Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Plea from Taiwan: Update 1

UPDATE 1 (Students occupy Parliament week 1):

The students occupied the Parliament for five long days before President Ma made a statement to the press and the Premier met with the student leader. The Premier was sneering and the President repeated his usual line of how the Pact would improve Taiwan’s economy. Neither one addressed the students’ demands nor did they acknowledge that they had violated democratic processes.

On that evening, thousands of protestors went to a second location and occupied the Presidential Cabinet grounds. Some students managed to enter the actual building. Aside from damage to the main doors and two broken windows, there were no other signs of damage to the building. There was no vandalism. The already occupied Parliament Building is under the Speaker’s jurisdiction but this Cabinet Building is under the jurisdiction of the President. Although the students had to wait over 100 hours to hear a non-statement from the President, it took only a matter of 2 hours for the President to give orders to “use whatever means to remove the protestors.” 600 riot police and several hundred more officers gathered along with water cannon trucks. 

Most students began to sit down and huddle together, innocently believing that as long as they themselves remained peaceful, the police would not hurt them. But the police kept lining up and pushing and tensions escalated. An acquaintance of mine was trying to escort an elderly lady to safer grounds when a policeman yelled at the lady, “This is not your business, old lady, go home!”

The old lady replied, “I’m not here for myself. I’m here for them and their future!” at which point she started weeping, and all the students around her got teary-eyed.

All TV stations and journalists were ordered to leave the area. Once the media presence left, the riot police (with their badge numbers intentionally hidden) descended on the students, beating them with batons and hitting their legs with their shields. It is ironic that these police even had their shields with them since the students were completely unarmed and in passive postures. My friends and I simply cried as we watched these events unfold over facebook. 

Smartphones captured footages of police brutally beating defenseless students while onlookers screamed in chorus, “Stop hitting us! Stop hitting us!” Many students were weeping and asking the police, “Why is the government treating us this way?” By dawn, with the final sweeping of the water cannons, the Cabinet grounds were cleared. No measures were taken to evict those at the Parliament Building, where 300 still remain securely barricaded, with thousands of supporters gathered outside.

We couldn’t believe it. The use of such violent force on our dear passive students. I’ve tried to share a few video footages but all these footages keep mysteriously disappearing from facebook and youtube, no matter how many times the post is reposted. It is really eerie to know that censorship is already happening here. (The censorship has been confirmed to be linked to a Pro-China media company and ‘opinion monitors.’ Beijing (and maybe Taiwan?) employs people whose job all day long is to delete social media messages it deems harmful.)

 My friends and I have not had much sleep. When we meet, we pray and strategize and sometimes choke back tears. Our hearts ache as we grieve the pending loss of our beloved homeland. We pray God will give us wisdom to know how to proceed.

In some ways, the sun still rises and sets. As I’m typing, people are going about their business and I can hear children’s sounds coming from a nearby park. A lot of people here actually don’t really know what’s going on. What the TV stations report is completely different from what is happening at the scene. The media continues to smear the students as an ‘unruly mob,’ with cameras zooming in on supposed overturned furniture or vandalism. (One reporter was actually spotted to be overturning a trash can herself so as to make the scene look more chaotic.) The hourly news shows practically no footages of police brutality. The students interviewed on TV somehow all seem to be confused and incapable of articulating what they are protesting. (Contrast this to a journalist’s interview with the student leader barricaded inside the Parliament: The View from Taiwan)

You have to wonder, why aren’t the talk shows inviting leading Taiwan economists and businessmen to discuss their views on this trade agreement? Or invite top university professors who have written papers on this Pact to discuss their views? Or better yet, why not do a thorough investigative reporting of the current state of affairs in Hong Kong, which signed a similar Pact with China just ten years ago? Nope. The TV stations day in and day out report the same smear campaign towards the students, and that kind of propaganda is what millions of Taiwanese watch all - day - long.

The morning after the police crack down on the protesters, just when our hearts were still breaking over the violence done to our students, a morning talk show somehow neglected to interview student protesters, and instead interviewed the Deputy Interior Minister, whose office at the Cabinet was supposedly entered by students during their momentary occupation. Besides scolding the students, he also complained that the students ate the biscuits which were on his desk. In light of all that’s happened, with millions of Taiwanese around the world shedding bitter tears, this man is talking ‘biscuits.’ Just a clear illustration that these governing officials really have zero connection to the people of Taiwan.

(Side note: A doctor and his friends pooled together $1000 USD and bought 150 boxes of biscuits (1500 biscuits) and had them delivered directly to the Cabinet Building attention Deputy Interior Minister. The enclosed note reads:
“Since we sympathize with those students at the hospitals suffering through the painful process of recovery, a group of us online have decided to repay the students’ debt. These 1500 delicious biscuits are all for you. Because we are all peaceful reasoning respectable citizens, we always return what we’ve borrowed. Thanks to Deputy Interior Minister for your biscuits!” 
I tell you, as our hearts feel so downcast and powerless nowadays, we need a little levity now and then...)
A nice non-Taiwanese Christian once told me, “Well, if China took over Taiwan, then I’d just share the Gospel with them.” My dear, if China took over Taiwan, you’d be put in jail for sharing the Gospel with them! If China took over Taiwan, 23 million people would lose their freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom to petition, to assemble, etc. etc. By the way, for those of you reading this on facebook... facebook is banned in China.

It has been one week now since the students occupied Taiwan’s Parliament. Taiwan’s ruling party KMT has joined forces with China to turn Taiwan’s economy over to China. If this Cross-Straits Trade Agreement gets passed, Taiwan will eventually fall to communist China. Yes, I know, it wouldn’t be as immediate as a military invasion. It would take, oh, maybe a couple of decades more or less. But it would still be certain death.

So for now, President Ma and the KMT simply wait, expecting that the students will get tired and give up. Once our fervor wanes and our attention turns elsewhere, then they can surreptitiously pass the agreement under the table. How long can the students hold out at the Parliament? Should we just yield to our tiredness and give in, or should we persevere?

- Judy Linton

"The wise and magnanimous patriot, by forecasting the distant but certain dangers of his country, affects himself in advance with a zeal and grief and desire, as ardent as those which duller souls can feel under the actual experience of the present calamity. It is this anticipative passion, kindled through the imagination, which nerves his soul to prepare, to watch, to strive, to bleed for his country's defense, while others are as yet unconcerned, and are perhaps accusing him of extravagance." - Robert L. Dabney, A.D. 1870
神學家 Robert L. Dabney,一八七0年


Some thoughtful articles on Taiwan:

• What Would America do if China Invaded Taiwan? What Would America Do If China Invaded?
• From A Ukrainian Winter to a Taiwan Spring From a Ukrainian Winter to a Taiwanese Spring

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