Thousands of Demonstrators Protest in Support of Gay Marriage in Taipei

Upwards of a thousand demonstrators gathered yesterday afternoon in front of KMT headquarters to demonstrate in support of gay marriage, before proceeding to DPP headquarters, and ending with a rally in front of the Legislative Yuan. Though an exact count of participants is unknown, CNA reports greater than a thousand demonstrators. Very probably the actual number was several times that. The main organizer of the event was the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights (TAPCPR).

Groups present included the Social Democratic Party, the Green Party, and Taiwan March. That the Social Democratic Party and Green Party contingents marched together, we can point to as a further sign of closer ties between the Social Democratic Party and Green Party as of late. Social Democratic Party politicians Jennifer Lu and Miao Poya were both present. Where the Social Democratic Party has foregrounded sexual and gender inequality as a major issue which it seeks to address through its party platform, it has put forth a number of female political candidates including openly gay politicians such as Lu and Miao. As such, it is not surprising that the Social Democratic Party was out in force, distributing colored rainbow flags with its party logo among demonstrators.


Apart from political parties, volunteers collecting money for victims of the Color Play Asia fire in which over 500 were left burned after a sudden blaze during a party event at Formosa Fun Coast Water Park last month were also a constant presence. Taiwan March’s presence was largely aimed at collecting signatures for referendum reform.

Speeches at the protest as organized under the auspices of the TAPCPR pointed towards dissatisfaction with both major political parties in Taiwan with regards to gay marriage, although we can note some contradictory attitudes on the part of organizers. After demanding that the KMT come out to formally acknowledge their demands and offer a response, but no KMT representative venturing out of party headquarters, demonstrators pelted KMT headquarters with colored water balloons in acknowledgement of general hostility by the part of the KMT towards the legalization of gay marriage.


However, this action was immediately followed by a speech by KMT youth league leader Lin Chia-Hsing. Lin Chia-Hsing, although a devoted member of the KMT, has gained something of a reputation within the Taiwanese activist community for his frequent appearances at civil society events in an attempt to rehabilitate the KMT’s image and the hostility of the young activists of the Sunflower generation towards the KMT.

Though it is recognized that Lin is of the same generation as the Sunflowers, can speak the same language as them, and is quite concerned with issues of labor, gay rights, and other social issues that Taiwanese civil society takes up, Lin’s quixotic quest to make the KMT appealing to Taiwanese young people is forever forestalled by the limitations placed upon him by his undying loyalty to the KMT and the ideology it professes. Lin’s speech was bizarre, beginning by asking whether any Chinese were present (likely there were, but none in Lin’s immediate vicinity, which seemed to catch him off guard) and crediting his awareness of LGBTQ issues to mainland Chinese individuals. Lin also avoided discussion of that the KMT has generally been opposed to gay marriage, largely effacing the issue, although pro-KMT media has attempted to pretend that Lin had taken a supportive stance towards the protest. As for the reactions of demonstrators, I recall hearing some comments from near where I was standing that Lin’s speech had been “confusing nonsense.”


After a long march through the hot afternoon past the Sogo department store by Zhongxiao Fuxing, demonstrators next presented their demands to the DPP in front of DPP headquarters. Organizers emphasized in speeches that while the DPP had not been hostile towards gay marriage in the manner of the KMT and had been more supportive, there were those DPP legislators who are opposed, and that it is such that the DPP was to also come under the scrutiny of Taiwan’s LGBTQ community.

In contrast to the KMT, the DPP did send a representative out to respond to protestors, whose subsequent speech emphasized the support of current DPP party chairman Tsai Ing-Wen and former DPP party chairman Su Tseng-Chang for same-sex marriage. However, after applauding these sentiments from the DPP just a few moments earlier, organizers asked the crowd whether they were satisfied with either the response of the KMT or the DPP. The cry was: “No!” But rather than pelt DPP headquarters with water balloons, as organizers phrased it, in acknowledgement of the differences which did exist between the KMT and DPP, demonstrators would instead “quietly withdraw.”


The final destination on the itinerary of protestors was the Legislative Yuan, where protestors gathered on Jinan Road for the conclusion of the demonstration. Apart from speeches that capped off the day’s actions, organizers lit candles in the same of the words “平權“ (“Equal Rights”) and “平安” (“Peace”). The last speakers were two veterans of the gay rights struggle in Taiwan, who had been active for over thirty years, closing the event with a sharing of experiences between an older generation and largely younger participants.

The emphasis of organizers was on dissatisfaction with both parties, rather than any attempt to be bipartisan; nevertheless, there was the claim made during speeches that the issue of gay marriage was one which transcended pan-Blue/pan-Green political divisions in Taiwan. Yet as was noted by many attendees, police presence was significantly higher outside KMT party headquarters than outside DPP headquarters, with two buses full of riot police on standby nearby. This would be, of course, a case of the police acting on behalf of the KMT.


