Taiwan student occupation and clashes 'a failure of democracy', mainland microbloggers say

Forced entry of government headquarters 'went too far' but comparisons to June 4 are censored

PUBLISHED : Monday, 24 March, 2014, 1:22pm
UPDATED : Monday, 24 March, 2014, 7:32pm

Mainland microbloggers say they are disappointment with the student occupation of the Taiwanese cabinet building and legislature, calling it a failure of democracy.

Dozens were detained in Taipei late yesterday after protesters against the free-trade pact with the mainland stormed government headquarters.

Students shouted “we want real democracy” as they gathered outside the cabinet building.

Keywords including “cabinet building”, “legislature” and “free-trade pact” were some of the most popular search phrases on Sina Weibo this morning.

But mainland microbloggers questioned if paralysing the island’s administration was the best way to pursue democracy, with “populism” becoming a catch word among the comments.

“Protesting outside the cabinet building is fighting for your rights. But breaking into the building is violating of the rule of law. Staying outside the building is democracy. Occupying it is populism,” wrote mainland author and outspoken microblogger Bei Cun on Sina Weibo.

“Democracy is precious because it grants respect to the minority,” an advertiser who identified himself as LaoJian1967 wrote of the incident on Sina Weibo. “Many are against the pact, while some support it. If people can paralyse a country because of their objections, what is the difference between Taiwan and Thailand?”

“The news reminds me of June 4,” said one post that, like other referring to the Tiananmen incident, were censored on Sina Weibo.

“The Taiwanese movement has turned into violence, which should not be compared to the 1989 Movement,” independent curator Zhu Qi wrote on Weibo this morning, which was also later purged.

Some microbloggers cast doubt on the motivation behind the demonstration, arguing it might be a mass movement orchestrated by the Democratic Progressive Party.

“[You are] using the students as gun,” a microblogger from Jiangsu province, Adamjia, wrote in a comment on a photo of the demonstration posted by DPP legislator Tsai Chi-chang. Others left comments on the photo called the demonstrators “green guards”, referring to Mao Zedong’s red guards during the Cultural Revolution.

Violent clashes broke out on Sunday night between police and protesters who had occupied the legislature since Tuesday in protest against President Ma Ying-jeou’s refusal to scrap a trade agreement with the mainland.

In an online poll of more than 500 mainland microbloggers conducted by Sina Weibo, more than 60 per cent said the occupation was “too irrational and populist”, while the rest said it was typical of Taiwan’s often ill-tempered democracy.

Some were also concerned that the violent occupation would give mainland authorities another excuse to label democracy as the root of turbulence, referring to editorials published in state media criticising the recent violent demonstrations in Thailand.

“Such violent protests are used by dictators as another piece of evidence that democracy, which has caused nothing but turmoil, will not work for us,” a scholar who identified himself as Yang Peichang wrote on Sina Weibo.

But the Global Times, a tabloid affiliated with the official People’s Daily, did not seem to take the Taiwan protest as seriously as the unrest in Thailand.

In an editorial on Friday, the paper called on mainland authorities to stand back and examine the events in Taipei.

“The mainland has such huge markets across the world that it has never thought to profit from Taiwan," it said. "If Taiwan is so eager to be absent from the mainland market, we can only say ‘whatever’.”