozhuang said she has been surprised and disappointed by how he has been treated because he has never advocated controversial positions such as the end of one-party rule.

"He's not a revolutionary, a young man with anti-government feelings," she said. "He's an old man who just wants to help others. China needs people like him to progress."

Indeed. It's too bad that the Chinese government refuses to recognize that. They'll need to if they want to become the sort of country they can become and should become. A country like Taiwan.

While evil is allowed to exist, why do good 'men' do nothing?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Here are some "extremists" for you.

Apologies for the poor quality of the video. My camera doesn't do well at night.

Except they're not "extremists" at all.

Some photos and videos from the student protest and accompanying support protest at National Democracy Memorial Hall continuing last night.

They're students - and not the radical kind; they're students from medical school and teacher's college. One boy is studying to be a dentist and his father is at the protest supporting his actions there. They're smiling kids with glasses and in jeans.

Supporting them, marching in a circle in front of the gate, are some more "extremists" - they are grandmothers, parents, middle managers, retired people, office workers and day laborers. There are even a few foreigners. Again, not extremists. Average people who happen to have political views that are inconvenient, so they are wrongly labeled.

I wrote awhile back that nobody was doing anything about the martial law imposed while Chen Yunlin was visiting, and am happy to be proven wrong. It would be better, however, if more people were there. Get those 600,000 demonstrators back; that'll show Ma how this country really feels about his actions during that visit.

It also worries me that this is getting approximately zero international press. BBC had a story, otherwise people worldwide seem to think all the hullabaloo is over the arrest of Chen Shui-bian (we weren't sure if he was taken into custody or formally arrested; this morning's Taipei Times says he was formally arrested yesterday).

It seems other stories have appeared in various newspapers, including the South China Morning Post - but, ahh...tell that to the otherwise worldly and well-educated friends I've spoken to who haven't got a clue what's going on here until I mention it. If that's a sample of the world of people who should care, it sure is an ominous sign.

Protesters - look at those extremists! - supporting the students.

Extremist banners with extremist Chinese characters on them. I forgot what this one said, but I see the characters for game and for tragedy - so probably something about amending the parade law. How extreme!

Protesting students and strawberry balloons. Sorry - extreme strawberry balloons. The balloons are there, presumably, as a smart-aleck comeback to the student generation being labeled the "strawberry generation" - soft and unable to stand up to pressure.

Which would also explain why so many of the adults I talked to (the students were listening to speakers) seemed to be parents who were there supporting their offspring.

The extreme gate to Freedom Square and Nat. Democracy Memorial Hall (aka Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall).
Woman reading the names of students protesting and asking for a change to the parade law. There's another faction that says Ma and the entire executive cabinet and chief of police should step down.

The number of extreme hours that the students have been there.

The protesters gather to chant a few times.

Let's see - someone's auntie, a kid who works in an office in Neihu somewhere, a nice elderly couple who could be your neighbors. Extreme, huh?

There were a few speakers through the evening while I was there. This guy was especially passionate and - from what I could tell with my poor Chinese - eloquent.