Wei Jingsheng Foundation News and Article Release Issue: A226-W117



Release Date: September 3, 2006



Topic: The Current Anti-Corruption Movement in Taiwan Has a Significant Meaning to the Development of Taiwan's Democracy -- Wei Jingsheng

标题:台湾当今的反腐民主运动对台湾的民主发展意义重大 -- 魏京生


Original Language Version: Chinese (Chinese version at the end)



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The Current Anti-Corruption Movement in Taiwan Has a Significant Meaning to the Development of Taiwan's Democracy

-- Wei Jingsheng



It has been a long time since we discussed Taiwan.  Recently something big happened on Taiwan. I was still traveling when I first heard about it.  As soon as I took a look at the news, I found it was true; something unexpected had taken place, and it was causing a lot of unusual excitement.  Probably not since 1979's Kaohsiung Incident (also known as Formosa Incident), not for the last 26 years, has there been such a broad based movement as this one.  The most recent title that has come out in the last few days is:  the Full Scale of the Anti-Chen Shui-bian Movement.


The movement was initiated by a group of elite Taiwanese democracy activists.  The leader, Mr. Shih Ming-teh, is a forerunner of the Taiwanese democracy movement and an old friend of mine.  Mr. Shih, in working for democracy in Taiwan, was in and out of jail for 26 years.  He is the initiator and leader of the Taiwanese Independence Movement.  He was also the chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in its founding days.  However he and two other former chairmen of the DPP all withdrew from the DPP because of corruption and poor policies after the DPP took over the government.  The reputation of the other is second only to that of Shih Ming-teh -- Hsu Hsin-liang.  This time they have again stepped forward to support this movement initiated by Shih Ming-teh.  Their reasoning is that the DPP's corruption and attempt to monopolize power has already violated the ideals for which these activists sacrificed.


In the past a few months, Taiwanese critics have said that Taiwan has already lost its population base for a political movement.  Taiwanese society is more concerned with personal happiness and enjoyment than politics.  With freedom of speech and thought, people's concerns have spread across many areas, making it hard to draw people's attention to an idealistic goal.  So there would not be a major movement with widespread attention.  But this movement's rapid development proves that Taiwanese democracy movement is not depressed.  There are still major problems that deserve people's extensive attention.  This is not to say that once a democratic politic has been established everything will be fine.  Of course this problem and that problem will still arise; the democratic system needs continued fine-tuning; corruption and bad habits of irresponsible politicians still have to be regularly cleaned out.  It is just like a residence cleaning out the trash, it is a constant process that must be repeated.  It is not something you can complete once and for all.


This movement started because the DPP, ever since becoming the ruling party, has grown more and more politically corrupt.  Especially he corruption-involving president Chen Shui-Bian's family has already grown unbearable.  Think about it -- the family of the president, who is close to the highest-level top secrets, participates in playing stocks, extorting and racketeering business enterprises.  Is this still a fair market?  How do others do business? If all levels of government officials rally together and follow this bad example, there would not be a fair market or a just society.  Greed would not stop at only using information; it will inevitably spread to influence politics.  If this sort of trend continues to develop, the democratic system will wither away beneath corruption.  This result and that of the dictatorship across the strait would be one and the same.  The people become victims under the feet of the corrupt officials, allowing themselves to be trampled upon.


When the people are bearing an unbearable situation, they need a leader to guide them in protecting their rights and interests.  Shih Ming-teh and his friends are once again standing at the forefront, initiating this new democracy movement -- guarding the democratic politics' strategic pass; preventing democracy from degenerating into autocratic tyranny because of politicians keeping each other from harm.


Do you think this is not possible?  It is very possible.  Not to mention examples from the far past, in the last a few decades, many governments which were democratically elected become autocracies via the pass of corruption leading to the ultimate autocracy.  Taiwan's democracy was only recently established and is still in a dangerous period.  The greatest possible danger originates from citizens and societies not having learnt how to effectively use their democratic rights to protect private and public interests.  Many harmful habits and ways of thinking are left over from the old society of the recently ended autocratic system, which lure the people to voluntarily give up the democratic rights that ought to be theirs; this is one reason corruption has grown and spread.


For example, after the new democratic movement developed, opposing camps put forth a theory that appears correct but is actually wrong.  It was to not allow those involved in the movement to protest in the streets, but to instead "Return to the path of the constitutional legal system."  They forget that not only in today's democratic age, but also during Taiwan's period of martial law, even under the Mainland's one-party dictatorship, going out into the streets to exercise was their right; it is legal, and constitutionally appropriate behavior.  There is nothing inappropriate about it.  Even the Communist Party does not dare deny that citizens have this sort of indisputable right.  How can once democracy advocators mistakenly think people do not have this right?  Is not this a sign that the democracy faction is headed toward autocracy?


