3/10/2007

So Much For Freedom of Speech in Taiwan

"He who fights with crocodiles soon becomes one." - Friedrich Nietzsche

For 38 years, Taiwan was under martial law. Many claim that this period is the longest stretch of martial law recorded in modern history. There is really no need to go into it: people were jailed and shot for having views that contrasted with the ruling party, a party that was never elected in Taiwan or, arguably, in China and therefore one that represented no one. This is one of the major reasons the KMT was thrown out on its ear in 2000 in Taiwan's second democratic election for a president and why it lost a further 11% of its stake four years later in Taiwan's third presidential election (democratic).

Yesterday, a group of DPP lawmakers -- this is the party that wrested power from the KMT, constantly reminding us of the KMT's authoritarian heritage, human rights record and general disregard for democratic principles -- called for a reporter from CNN to be expelled from Taiwan because he had had the nerve to quote the Chinese government's appraisal of Vice President Annette Lu. He did this after she made her intentions to run in the upcoming party primary clear. The reporter, Lee Ming, ran with this quote: "Scum of the Nation runs for President" as a headline. His article also said that Chinese officials had referred to the VP as "insane". I am not sure what he was referring to in particular. In Taiwan, women's groups and democracy advocates look up to Lu as she is articulate, bold and humorous. She has also kicked a lot of funds their way.

Nevertheless, it stuns me that the DPP would move to curtail this man's rights to freedom of expression, and then link it to Lu. The woman, after all, did jail-time in the eighties for her political views and for being part of the Kaohsiung Eight, the supposed ringleaders of the 1979 democracy movement down south.

As usual, President Chen is in the middle of things: "Taiwan and the People's Republic of China are two sovereign independent countries."

Wow! Good.

"Taiwan is Taiwan and China is China. Don't make malicious comments about Taiwanese affairs using China's perspective."

Why on earth not? Taiwan is a free country. The people here enjoy freedom of the press and speech. Or, does he mean that these rights are not extended to "foreigners"? (If so, he should look at the Constitution because they are.)

Actually Lee Ming can say whatever he wants. That reminds me. So can I. Every time I write about the V.P., regardless of the context, I feel obligated to mention that people in Taiwan still remember the Annette Lu's unusual comment about Aborigines, when she said that they could go (back, I think) to Central America, because it would be better for them there. Taiwan, China, the world and the press should not let her off the hook so easily.

Taiwan's constitution includes the following:

Chapter II. Rights and Duties of the People
Article 11: The people shall have freedom of speech, teaching, writing and publication.

Just in case anyone doesn't think that Article 11 should extend to "foreigners", check this out:

Chapter I: General Provisions
Article 5 There shall be equality among the various racial groups IN the Republic of China [Taiwan].


Boy, the DPP really stinks on this call.

2 comments:

Michael Turton said...

What loss of freedom of speech? A DPPer used his freedom of speech to demand that a reporter for AP be kicked out, and got slapped down. Democracy and accountability won out, the idiots had no effect.

Michael

Patrick Cowsill said...

How is the DPPer different from the clowns that preceded him/her twenty years ago? Tell me that.

How was this DPPer slapped down? Did the President or DPP heavyweights come out and chastise him/her, revoke his party membership, etc.? Was there any sort of apology?

Actually, CNN was forced to change the headline. I am sure CNN will be much more careful about what they say in the future. They will probably be keeping an eye on Lee Ming as well. Freedom of speech lost out here, that is for sure.