Showing posts with label social_movements. Show all posts
Showing posts with label social_movements. Show all posts

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The KMT desperately wants to be rubber to the DPP's glue, but it's not working

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To be frank, I don't really want to write about the KMT. I'd rather talk about the re-election campaign of President Tsai and what she's doing on that front. Sadly, other than a new song (which isn't bad as Taiwanese campaign songs go and intentionally references the band's 2014 hit inspired by the Sunflower Movement, Island Sunrise), some bomber jackets and holding the line she's taken since 2016, there isn't much to say on that front. She hasn't come out with any exciting policy proposals or new platforms that I've seen. "Hold the line and take no risks" seems to be her entire campaign strategy. Frankly, while I'd like to hear more from her about what she'll do once re-elected, this isn't a bad tactic, even though it doesn't give me much blog fodder.

So, instead let's talk about the way the KMT is trying ever so hard to turn the Su Chii-cherng fake news/suicide case into a big scandal for the DPP, and why it probably won't work. Sigh.

For those who don't know what this is about, here's a rundown of events, mostly from this source. It's long and involved, so feel free to skip anything you already know - I'm putting the whole story here because  it's one of the advantages of blogging that I can go long-form if I want and tell a fuller story. I'll put the whole thing in a different color so you'll clearly see where I pick up with commentary.


* * * 

Last year, posts on PTT insinuated that the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Osaka (Taiwan's de facto embassy) wasn't providing sufficient assistance to Taiwanese nationals in Japan affected by Typhoon Jebi, in contrast to the assistance that China was giving its citizens. New Bloom reports that the Chinese consulate 'stepped in' to help Taiwanese nationals; other news sources say that the inadequate response of Taiwan was merely contrasted poorly with that of China. The News Lens reports that some Taiwanese apparently feigned Chinese nationality to gain assistance from the Chinese consulate. I'm not sure which version is more accurate.

It doesn't matter much, the truth is that the Japanese government arranged all evacuation assistance, and rejected China's request to send in buses to aid its citizens (although representatives of one Chinese airline filled at least one bus with only Chinese nationals). The Chinese consulate reported falsely that they had arranged transport and food for their citizens and were willing to include Taiwanese citizens who "identified as Chinese" (according to an interview with a Chinese traveler). Global Times, a WeChat post and other Chinese media spread this story.

It was then picked up by Taiwanese social media, where the Taiwanese consulate was criticized for not doing enough for its own citizens, to the point that some pretended to be Chinese. Criticism at first focused on Taiwanese envoy to Japan and 2008 presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), who tried to explain the situation but whose statement didn't get much traction on social media.

This criticism morphed into defending Hsieh and placing the blame on the head of the Osaka consulate, Su Chii-cherng (蘇啟誠). Remember, of course, that Su hadn't done anything wrong, as the entire story was fake to begin with. Su committed suicide soon after. It's difficult to say if the fake news blizzard precipitated his suicide, but an investigation was formed (despite the KMT insisting that the DPP and Ministry of Foreign Affairs were "not interested in investigating" the event), and online personality Slow Yang (楊蕙如) was indicted for not only public insult and hiring someone to post disinformation, but for those posts leading to Su's death. Su's widow says the criticism and his suicide are related, although his suicide note did not specifically mention the incident.

Despite Su's family and some media reporting that the government was going to reprimand and demote Su, MoFA says it had no plans to do so.

The person Yang was indicted for hiring was Tsai Fu-ming (蔡福明), although it's not quite clear who made what posts, and I'm not sure it matters much. Yang had previously been close to the DPP and Frank Hsieh in particular, having previously worked for his election campaign. There's also a furor over a company she owns being paid by the Taipei City government - money she was awarded thanks to her ties to DPP and specifically Frank Hsieh-tied city councilors. Suffice it to say, the DPP and Yang have had ties in the past.

Yang is well-known in Taiwan, as an online personality, mostly on PTT. Her reputation, however, is not great - I've talked to a few people about this and the general consensus is that she's always been an opportunist and purveyor of questionable content.