Indeed, where the actions of Taiwanese police largely in service of the KMT government is concerned, as protestors gathered outside the Legislative Yuan, barbed wire set up to keep protestors outside of the Ministry of Education for recent protests earlier this month against textbook revisions with a pro-China historical slant were still visible nearby. And this was something on the mind of attendees too, a large rainbow-colored paper airplane carried by protestors harkening to the symbol of recent protests against textbook revision of the paper airplanes which were thrown into the Ministry of Education’s courtyard during a large-scale protest action earlier this month. This only points at how gay marriage is bound up with a whole host of political issues roughly stemming from the KMT and its ability to sanction what counts as legitimate public morality for Taiwanese, whether in regards to education or sexuality—though, of course, such issues are not wholly reducible to the role of the KMT either.

However, what now going forward for the Taiwanese LGBTQ movement? That may be the question facing the LGBTQ movement worldwide, especially after the legalization of gay marriage in the United States last month and that in its wake the global cultural influence of the US has led the decision-making bodies of many a nation to discuss the possibility of legalizing gay marriage for the first time. Certainly, this will have effect in Taiwan. We may note that, for example, Taipei mayor Ko Wen-Je formerly claimed that he would consider supporting same-sex marriage once half the states in the United States had legalize it—of course, now it is that all states in the United States have legalized same-sex marriage.

IMG_20150711_183304 copy

And certainly divides exist within the LGBTQ community, with some viewing marriage as an institution of oppression that one should not seek to find inclusion in. To my awareness, this debate was only acknowledged once by organizers near the end of the protest, with the claim that before one could speak of going beyond the institution of marriage, equality would have to be achieved within the institution of marriage. But is now a decisive time for Taiwan’s marriage equality movement? We shall see in coming days and months.

Author: Brian Hioe
Photo Credit: Brian Hioe
Biography: Brian Hioe (丘琦欣) is an M.A. student at Columbia University, a freelance writer on politics and social activism, and an occasional translator. He is formerly a resident of Taipei, Taiwan.

Thousands of Demonstrators Protest in Support of Gay Marriage in Taipei

Hundreds Injured after Explosion at Taipei Water Park

Hundreds injured after explosion at Taipei water park. More specifically, the explosion took place in front of a stage at Formosa Fun Coast Water Park in New Taipei City in Bali after flammable color powder ignited during an event called “Color Play Asia.” Over five hundred were injured in the subsequent explosion, the count dramatically rising from initial counts that suggested only one hundred fifty to two hundred had been injured. Subsequent controversy has ensued where similar events had been planned for Hong Kong and elsewhere, also involving the use of color powder. For the time being, the use of color powder at party events has been banned by the Taiwanese government.

UGC:Apple Daily Taiwan

As with other events in the previous year, including the Kaohsiung gas explosion which took place in late July of last year, it would seem that Taiwan quite often only makes international news in regards to failures of infrastructure or events which see mass injuries. This proves an unfortunate example of another case in point. Likely, in the near future we will see much finger pointing by politicians who will, of course, attempt to make the event into even more of a spectacle in order to further their own agenda. No doubt, where much coverage has ensued from the media both domestically and internationally, the event, too, will become an object of much heated debate. But, of course, the actual questions of right and wrong, responsibility, and how to avoid such incidents may be lost underneath the round of finger-pointing and accusations which will follow.

Author: Brian Hioe
Photo Credit: UGC/Apple Daily Taiwan
Biography: Brian Hioe (丘琦欣) is an M.A. student at Columbia University, a freelance writer on politics and social activism, and an occasional translator. He is formerly a resident of Taipei, Taiwan.

Hundreds Injured after Explosion at Taipei Water Park

Taipei Police Arrest South Korean Hydis Workers on Hunger Strike, Tearing Down Their Encampment

Taipei police arrest South Korean Hydis workers on hunger strike, tearing down their encampment on Ren’ai Road where they had been for the past 16 days. Eight workers were arrested, along with two Taiwanese supporters, when police arrived at their encampment with several hundred police. Two or three water trucks were also deployed. The ongoing hunger strike of two of the South Korean Hydis workers had lasted for over 150 hours at that point and participants had been examined by medical professionals, who declared that they had dangerously low blood sugar. One of the two Hydis workers on hunger strike collapsed during the police siege, but was refused medical treatment, despite the entreaties of Taiwanese Hydis supporters to the police.


