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

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!

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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.