KMT politicians pounced on this, insisting that Yang was a paid troll-master of the DPP who was tasked with spreading fake news and that the accounts used to spread fake news can be traced back to her, as well as to a DPP legislator's office. I'm not quite clear on who is alleging what, but it seems that the Taipei District Prosecutor's Office is indicting Yang for her role in creating these posts, whether by her or by the online troll she allegedly hired, with the KMT embellishing the story by insisting that the DPP was ultimately funding the whole thing.

Last week, KMT politicians held a protest outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) shouting "MoFA kills people!" and insisting that Frank Hsieh and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu both "offer an explanation" and resign. A scuffle ensued, with the KMT lawmakers insisting they were injured due to rough treatment by the police. Video later surfaced of legislator Arthur Chen of knocking off an officer's cap before pushing her. Two other politicians, Chen Yu-jen and Lin Yi-hua (Lin happens to be running for Chiang Nai-hsin's old legislative seat in my district and is something of a rising star in the KMT) got their fingers caught in a door or gate, and Chen apparently fainted. Both went to National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) emergency room for treatment.

Their seemingly (ok, definitely) exaggerated reactions, and those of KMT figures insisting they'd been seriously injured, garnered much online mockery - with Han Kuo-yu and other KMTers visiting Chen in the hospital, video of Chen walking slowly out of the hospital as though dazed some time later, as well as Lin Yi-hua insisting she'd been badly hurt and required hospitalization (and apparently limping pathetically and lying on a stretcher like a trauma victim long after the fact - when the worst of their injuries was getting their fingers caught in a door). 


NTUH was accused by some of giving priority in the queue to politicians (which they denied), and the politicians themselves were accused of abusing national healthcare resources.

DPP legislator Wang Ting-yu then released a video showing at least one person - seemingly Chen though I can't tell, personally - deliberately sticking their fingers in the door at MoFA. MoFA has since filed a complaint against the KMT legislators


* * *


tl;dr:

The KMT is screaming about DPP paying "online armies" to spread fake news and then being injured by police when protesting at MoFA, despite there being not much evidence that the DPP was behind the posts, and video clearly showing that the KMT politicians at MoFA were acting aggressively and more than likely exaggerating their injuries.

Got all that?

Great. 


* * *

What strikes me about this whole story is how clearly desperate it is on the part of the KMT.

While it makes sense that the Chinese consulate would spread fake news and Chinese media would pick it up - after all, that's what the Chinese government does - it doesn't make a lot of sense that the DPP would pay someone to spread that news in Taiwan, and then make posts defending Frank Hsieh and criticizing Su under the assumption that the fake news was accurate. 


It doesn't even make sense that the DPP or Hsieh would pay online 'armies' to defend them in this fashion from fake news spread by others, when Hsieh had already released a statement clarifying that the entire story was false. Neither the DPP nor Hsieh are perfect, and they do make PR mistakes, but it doesn't take a tactical genius to see that the truth of the matter would have come out soon enough and if anything, it would just make China look bad, which is always good for the DPP. It should be obvious that adding another layer of fake news to existing fake news is a bad idea.

I also have it on reasonably good authority (not firsthand, but a source I trust anyhow - make of that what you will) that if anyone paid Slow Yang for these alleged actions - which someone or some entity probably did - it wasn't the DPP or Frank Hsieh. You don't have to believe me as it's third- or fourth-hand gossip by now, but I want to put it out there anyway.


Then there's the absurdity of being so outraged by so little proof - it seems likely to me that Yang did do what she's been accused of, although that's just an opinion, but there's almost nothing there to definitively link the DPP to her actions. There's a story concocted out of disparate threads that doesn't make a lot of sense when you put it together, a few old relationships between a person of questionable morals and some DPP figures, and assumptions made based on online behavior that all political parties engage in, and it's become a full-blown conspiracy theory. 


And, of course, there's the conflating of Su's suicide ostensibly being due to facing "humiliation" and a demotion at work, and being humiliated by social media posts. Those are not the same thing at all and although the indictment indicates that the prosecutor's office believe the posts played a role, it's not at all clear from KMT accusations that that's the case. 