Right now, democracy movement forerunner Mr. Shih Ming-teh and his democracy movement friends initiated a new anti-corruption movement. The movement is widely supported and right now in Taiwan it is making a spectacular display.  Those supporting the government, aside from starting rumors to attack Mr. Shih's personal life, use the main excuse to oppose the movement by calling for the opposition movement to return to the so-called "proper course of the constitutional legal system."  They even argue the Taiwanese should endure two more years and wait until the next presidential election to exercise their democratic right.  This sort of ridiculous remark even comes from opposition party camps.  It seems Taiwan's young democratic system is still fragile, even the opposing party does not know what they are supposed to be doing.


Democracy and autocracy are both political systems, both manage public affairs for the entire society.  The greatest difference between the two is who is sovereign. Which is to say the problem of who has final authority.  We cannot count on politicians to be saints, so no matter if the system is autocratic or democratic, both must deal with the problem of supervising and restricting officials.


Autocratic systems function by the rule of self-monitoring and self-restraint, which is so-called thieves supervising thieves, the longer they rule the greedier they become and in the end it collapses.  For the last two thousand years China's autocratic emperors followed this principle.  Although they developed countless systems to supervise and restrain officials, the systems were useless.  This is because the overall system prevented the restraint mechanism from functioning well.  This is the reason Mainland China is now corrupt beyond repair.


Democracy, however, is different.  Aside from restraining oneself, the main source of constraint comes from outside the governing clique.  Which is to say that when self-restraint is unsuccessful, the restriction from the opposition party or opposition faction is the main line of defense that pressed the clique in power to punish corrupt behavior.  Just because an opposition party exists to deter the governing body, they can thus compel the governing leaders to follow the legal system, keeping politics honest and upright.  This is where the structure of democracy is better than the structure of autocracy -- because democracy resolves the key problem of restraining politicians.  Because of this mechanism, democracy can accomplish what autocracies cannot accomplish.  This sort of activity is what academics call politics within the system; it is the way things function in a normal state of affairs.


But such matters are not simple and cannot all be solved in the same way.  Sometimes the opposition parties are weak, and sometimes they fail to uphold their duty and because out of consideration for some sort scheme put aside the obligation to be a watchdog.  Thus democracy provides itself with last opportunity to compensate for the crisis that results when the opposition parties fail to fulfill their function.  This is why the U.S. constitution stipulates that the people can bypass representative government to put the right of direct democracy into practice.  Citizens not only reserve the right to criticize, the right to demonstrate, and even the right to bear arms, the rights to overturn a tyrannical government when absolutely necessary.  This is democracy's final restraint on the government, and the last means to protect the people's rights.


Taiwan's democracy is not on its last legs, but it has encountered a serious crisis.  First of all, Chen Shui-Bian, as leader of the ruling clique, has lost self-restraint.  Because of hardship earlier on in President Chen Shui-Bian's life, from emotional point of view, he is unable to restrain his wife and children.  This can be regarded as the extension of the unfortunate early life.  But what of the DPP?  Where is the DPP?  How can the party not fulfill its responsibility, how can it not supervise and restrain its own president?  Is it out of fear of retaliation or out of fondness for one's own that it sees its leader's faults as merits?  This is also the manifestation of the bad habits of an autocratic politics.  Appeasing this evil only allowed it fester, damaging President Chen, damaging the DPP, but also damaging Taiwan's democracy.


Where is the opposition party?  Does the opposition party lack the will to fight, or care of their own power and interests only, or have no sense of responsibility toward society?  Because of inherited bureaucratic culture from the past one-party dictatorship, they lack a sense of responsibility toward the party and the country. They spend the whole day absorbed in calculating schemes, yet they are not enthusiastic about democracy.  They appear weak and hypocritical, even to the point of betraying democracy.  They are not able to function, as an opposition party should.  The opposition party is second most responsible after the ruling party which tolerates the evil and abets it.


Fortunately, the situation is not too bad because there are newly emerging forces of the opposition party that are bearing the responsibility the political parties ought to bear.  Under pressure both internally and externally, facing slanderous rumors, they fearlessly lead the Taiwanese people and media in exercising their democratic rights.  They persist in fighting to expose and to prevent corruption.  And also fortunately, there is a group of ruling party elder heroes who have stepped forward, they have taken this exercise in democratic rights, and this battle to supervise and restrain the government and pushed it to new heights.  They are the hope of Taiwan and the guardians of democracy.


If they succeed, the movement as a whole will have a positive result.  And thus Taiwan's democracy will move from childhood to maturity.  If they lose, it will be like after the Tiananmen Square democracy movement failed, Chinese society became much more corrupt.  I hope the Taiwanese people can learn from Mainland China's lesson, and support anti-corruption democratic movements.



(Written on August 28, 2006.  Partially broadcasted by Radio Free Asia.  The Wei Jingsheng Foundation is responsible for the accuracy of this version of the English translation.)



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Wei Jingsheng Foundation News and Article Release Issue: A226-W117



Release Date: September 3, 2006



Topic: The Current Anti-Corruption Movement in Taiwan Has a Significant Meaning to the Development of Taiwan's Democracy -- Wei Jingsheng

标题:台湾当今的反腐民主运动对台湾的民主发展意义重大 -- 魏京生


Original Language Version: Chinese (Chinese version at the end)









-- 魏京生











































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