When police arrived to arrest Hydis workers, surrounding them en masse, Hydis workers first offered to to vacate the premises of their encampment, which was outside the home of Ho Shou-Chuan, chairman of the Taiwanese-owned Yuen Foong Yu Group which bought Hydis Technologies in 2008. Despite this offer by Hydis workers to voluntarily withdraw, police refused to allow them to leave, leading their Taiwanese supporters to try and protectively surround the Hydis workers. Police forced their way through and arrested the Hydis workers, regardless, arresting two Taiwanese supporters who continued to tried to intervene. According to individuals present, police acted as though the South Koreans workers could not understand them, when some can speak Mandarin, and spoke in derogatory manner of them. “This Taiwan, no Korea,” police also said to Hydis members in rather poor English. Though one Taiwanese Hydis supporter during a speech describing what had happened understood this statement of the police’s to mean, “This is Taiwan, you’re not allowed to speak Korean here,” perhaps what police truly meant was, “This is Taiwan, Koreans not welcome”! When forcing their way through Taiwanese Hydis supporters, police also relentless questioned supporters as to whether they Taiwanese or Korean, stating that if they were Korean, they would be arrested.


The justification used for arresting Hydis workers was that they were littering with their encampment, prompting one demonstrator to shout at police, “You treat humans as though they were garbage! You sweep away human beings as if they were garbage!” It seems that the only thing for the encampment which had been saved was a picture of former Hydis union leader Bae Jae-Hyoung, who killed himself last month, it seems out of desperation of his inability to resolve the plight of laid off workers under his leadership.


As a result of the fact that I was, in fact, already on my way to the Ren’ai Road encampment I arrived on-site approximately ten or fifteen minutes after the eviction had just finished and was witness to much of its immediate aftermath. Two police buses passed me on the way there, likely carrying either the arrested Hydis workers, withdrawing police personell or both. Traffic had been blocked off on a part of Ren’ai Road by police and large numbers of police were milling around near the site. When I arrived, approximately forty people were on-site, mostly students but also some older individuals, including some faces I recognized from last year’s Songyan occupation. The organizing body of Taiwanese Hydis supporters there had largely been Taiwan International Worker’s Association members, but members of the Black Island Youth Front were also present. Forty or so police also still remained to keep an eye.


After some discussion, the decision was made to move to Zhongzheng First Police Precinct in order to ascertain the location of arrested individuals, to protest against police. The group proceeded by taxi or scooter to to Zhongzheng First Police Precinct which has, after all, been a frequent object of protest for police injustices which occur in the area of its jurisdiction. This was most memorably during April 11th of last year, when a crowd of approximately one thousand individuals surrounded the station to protest the police violence used against demonstrators who refused to vacate the area surrounding the Legislative Yuan after the student withdrawal from the Legislative Yuan chambers. Perhaps on-guard as a result of past experience, in the space of ten minutes of the arrival of protestors at Zhongzheng First Police Precinct, eighty to one hundred police had mobilized, with forty holding riot shields outside of the station and still more police stationed inside.


Demonstrators quickly set up a megaphone and began making demands of the police, who also responded in kind through a megaphone. But no genuine dialogue was reached where the police spokesman continually began each statement with “The Republic of Taiwan is a free and democratic nation,” or similar platitudes about the freedom and justice ensured by the ROC constitution, prompting boos and hollers. The police chief of Zhongzheng First Police District later made an appearance and took a harder line, warning protestors that they were close to breaking the law, with the threat of the use of force seemingly behind his comments. He also offered that this was a matter of the Ministry of Immigration, seeing as these were, after all, South Koreans, and urged protestors to take their issues to them. Media began arriving around this time and covered much of this. A pro forma press conference was opened at a certain point though this blended into a continuous set of speeches by demonstration leaders. At least one speech called attention to the fact that this was a set of events which had happened under Ko Wen-Je’s governance of Taipei.


It emerged that Hydis workers had been taken to Sanxia and so three lawyers were dispatched to their aid. As the details of the charges became clearer once the lawyers established contact, the details of their fate remained uncleared. The possibility looming over everyone’s heads was that Hydis workers would be deported from the country by morning and be banned from ever returning to Taiwan. By midnight, around when I left, it was still unclear as to the fate of Hydis workers and what would become of them.


As the night grew on, the amount of protestors began to increase, growing to around 150 to 200. But with the breakdown of dialogue with the police, organizers of solidarity activities with the Hydis workers began to discuss the plight of the Hydis workers, in order that those less familiar could know better what they faced. Organizers similarly pointed to the racism of police, and discussed the need for Taiwanese members to stand in solidarity with Hydis workers, rather than see them as merely competitors for jobs, and stated that this was an issue of capitalists and workers, not Taiwanese versus South Koreans. After all, what would South Korean workers take back to their home country as an impression of Taiwan if it seemed as though Taiwanese were indifferent to their plight? Some of the stories they shared of the difficulties of Hydis workers to bridge linguistic barriers or of former leader Hydis union leader Bae Jae-Hyoung were poignant. The night was disrupted by several individuals who approached and harassed protestors for being disruptive to society and a car which swerved dangerously close to protestors, honked menacingly, and in fact struck one protestor, though he was not injured or only very little injured.