The KMT is implicated in a much more thoroughly substantiated allegation of fake news and disinformation linked to Chinese interference online and in the media, with the Association of Taiwan Journalists, the National Security Bureau, foreign analysts and more weighing in. Remember, pretty much every Taiwanese media source accused, with proof, of receiving money from the CCP is tied to the KMT. Every time money finds its way from China to Taiwanese political figures, it's the KMT that's implicated. Every time China spreads disinformation, it favors the KMT.

Considering that, it's a bit rich for them to accuse the DPP of doing the same thing, but with far less evidence to back up their claims.

Or rather, it makes perfect sense, if they want to deflect people's attention from their own disinformation, including blatant untruths spoken by their own presidential candidate.

The KMT's authoritarian roots and the DPP's more activist roots also come into play. It's not just DPP tactics that make them look like the party that's friendlier to activists - they actually are. As a result, they tend to be known for passionate rallies and protests. Having never held full power (both the executive and legislative branches) before 2016, they were usually the ones banging on the doors to the halls of power - halls usually occupied, until recently, by denizens of the KMT.

The KMT has repeatedly tried to harness that same social movement and activist energy, and mostly failing, because it's simply not in their party's roots or ethos. From astroturfed "social movements" and faux protests right up to this spectacle, they've never been victims and so they suck at playing the part.

Let's not forget that it was the KMT who routinely brutalized democracy activists (the people who went on to found the DPP) and who caused real injury to social movement activists just in the past few years - those water cannons, the police beating students with clubs? That was on the orders of a KMT administration. People involved in the democratization movement ended up injured, in jail or dead. The perpetrators of the White Terror? The KMT.

So when they want to claim the same 'cred', and try to turn it around and scream that now that the DPP is in power they are engaging in the same tactics, the best they can do is stage a whole long-winded spectacle around a few minor injuries - injuries that the people involved managed to help inflict on themselves, looking at the video. It's just another way that the KMT takes proven or well-founded accusations against themselves and tries to say it's the DPP who are really doing those things, à la the "Green Terror".

But, as the old rejoinder goes, if there's really a Green Terror, where are the bodies? Where are the missing people and where is the extensive network of shadowy military prisons?

The KMT may desperately wish that they were rubber and the DPP glue - and whatever you say bounces off of me and sticks to you - but they're not. They keep chucking things off of rubber and watching them boomerang right back on them. (Also I think Ma Ying-jeou might literally be made of glue - he has the right personality and just looks so melty.)

In other words, if you want to know what the KMT has been up to, looking at what they accuse the DPP of doing is a good place to start. 

Monday, September 23, 2019

Let's keep highlighting women in Asian pro-democracy activism

Denise Ho at the US Capitol 2019
Denise Ho (Wikimedia Commons)

I'd like to start by saying that this is not a complaining post. I actually have something positive to say, so let's get the negative stuff out of the way first.

Back in 2017, the New Power Party held a forum with Hong Kong activists Joshua Wong and Nathan Law. The event itself was kind of forgettable, although I suppose it was important to demonstrate that activists from Taiwan and Hong Kong do have strong ties. You may remember that they were attacked at the airport by pro-China people of dubious affiliation when they arrived.

For something that wasn't too memorable, this event sticks in my head for an unrelated reason: the whole thing was a massive sausage fest, and no-one seemed to notice, at least not publicly.



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Source: New Power Party 


No, really: 

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Source: New Power Party Facebook page

Seriously, did you guys serve ketchup and mustard at that absolute hot dog stand of an event? Did you really (unintentionally, I'm sure) shove the one unsmiling woman off to the side?

This was just one event that I happen to remember for this reason, but it's indicative of a trend.

This, to me, looked a lot like the male-dominated social movements of 2014: in Hong Kong, the leaders who emerged from the Umbrella Movement were the aforementioned Wong and Law. From the Sunflowers, if you're not someone who closely follows this corner of Taiwanese politics, can you name any prominent figures beyond Lin Fei-fan, Chen Wei-ting and Huang Kuo-chang? Of course women were involved and some did play prominent roles, including going on to political involvement, but the media and general public seem to have mostly forgotten about them.

I've thought, over these years, that this was a two-pronged (heh) problem. The first is unintentional but deeply problematic: that long-forgotten 2017 event that nobody questioned as being exceedingly male made it quite clear that few involved in these movements was actively invested in encouraging more gender-balanced participation. Few were pointing out that sausage-festiness of it all or paying attention to disproportionate and unfair media representation (though some did - New Bloom is good at consistently drawing attention to this issue), and fewer were trying to make it right. Nobody was reaching out to women who wanted to get involved. It wasn't malicious, but it had the effect, combined with the public's tendency to listen to male voices over female ones, of making it seem like a bit of a boys' club.

The second was more malicious at an individual level. I've mentioned this before, and I'll say it again: there are multiple stories I simply cannot tell publicly about women I know who have been treated like dirt by the supposed 'good guys'. From being casually dismissed to treated like a secretary to unwelcome come-ons, and having nobody to turn to who really cared enough to stand up against such behavior alongside them, I am aware that, while some of 'the good guys' are genuinely good guys, others are not always all that great. 


But don't think that this is a grousing or whining post - things are getting better. I want to point that out and highlight this fact, to encourage you all to keep an eye on both the women involved in activism in Asia, and to be part of the push that encourages more women to get involved.

I was so happy to see Hong Kong singer and activist Denise Ho go to Washington DC earlier this week to testify before Congress along with Joshua Wong. I was even happier to see that Ho got just as much press for her remarks (which I personally thought were more powerful, but that's really a matter of opinion). In some cases, she got the spotlight. (The original article is from Reuters).

One of the bright sides - in a season of protests with very few bright sides - is that women just as much as men are now being seen in activist roles, even though the protests themselves are officially leaderless.

The #ProtestToo event called attention to allegations of sexual harassment and assault of female protesters by police - the first time I think a whole movement like this, in Asia, has taken an interest in a gender issue. I'm delighted to see not just Wong and Law, but also Agnes Chow Ting taking leading roles - and Yau Wai Ching before her.

Agnes Chow being interviewed in Jan 2018
Agnes Chow being interviewed in 2018 (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

I think Taiwan is waking up too, and starting to actively seek out female activist voices (the News Lens article on Meredith Huang linked far above is from early 2019), but we'll have to wait and see.

That doesn't mean we've completely turned things around, though. That trip to DC where Denise Ho made the news? Yeah, well:


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Source: Joshua Wong's Facebook page
Huh. Maybe not so righteously feminist after all.

I've seen regular old journalists referred to on Twitter as "female journalists" covering Hong Kong for no discernible reason and thought - shall we also refer to 'male journalists'? 
Why not?


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Source: right there in the image, it's all over Facebook

I've also felt in some cases, however, that images of (mostly attractive) women protesting in Hong Kong have been used to rally people or draw sympathy simply because they are female, which - to me - doesn't really honor the reasons why those women are on the streets in the first place. I can't be too upset about this, after all, one of the most iconic figures of the protests has been Grandma Wong (who has apparently not been seen since August 13). On the other hand, it does seem like female images are used when they are either young and pretty, or venerable elders.

And yet, it's a (tiny) step forward. I can only hope the trend continues, and does something to kick the dudes here into action.

Friday, August 9, 2019

UN Women, Yifang Tea and the OG: I love how Taiwan just snapped

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So, everyone's writing about all the 'big' political news over the past week or so - internal divisions in the NPP, NPP legislator Kawlo Iyun Pacidal being in trouble for corruption, Ko Wen-je forming his own party and likely running for president, Ko Wen-je saying Terry Gou is the best potential presidental candidate and talk of a potential collaboration, China banning individual travel to Taiwan, Terry Gou collecting but "not really" collecting (but actually collecting) signatures toward an independent run and creating what he calls a "youth platform" (lol). Oh yeah and Huang Kuo-chang wants to be Taipei mayor (I'm almost certain that's true, though I doubt he'd actually be working with Ko to that end as the link reports.) 

All of this stuff is fascinating, but I'm not going to write about it (I already touched on NPP internal turmoil and don't intend to return to the topic). Why? Because everybody else is, their work is solid, and you can get the information you want from those sources; I don't have any opinions so sparkling that I need to make my own post expressing them.

Instead, I'm going to shine a little light on a corner of the Internet I've found to have grown very interesting of late.