Though some, including myself, began to trickle out around midnight in order to catch the last train, the plea of organizers was for individuals to remain outside of Zhongzheng First Police Precinct until the situation of Hydis workers became clear. Organizers also requested more individuals come on site if possible through social media.


What, then, will be the fate of Hydis workers? As is well known, two Hydis workers were deported already after a protest in front of the Presidential Residence last Wednesday, which was prompted the present hunger strike. This is the third trip of Hydis workers to Taiwan between February, late March, and the present. All have involved demonstrations, where the layoffs of several hundred Hydis workers occurred after the acquisition of Hydis Technologies by the Taiwanese-owned Yuen Foong Yu Group and its decision to shut down a factory.


Where Hydis workers would seem to have been harmed by Taiwanese society, or at least Taiwanese capitalists, Hydis workers have expressed nothing but gratitude towards their Taiwanese supporters. Yet there are those who would have it that Hydis workers are somehow the ones victimizing Taiwanese society! And where is justice at all present when the police comes in against hunger strikers 150 hours in, weak already with seriously low blood sugar, with overwhelming and brutal force. Riot police and water cannon trucks no less! In response, the police could offer nothing but platitudes about justice and freedom being guaranteed by the ROC or condescend towards this being a question of South Koreans infringing on Taiwanese law, thus having to be expelled from the body of Taiwan, although protestors ventured that they had been careful to stay within the boundaries of the law at all times. However we look at it in this case, at best, Taiwanese police have acted hard-heartedly, at worst, they have acted in utterly heartless fashion. Why would they act like this, to forcibly intervene and put an end to the hunger strike? To defend the interests of Taiwanese capitalists against the workers whose lives they affect? One wonders also if any thought was given to the blowback this potentially could have on relations between Taiwan and South Korea, a potential ally against China, after all.


What dawn will rise tomorrow for Hydis workers? Will justice ever be resolved for them? That remains to be seen. Police moved against demonstrators occupying outside Zhongzheng First Precinct to clear them in the early morning hours of Wednesday, shortly before 5 AM. But the matter is far from settled.

Author: Brian Hioe
Photo Credit: Brian Hioe
Biography: Brian Hioe (丘琦欣) is an M.A. student at Columbia University, a freelance writer on politics and social activism, and an occasional translator. He is formerly a resident of Taipei, Taiwan.

Taipei Police Arrest South Korean Hydis Workers on Hunger Strike, Tearing Down Their Encampment

Six death row inmates sentenced to death by order of Minister of Justice Luo Ying-shay

Six death row inmates sentenced to death by order of Minister of Justice Luo Ying-Shay. The method of execution was through pistol shot to the heart after anesthetization. The death penalty has been a controversial topic as of late after the death last week of a female elementary schooler, after having her throat slit by a 29-year old man whose last name was Kung. As critics have pointed out, the timing of this set of executions is probably not coincidental where an outbreak of protest demanding the death penalty for Kung broke out after the girl died.


In public comments, Luo defended the use of the death penalty, stating that 80% of Taiwanese supported capital punishment. Nevertheless, this is not the first time Luo has been accused of using the death penalty for political purposes. This is the second round of executions carried out by Luo. The first round of executions carried out by Luo was in April 2014, one month after the start of the Sunflower Movement. The Ministry of Justice was accused then of acting on behalf of the Ma administration to provide a smokescreen to distract people from the crisis of Taiwan’s democracy then ongoing through carrying out executions, as well as attempting to bolster the Ma administration’s public image where it was seen that the popular approval of capital punishment might lead to an uptick in approval ratings.

In particular, since last week, we might note that some who were on the fence about capital punishment has switched positions, although stalwart anti-capital punishment activists remain largely committed to pushing for the end of the death penalty in Taiwan. As belying the political use of capital punishment in Taiwan, DPP presidential candidate Tsai Ing-Wen’s opposition to the capital punishment has become used by KMT critics as a means of attacking her presidential campaign. Indeed, the current political climate does not lend itself freely to opponents of capital punishment freely expressing their views. This did not prevent anti-capital punishment activists from protesting outside the Ministry of Justice after the executions had taken place, however.

Author: Brian Hioe
Photo Credit: 中央社
Biography: Brian Hioe (丘琦欣) is an M.A. student at Columbia University, a freelance writer on politics and social activism, and an occasional translator. He is formerly a resident of Taipei, Taiwan.

Six death row inmates sentenced to death by order of Minister of Justice Luo Ying-shay

Rally to Commemorate 26th anniversary of Tiananmen Square Massacre at Freedom Plaza

Rally to commemorate 26th anniversary of Tiananmen Square Massacre takes place at Freedom Plaza. Speakers included Tiananmen Square student leaders Wuerkaixi and Wang Dan, members of activist organizations, and politicians. Several musical performances also took place, including a performance by activist rappers Kou Chou Ching. The crowd, however, was only several hundred in number in consideration of drizzling rain and suffocating humidity. A number of the activist organizations who gave speeches during the rally were represented at booths set up along the side of Freedom Plaza, next to the change. Groups present included the Black Island Youth Front, Taiwan March, Democracy Tautin, Students for a Free Tibet, Taiwan Friends of Uighurs, and others and the audience largely consisted of members of Taipei civil society, ranging from students to office workers and other working adults. The highlight of the protest was the ceremonial raising of 200 yellow umbrellas which were distributed among the crowd, meant to evoke Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement in front of a stage set up to resemble Tiananmen Square itself.


Early speakers included activist organizers representing so-called greater China, such as a speaker from a Tibetan exile group, and a student from Hong Kong studying in Taiwan. The Tibetan exile speaker, who seemed to hail from the Indian Tibetan exile community, emphasized his ability to represent Tibetans in Tibet, despite having never been to Tibet himself because he was born abroad. This, of course, has been no small matter of controversy where Tibetans in Tibet itself sometime have feelings of hostility towards the Tibetan exile groups who have monopolized representation of Tibet internationally despite being cut off from Tibet for over half a century. Indeed, despite that Taiwanese groups and the international public more broadly embrace exile Tibetan groups’ claims to represent Tibet, when Taiwanese activist groups might be more critical of the KMT’s claim to represent China as a government-in-exile after over half a century’s separation from mainland China, they might question as to whether Tibetan exile groups are not making a similar claim to the KMT. The speaker mentioned that Tibetan exile groups commemorate the Tiananmen Massacre Anniversary after a sense of solidarity with Han Chinese, transcending racial antagonisms, however.


Wuerkaixi’s speech.

The student speaker from Hong Kong, Henry Guo Yuqian, representing an Taiwanese student organization concerning Chinese issues of democracy (臺灣學生促進中國民主化工作會), raised the question of how nativist and localist groups in Hong Kong following the Umbrella Movement are calling for residents of Hong Kong not to commemorate the Tiananmen Square Massacre, where the anniversary had been previously commemorated yearly. The argument of localist groups is that Hong Kong should be independent of China and so should not concern themselves with the issues of China, as criticizing the moderate stances taken by Joshua Wong and the three leaders of Occupy Central towards the relation of Hong Kong and China. Guo, however, instead made the claim that the true heroes of the Umbrella Revolution were not any of these leaders, though he did not mention them by name, but the Chinese citizens who rallied in support of the Umbrella Movement within mainland China and suffered the consequences as a result.


Wang Dan’s speech.

In his speech, continuing the general theme of his writings, Wuerkaixi emphasized the judgment of history as still being out for the Chinese Communist Party and their actions twenty-six years ago. For his part, Wang Dan read a letter he had received from a 20 year old student in Beijing. Both also emphasized the continued plight of pro-democracy dissidents as Pu Zhiqiang, Liu Xiaobo, Chen Guangcheng, and others. Wuerkaixi and Wang Dan, of course, as student leaders of Tiananmen Square who wound up living in Taiwan in the role of public intellectuals are usually speakers at every year’s commemoration of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, a yearly event at Freedom Plaza. Wuerkaixi, in fact, apparently inspired by the victory of Ko Wen-Je as an independent mayoral candidate in Taipei and the power of Taiwanese civil society as expressed in the Sunflower Movement, briefly declared that he would run for legislator in Taichung by way of by-election before later withdrawing and promising to run for legislator at a later point in time.

Shih Ming-Teh surrounded by an angry crowd.

More controversial was the presence of Shih Ming-Teh, former leading voice in the Dangwai Movement, who has since become widely disrespected as a public figure. Though a speaker yearly, Shih Ming-Teh was accused of attempting to use the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre for political purposes of furthering his upcoming presidential campaign by members of the crowd and his speech saw booing from the audience. Shih Ming-Teh played up his history as a martyr of the Dangwai Movement in his speech. Responding to the shouts of the audience, Shih Ming-Teh, claimed that the audience could respond as they did was because of the democratization of Taiwan. However, a clamor followed immediately after the end of his speech, when individuals tried to interrupt an interview with between Shih Ming-Teh and press.