Every time some company has said something stupid about Taiwan and China, there's been a backlash from Taiwanese bashing them on social media, downrating their businesses and generally registering their displeasure. It happened with airlines, Cafe 85 and others (though to be fair, Cafe 85 isn't very good and who cares about them).

The posts die down as the news grows more distant, and they usually cap out at a few hundred, by everyday people rather than public figures. There might have been some spillover into later social media posts by those companies, but it was relatively minor.


Then, Hong Kong happened and it put Taiwanese on edge for good reason. There's a strong sense that China so often gets what it wants because it forces companies and organizations to adhere to its strictures on how Taiwan may be referred to. On top of that, it's only been a few months since Taiwan became the first country to legalize same-sex marriage, which garnered it a huge amount of international media attention (much of it good, with the occasional journalistic fraud bringing China into the mix when China had nothing to do with it.) The time was ripe for the way Taiwanese react to companies and organizations insulting their country to change.

Then, UN Women - one of the worst offenders when it comes to respecting Taiwan - put up an infographic of countries that recognize same-sex marriage, including Taiwan as a "province of China".

Friends, the backlash was astounding. Not a mere few hundred comments - as of this post, the total stands at over 18,000. People getting involved include NPP spokesperson Wu Cheng, former Taichung mayor Lin Chia-lung, DPP legislator Karen Yu and SDP city councilor Miao Po-ya.


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President Tsai commented as well:




And the spillover has been astounding (and is still going on). While the initial flood has dwindled, as is to be expected, every post UN Women has made since then, no matter how unrelated, has garnered dozens or more replies from angry Taiwanese demanding that their country be treated with respect. 



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This feels different from all those times when a rivulet of angry Taiwanese complained bitterly but eventually went away. It's ongoing and it's angry. It's refusing to take silence for an answer. It won't even take a bad answer for an answer (note UN Women's weak authoritarian-apologist punt of a reply). 


On top of that, the Hong Kong franchise of beloved Taiwanese brand Yifang Fruit Tea came out in favor of the Chinese "One Country Two Systems" policy, infuriating Taiwanese and causing backlash not just against the Hong Kong franchise, but all Yifang franchises, and the anger hasn't died down. I was talking with a furious friend about it as recently as last night.

What's more, rather than keep the anger online, people have gone to express their anger in the real world: 



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Photo from DJ 金寶 on Facebook

For those who don't read Chinese, the graffiti is basically calling them Communist sympathizers and implying that, as a result, they are not really Taiwanese.

It could be that Yifang tea is popular and just plain good - far better than Cafe 85 - or it could be that, as Yifang's branding is explicitly Taiwanese - its whole 'look' is Taiwanese and follows the Japanese-vintage-hipster aesthetic that goes along with this. It could be a bigger slap in the face for this kind of company, in a way that isn't true for an airline or a cafe chain that doesn't make "Taiwan" a part of its brand.

Or it could be that Taiwanese have just freakin' had it and they're going to start making themselves heard.

All I can say is, keep it up. This feels like something different, something angrier and more passionate and ready to fight, and I love it.

Also, did you know that you can suggest edits to pages like UN Women?

Because you can. Have fun!

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Before I sign off, I want to tip my hat to the OG - foreign minister Joseph Wu. Before any of this, he was dropping mikes and taking names. Here he is back in May calling People's Daily a 'commie brainwasher' that 'sucks' for writing that "Taiwan, China" had passed same-sex marriage.

Some might not like his tone, but he wouldn't have gotten in the news if he'd taken a softer tone or not explicitly say that a media outlet that objectively sucks...well, sucks.


Rock on, JW. Rock on. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The kids are all right

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Yes, it's been almost two weeks since I've updated, and no, it wasn't planned. I just really had to get my dissertation proposal in. I was going to jump back into blogging with a few restaurant reviews, a few long-overdue trip reports, a book review...you know, the sorts of things that a person who's just spent the past two weeks deeply stressed out might post. But no, some kids in Kaohsiung decided to be awesome, and now that has to come first.

I have a jumble of thoughts about these kids - who are old enough to have been my kids in a very different timeline, which is super weird because I totally want to buy each of them a Taiwan Beer like an old friend or Cool Aunt. I love how creative they are, how willing they are to take public risks to say what they think, and how thoughtful and full of integrity they are at that age. How civil the points they are making are - there is nothing uncivil about telling the mayor to finish his term, or pointing out that he lies. He does lie. It's speaking truth to power at an admirably young age.

I mean, damn - I was a total dipshit at 17. To be honest, I'm jealous. If these are our future leaders, we're going to be okay.

My first thought is that if we can keep Taiwan safe - as in, still a functioning democracy and not sold out to China - long enough for this generation and their immediate elders (think Millenial Taiwanese) to be the most influential voting block, then Taiwan will be just fine. A large enough percentage of them are smart enough to see Chinese media infiltration and other nefarious tricks for what they are, and showed up in droves (tens of thousands, not thousands) to protest it. They understand what equal rights really means and are willing to put in the time to physically show up and voice their discontent.

In fact, their way of protesting Mayor Han was creative and ballsy enough, clear and concise yet civilized, that Taiwanese civil life will be made better as more of them grow up to be activists and public figures, or start otherwise contributing to the discourse here. They are quite literally doing what their parents and grandparents won't, seeing things their ancestors are too naive (or wrongheaded, or brainwashed) to see, and noticing that if a public protest against Han is going to be lodged, they're the ones who have to do it. They're doing what their elders should be doing - but aren't - as it becomes clearer that Han is a Manchurian candidate, with a whole host of undesirable puppet masters.

They know the pro-Han, pro-China, pro-KMT media won't report on their rebellion, but they also know their parents and grandparents will be in the audience or see those photos. They're aiming their protest not just at the media, at Han, and Taiwan at large, but at their own elders, in such a way that they can't look away or ignore it. That's just smart.

That's the thing, though - China knows this. The KMT knows this. The unholy China-KMT Union (yes, it is a thing, don't pretend you don't know) knows this. They are perfectly well aware that they will never, ever win the hearts and minds of the youth, so the plan is to rip the carpet out from under the youth before they gain enough political power to stop it. The war (yes, it is a war - yet again, don't pretend you don't know) is escalating because they know their window of potential victory narrows every time an easily-manipulated older person dies, and a more attuned one gets the right to vote. They need to destroy Taiwan's democratic norms and will to resist before that happens, and frankly, we're not fighting back fast enough.

That's not to say every older person is 'easily manipulated', but enough of them are that it's a real problem, and China is absolutely seizing on it.

My next thought concerns this response from Han, from the Taipei Times link above:

“I think it is a great thing when young people speak their mind,” Han said yesterday in response to media queries. 
He has always encouraged young people to express their opinions and will support them under any circumstances, but it is “inappropriate” to tie political issues to an educational event, he said. 
“If students have opinions, they can express them off-stage,” he added. 
Taking a photo on stage with the mayor after receiving an award for graduating with top grades is the “most honorable moment of [a student’s] life” and he hopes such educational events can remain pure, Han said.

First, Mr. Han, if you really thought it was a 'great thing for young people to speak their mind', you wouldn't say that they should do it offstage - in the least effective way, where it won't hurt you at all. You're fine with them saying what they want as long as nobody listens.

Secondly, this whole thing is a massive concern troll - "inappropriate", "it's an honorable event, keep it pure"? Yeah, okay, and I bet you're just "worried about their health" or "don't want them to have any trouble later", too. Whatever buddy.

And, of course, it's absolutely laughable that a politician showing up at an event would say that event should be free of politics. If you want a politics-free event, politicians should not be invited. They are public figures and must accept that they are fair game at any public event. They make it political by being there. Otherwise Han's just saying that his politics - photo-ops with award winning students are inherently a political activity undertaken to make a politician look good - are apolitical, but everyone else's politics 'impure'.

A lot of people are saying that these kids are the brightest, the award-winners, the smart ones - they're not representative of Taiwanese youth as a whole. And yes, they do stand out. But every generational shift and successful social movement has the people at the tip of the spear. That doesn't mean the rest of the spear isn't there, or isn't important.

If anyone knows where I can formally offer to buy every last one of them a beer - yes, even the underage ones though they can have bubble tea if they'd prefer - I'd love to hear it. And I'm not sure I'm joking.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

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

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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.