Annette Lu speaking.

As a result, though her comments largely well received by the crowd, former Taiwanese vice president Annette Lu’s speech immediately after Shih Ming-Teh began in a somewhat awkward manner, given the tussle happening off to the side of Freedom Plaza after she began. In her comments, Lu emphasized the need of Taiwanese democracy to internationalize, much as Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement attracted so much international attention because of Hong Kong’s international nature. Lu, however, also emphasized the 228 Massacre and Kaohsiung Incident as similar in nature to Tiananmen Square.

Lu’s speech was followed by a DPP representative of Tsai Ing-Wen, who read a statement of Tsai’s given that Tsai is currently touring the United States, and added some comments of her own. This was warmly received by the crowd, although it reflects some of the awkward attempt of organizers to be bipartisan that Shih Ming-Teh, who has been vocal critic of Tsai and even claimed that he opposed Tsai’s presidency on the basis of his view that Tsai was a closeted lesbian, had been two speakers before Tsai’s DPP representative.

More awkward still was the fact that Tsai’s representative was followed as a speaker by a representative of the Kuomintang Youth Corps, Lin Jiaxing. Though Lin’s speech did not initially offend, Lin even beginning with an acknowledgment that the majority of the audience probably had different political views than he, Lin was booed after touching on questions of Taiwan’s economic relation to China, a sense of greater Chinese identification, and a racially defined understanding of Chineseness. Shouts from the crowd largely resembled the criticisms against Shih Ming-Teh, with accusations that Lin was attempting to use the Tiananmen Square Massacre for the political purposes of the KMT.

We might note, however, significantly, as the sole representative of the KMT present at the rally, it is interesting that the KMT would put forth a young face, out of the notion that part of the reason the KMT has lost the favor of the Taiwanese public in wake of the Sunflower Movement is on the basis of a disconnect from Taiwanese young. Lin was followed by representatives of Taiwanese activist organizations, including Taiwan March, Democracy Tautin, and the Black Island Youth Front, who responded variously to Lin’s provocations. A standout speech was probably Wu Cheng of Democracy Tautin’s, where Taiwan March’s representative was somewhat rambling in attempting to refute Lin, discuss referendum reform, the issue of textbook revisions, and other topics within too limited a space of time. The last speaker of the rally discussed “Black Box” textbook revisions, the current hot topic issue of Taiwanese activism, and raised the Umbrella Movement has having began through a similar issue via Joshua Wong’s Scholarism group, which opposed textbook revisions for students in Hong Kong meant to instill a sense of Chinese patriotism. He called thusly for a “second Sunflower Movement” to surround the Ministry of Education in July.


Performance by Kou Chou Ching.

In reflection upon the rally, we might applaud the sense of internationalism and sense of solidarity of those Taiwanese activists who had largely rallied against China’s growing economic influence upon Taiwan last year during the Sunflower Movement. Indeed, it stands out that those Taiwanese activists who most strongly emphasize Taiwanese identity against a greater Chinese identity, as rappers Kou Chou Ching, called for a “Free China” because of a desire that Taiwan’s neighboring country be a democratic country, much in the way that they also call for a “Free Tibet,” “Free Xinjiang,” “Free Burma,” or elsewhere.

It is true, of course, that Taiwanese tend to be somewhat simplistic in their view of China’s potential democratization, particularly concerning the complex way in which Tiananmen Square played out in China in the period of Deng’s free market economic reforms and how it was was understood afterwards regarding the abstract notion of “democracy”. Taiwanese, likewise, sometimes tend to project the plight of Taiwan onto the components of China with incipient independence movements as Xinjiang or Tibet without grasping the particularities of each situation, or are willing to embrace fantasies of China fragmenting overnight in the manner of the Soviet Union out of a desire that this would lead China to becoming more democratic and—perhaps more to the point—annul the threat of China to Taiwan. As we can see very clearly in the fact that the rally closed with a speaker about the issue of textbook reform, equally at the heart of the rally was anxieties about Taiwanese democracy and not at all Chinese democracy—after all, how does the issue of KMT mandated textbook reforms have any relevance to Tiananmen Square or China’s lack of democracy? In similar manner, that the main event of the protest was the lifting of yellow umbrellas meant to recall Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement, indicates a compression of a number of issues regarding mainland China’s lack of democracy and the erosion of democracy in Hong Kong after the turnover to Chinese control.