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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.


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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.


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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 -


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Vice-President Chen Chien-jen speaks



"Fear."




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Saturday, May 18, 2019

What it meant to be an ally when Taiwan became the first Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage

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I wrote a longer reflection yesterday in which I wandered through many thoughts and emotions on yesterday's historic legislation. For this post, I want to highlight one thing that I think is important when you support an issue or social movement, but aren't a part of the group that that movement affects most deeply. That is, I want to talk about what it meant to be an ally standing in the crowd yesterday (yes, there is a little repetition between the two posts). Let's start here:

The level of civic engagement continues to impress me so much, and proves that Taiwan cannot be grouped so easily as a stereotypical 'Confucian', 'collectivist' society with wholly conservative values. It may be true that many young Taiwanese won't engage with their more conservative elders on these issues, but it's not true that they won't find other ways to oppose the old order of unfairness and inequality and a million -isms and phobia that those elders represent.


One of the arguments of the anti-gay camp is that ideas like marriage equality are 'Western' or 'foreign' and go against Taiwan's 'traditional culture' (they say 'Chinese' but I won't.) You know, all that Confucianism and collectivism and filial piety and what not. It's not that those aren't real facets of the culture, it's just that the whole culture cannot be reduced to them, nor can the actions or beliefs of any individual be explained wholly through them. People are not slaves to whatever aspect of their culture someone has decided explains their motives, and culture isn't static anyhow. 20 years ago you could have said the same thing about American culture. 

Of course equal rights have been a part of Taiwanese culture for some time now, and there is no incompatibility with Taiwanese culture (any incompatibility which seems to exist has been invented for political purposes).

So it really mattered that the people in the front rows and on stage, the crowds on camera were overwhelmingly Taiwanese. If 'marriage equality' is not compatible with 'Taiwanese culture', what were all those people who are Taiwanese and exist within a Taiwanese cultural milieu doing there?

Or as President of Taiwan and my current crush Tsai Ing-wen put it:




This movement was started by Taiwanese, carried by Taiwanese and the success they brought about yesterday was done by Taiwanese. There was no 'Western infiltration' about it. (In fact, the anti-gay side is the one that had to look to the West to figure out how to spread its hate, bringing in foreigners like Katy Faust to speak against equality and justice.)

It's important to keep repeating this, because that same opposition keeps accusing the pro-equality movement of doing the same, when it emphatically has not. The side that stands for equality has allies who stand with them. The side that stands against equality has foreign actors trying to help manipulate a certain outcome in Taiwan. And they are the ones who invented that 'goes against traditional Taiwanese culture' nonsense.

Marriage has meant many things in Taiwan over the centuries, including plural marriage, family-alliance marriage (that is, not love marriage) and marriage to ghosts. In China, there is a clear cultural tradition of homosexuality (at least among the upper classes).

It's actually a reductive neo-essentialist perspective - which is inherently Western - which turns so-called 'traditional values' into culturally static and immutable obstacles, a view one tends to take of cultural facets viewed from afar without full understanding. That almost every young person in Taiwan is pro-equality and yet still just as Taiwanese as their grandparents, however, shows that this outsider essentialist view of Taiwan is wrong. 


As an American who was in Taiwan for most of the culmination of the marriage equality movement in the US and so unable to participate (again as an ally - I'm straight and cis), it felt important to be a part of the support to make it happen in Taiwan, because it's my home. I have a place here too. What happens in Taiwan affects me.

And that place was being part of the crowd. Not onstage like a reverse Katy Faust, not a key part of the movement or even vital to it, but a participant who adds her physical presence to the movement. Foreigners were there lending their support too, but it's Taiwanese who led this, Taiwanese who made up the majority of that crowd, and Taiwanese who won. We just stood by them, and that was a meaningful place to be.


As an ally, I've reconsidered my own feelings on the Executive Yuan bill which passed yesterday - after being initially upset and disappointed, it became clear that Taiwanese LGBT groups and the local LGBT community were supporting it, and to be a good ally, I should follow their lead.

Let's stop telling Taiwan what its culture is, while we're at it. Let's quit it with the "but Taiwan is like this" or "Taiwan can't do that, because culture and reasons" or "but Taiwan is so Confucian and collectivist". Pish. Instead, let's be allies and let them tell us. 