Where anti-Chinese sentiment is on the rise in Hong Kong following the Umbrella Movement, though there have been occasional anti-Chinese protests regarding the influx of Chinese tourists and the incidents they cause in Taiwan, for the most part, anti-Chinese sentiment is far weaker in Taiwan. It is sometimes ironic to note that anti-Chinese sentiment whether in Hong Kong or Taiwan sometimes coexists strangely with the memorializing of Tiananmen Square in the sense that the actual issue at hand is anxiety of growing Chinese power, and the uncultured manner of Chinese tourists abroad or that the Chinese government would brutally massacre its own people both serve as ways of undercutting Chinese prestige. Yet if Taiwan is to find some way of coexisting with China while remaining separate from it, it may need that more attempts to think through the solidarity of Taiwanese and Chinese from the political position of Taiwanese independence. The yearly rally memorializing Tiananmen Square is a beginning.

Author: Brian Hioe
Photo Credit: Brian Hioe
Biography: Brian Hioe (丘琦欣) is an M.A. student at Columbia University, a freelance writer on politics and social activism, and an occasional translator. He is formerly a resident of Taipei, Taiwan.

Rally to Commemorate 26th anniversary of Tiananmen Square Massacre at Freedom Plaza

Protestors Against TAO Minister Zhang Zhijun Attacked on Kinmen

A meeting between China’s Taiwan Affairs Office Minister Zhang Zhijun and Taiwan’s Mainland Affairs Council Minister Andrew Hsia on Kinmen yesterday saw protest from 60 to 70 members of the Taiwan Solidarity Union’s “Youth Corps.” Protestors, however, were attacked by a group of several dozen black clad men. Of the four injured, one entered the emergency room for treatment, while two others saw visits to the hospital but had minor injuries. The DPP, however, was not a participant in the protest according to public statement.

Protests by Taiwan Solidarity Members including an incident of throwing a smoke bomb, it seems this having become a popular protest tactic, after a highly publicized incident in which smoke bombs were set off by protestors on May 1st, International Worker’s Day of this year. The protests also saw scuffles with several hundred police. National Police Agency head Chen Kuo-En flew in to directly oversaw protest security. Protestors supporting Zhang’s visit were also several hundred in number, largely drawn from ROC-oriented and China-oriented patriotic organizations, supporting protestors also including the aforementioned black clad men. After being questioned by police, these black clad men were released, however.


Zhang Zhijun and his Taiwanese counterpart Andrew Hsia discussed the Ma administration’s interest in Taiwan’s becoming a member of the China-fronted Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), as has been a contentious issue as of late. In regards to this, towing the Ma line Hsia offered the need for Taiwan to maintain “dignity” in participation, whatever that means exactly. Protest was lodged by Hsia against Taiwan’s inclusion in Article 11 of China’s National Security Act, which stipulates that “all Chinese people” need defend China’s territorial sovereignty against territorial splits, inclusive of mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Though this has raised some hackles in Hong Kong, the stakes of China’s taken measures to enforce this law being highly charged after last year’s Umbrella Movement, to be sure, China, of course, has no way of enforcing this in Taiwan—as was in fact the object of some derision in Hong Kong.

Yet in retrospect, we might note that the number of protestors who demonstrated in support of Zhang clearly outnumbered pro-Taiwan protestors. Though we might be aghast at the attacks which took place against pro-Taiwan protestors, we should not be surprised at pro-China sentiment. Kinmen, after all, was the site of constant conflict shelling by the People’s Republic of China during the First and Second Taiwan Straits Crises in the 1950s. Nevertheless, Kinmen, a set of islands, is only 1.2 miles away from Xiamen, China.

As a result, it is not surprising that despite the islands have been administrated by the ROC government since the end of World War II, residents sometimes have a conflicted sense of identity, identifying with a sense of “Chineseness” partially as a product of KMT cultural policies emphasizing a Chinese identity, but also feeling marginalized at times by the Taiwanese government which administrated Kinmen. As a result, while it is ambiguous as to where the protesting groups originated from, residents of Kinmen have sometimes identified as having a mixed sense of identity between Taiwan and China, or neither “Taiwanese” nor “Chinese”, but as “Kinmenese.” This has at times come with a sense of isolation. As while some identify with China culturally, other with Taiwan because of its relative democracy, still others have come to fear Taiwanese independence for fear of Kinmen becoming cut off from Taiwan as a result.

After all, in addition to Kinmen as a site of conflict between Taiwan and China in the 1950s, for many years, Kinmen was under military rule, only returning to civilian government after 1992. With the opening up of travel between Kinmen and mainland China which took place after the return to civilian government, Kinmen became a popular site of businessmen seeking to enter China to enter through, rather than entering through Hong Kong. But this would later change after direct flight was opened between Taiwan and China, which robbed Kinmen of its source of possible development. Kinmen now serves as a popular site for Taiwanese tourists as well as Chinese tourists, with the opening up of Kinmen to tourists from Fujian, China, after 2003.

Apart from continued issues of land seized in the past by the military which has still not been returned in the present, likewise, resultantly, Kinmen’s issues lay in that where the abandoned attempt to develop the island was abruptly halted after direct flight became began to take place between Taiwan and China, but the destruction of KInmen’s natural resources had already taken place as a result of development projects. This was irreversible, as 2014 Taiwanese documentary The Lost Sea detailed to popular and critical acclaim. Kinmen, of course, is highly dependent upon Chinese economic activity to survive and reliant upon water supply from China as a result of limited water sources, which makes issues of cross-strait relations especially a loaded question where Kinmen is so geographically close to China and quite dependent upon China, yet under Taiwanese administration. Indeed, it was this question that The Lost Sea touched upon, in seeking to prompt evaluations Taiwan’s broader circumstances through the lens of Kinmen’s particular circumstances.

In their meeting, Zhang and Hsia touched upon this history, citing that the history of Kinmen was a reminder that conflict should never again happen between Taiwan and China. More concretely, concerning Kinmen’s water dependence on China, negotiations were also conducted regarding a water pipeline from Fujian, China to Kinmen. One also speculates as to that Zhang and Hsia’s meeting, originally to take place in February but delayed as a result of protest against China’s unilateral declaration of the M503 Flight Route which took planes uncomfortably close towards Taiwanese airspace, was deliberately relocated to Kinmen for a reason. Yet as with many things, it seems there is no easy resolution for this dilemma.

Author: Brian Hioe
Photo Credit: BBC
Biography: Brian Hioe (丘琦欣) is an M.A. student at Columbia University, a freelance writer on politics and social activism, and an occasional translator. He is formerly a resident of Taipei, Taiwan.

Protestors Against TAO Minister Zhang Zhijun Attacked on Kinmen

What is Going On With the KMT?

The deadline for applying for KMT presidential primaries ended yesterday in a strange turn, with seemingly no party heavyweights announcing a run for president. While most news attention to date has focused on Eric Chu, current chairman of the KMT, deciding not to run for president, neither did Wang Jin-Pyng. As a result, of the three applicants for KMT candidacy who did apply, Hung Hsiu-chu and Yaung Chih-liang are the two most prominent applicants. The KMT will now go forward with its KMT presidential primary process.

Chu had previously announced that he would be finishing his term as mayor of New Taipei City and would not be pursuing presidential nomination, touting that he saw it as his role as KMT party chairman to maintain party unity. However, it may be ironic that Chu’s not running may prompt more party disunity, leaving one at odds to explain as to what Chu’s motivations in not running are. Voices within the party urging Chu to run were many, including current President Ma Ying-Jeou, who was previous chairman of the KMT before resigning after the defeat of the KMT in nine-in-one elections. Chu would have likely run unopposed.


Yet even as the fact that Chu chose not to run in 2016 elections has received the most attention, it also proves surprising that Wang Jin-Pyng also chose not to run, where he was another KMT heavyweight who might have thrown his hat into the ring. Wang announced his decision not to run in largely the same terms Chu did, citing the need for party unity, and his announcement that he would not run placed much pressure on Chu to run.

Despite Chu having reiterated many times that he would not run, popular perception remained that he would make an eleventh hour run. Chu’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping was seen as a way to beef up his policy credentials regarding cross-strait relations, for example, and Chu’s continual claim that he would not run was seen as paving the way for the necessity that he would run, as a product of there being no other KMT frontrunners.

But what now for the KMT? Current proceedings evidently reflect a great deal of internal dissension within the KMT. Whether Chu or Wang chose not to run this time around because of future plans to run in 2020, despite their claims of motivations of preserving KMT party unity, is it that KMT party politicians view it as a lost cause to run in the present? It may be that for all this talk of party unity, personal interest is the actual deciding factor, in regards to preserving one’s ability to run later. However, this, too, is speculation.

Does this represent the coming collapse of the KMT, having apparently arrived prematurely even before next year’s elections? Is a Tsai Ing-Wen victory for next year assured? Or is there still some way for KMT to forcibly draft Chu? Nevertheless, in the meantime, as we are at odds to explain this outcome, rightfully deserved pleasure in the KMT’s woes aside, to get a grasp on the possibilities electoral politics for the next year and in the longer range for Taiwan will require understanding what exactly happened yesterday within the KMT.

Author: Brian Hioe
Photo Credit: 何豪毅/Taiwan People News
Biography: Brian Hioe (丘琦欣) is an M.A. student at Columbia University, a freelance writer on politics and social activism, and an occasional translator. He is formerly a resident of Taipei, Taiwan.

What is Going On With the KMT?