It's a humbling, meaningful and impactful place to be. I recommend trying it. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Everything you need to know about why One Country Two Systems will never work in two easy trials!

Untitled


Just now, we've learned that leading figures in the Umbrella Movement were found guilty of "public nuisance". This comes after Umbrella Movement leaders were jailed for their role in the protest, which was the largest in Hong Kong's history. (A lot has gone on with that trial including an appeal, but while that appeal set them free, it did not stop the Beijing-endorsed trend toward harsh punishments for civil disobedience.)

Of course, "being found guilty" and "doing something wrong" are not the same thing. In this case, one certainly does not reflect the other. 


More than that has been going on in Hong Kong, as well:




Compare that to the outcome of the charges brought against the Sunflower leaders in Taiwan, who were found not guilty as their actions were found to constitute legitimate civil disobedience, which was upheld on appeal. Trials against other Sunflower activists did not result in such progressive verdicts, however. That said, it's notable that charges brought against the government have also recently been accorded a re-trial.

What stuck out to me about those Sunflower trials was this:

Taipei District Court Chief Judge Liao Chien-yu (廖建瑜) said the panel of three judges made investigative inquiries, and reviewed theories and practice surrounding the concept of civil disobedience, through literature and research findings on the topic by both Taiwanese and international academics and experts. 
The judges studied the concept so that they would be better able to weigh defendants’ and their lawyers’ arguments that their reasons for storming the legislature were legitimate and socially justifiable, because it was an attempt to block the cross-strait service trade agreement, which was being rushed through the legislature by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators without consulting the people, Liao told a news conference.

This would never happen in Hong Kong. 

As with Hong Kong's turn toward authoritarianism, there are many other examples of Taiwan's turn toward progressive values, though the bending of the arc toward justice is indeed slow.

But I don't need to list them for you. Everything you need to know is right here.

These two trials show without artifice or obfuscation exactly why One Country Two Systems will never work. Taiwan is free; Hong Kong is not. Taiwan (for the most part) set its activists free and made a decision that looked to a liberal future. Taiwan at least took a step (though an imperfect one) towards understanding the role and necessity of civil disobedience in democracy. Hong Kong did not. 


Taiwan was able to do this because it is not subordinate to the CCP. Hong Kong took its own path - or rather, was forced down that path - because it is.

A free society can never exist under the same framework as an authoritarian regime, much less be subordinate to it, because being found guilty and doing something wrong are not the same thing. Taiwan is (mostly) able to tell the difference. China - and by extension Hong Kong - clearly is not.

How much clearer do we have to be?

Monday, November 5, 2018

We need to out-organize the bigots, now: my latest for Ketagalan Media

Note: I'm super busy this month working on my final pre-dissertation paper for school, and it's a big one. So, Lao Ren Cha is going to be a bit quiet in November. Thanks for understanding!

I know that a huge part of the problem for pro-marriage equality advocates in Taiwan is funding: despite having fairly broad public support, they don't have a lot of money. Anti-equality hardliners, on the other hand, are pretty flush thanks to church donation networks (and international help from anti-equality religious groups, mostly from the US).

But, I have to say, I haven't seen much aggressive fundraising let alone the issue I tackle in my latest for Ketagalan Media: the fact that the bad guys are out-organizing us. They have more people on the streets, more fliers, more Line group invasive posting, more ads, more banners.

Banners and fliers cost money, and so do vests for volunteers if you want them. Ads are expensive. I get it - but I haven't seen much crowdfunding either.

You know what's free, though? Talking to people. Volunteers. Engaging in conversations in Line groups (if only to get the haters to keep quiet). Putting up designs drawn by volunteers for people to download and print out to make their own posters, placards and stickers.

In any case, in this piece I talk about the out-organization and how it makes it look as though pro-equality advocates are not standing up and getting votes for the upcoming referendum. I also cover the constitutionality of the anti-equality referendums and what the strategy might be behind them.

There's more to be said: the outright lies from the anti-equality camp, the attempt to rig the televised debates. I'm sure there will be more to talk about as the month goes on.