The question Lung Yingtai could not answerI- / Chung CHEN (Translated by Mon WONG)
On March 31st, 1990, 200,000 British citizens swarmed into London¡¦s Trafalgar Square to protest against Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher¡¦s Poll Tax Policy. After riot police initiated the attack on peaceful demonstrators, some of them stared to fight back. The two sides attacked each others. As a result of this so called ¡¥Poll Tax Riots¡¦ or ¡¦Battle of Trafalgar¡¦, Thatcher was forced to resign, while Conservative Party¡¦s John Major stepped in and became the new Prime Minister.
The ¡¦Battle of Trafalgar¡¦ was merely a recent example of ¡¥civil disobedient movement¡¦. Looking back, there were also the Anti-Vietnam War Movement and the African-American Civil Rights Movement during the sixties.
The late American liberal democratic philosopher John Rawls expounds emphatically in his major work A Theory of Justice the importance of civil disobedient movement to constitutional democracy. He views any resistant movement that violates existing laws when grievous injustice could not be rectified under the current democratic system should not necessarily be considered illegitimate. According to him, a legitimate civil disobedient movement¡¦s key function is to defend the basic value of constitutional democracy.
In a relatively mature democratic society, civil disobedient movement such as ¡¦Battle of Trafalgar¡¦ as well as the John Rawls¡¦s liberal democratic ideal are not strange and terrible ideas. In comparison, although there is electoral democracy in Taiwan, however, the idea of a civil society pursuing political and social justice is still very superficial. Lung Yingtai¡¦s absurd theory about democracy seems to be the best example of this phenomenon.
Lung Yingtai says that, ¡§a zealous ¡¥people¡¦s revolution¡¦ would destroy democracy itself.¡¨ She worries that the people do not know better and would cross the line and are not as calm and rational as her. She even raises the question: when people have their rights to vote, ¡§why would they still worry about being attacked by tanks?¡¨ She further asks, ¡§Isn¡¦t being abused and punished by an intolerable president without moral character as well as paying the price for our own mistakes exactly the pact we¡¦ve made with the democratic system?¡¨
The answer to the last question obviously is no, because the ¡¥pact¡¦ we¡¦ve made with electoral democracy certainly does not include letting our elected leader to do whatever he wishes. According to Lung¡¦s logic, when people have the rights to vote, why should they go on the streets to protest the Vietnam War or the Poll Tax Policy? They should have blamed themselves voting for the wrong person. But what¡¦s the difference between this kind of democratic pact Lung advocates and President Chen Shui Bien¡¦s attitude of ¡¥I won the election. There¡¦s nothing you can do¡¦?
Lung asks, ¡§Why would they still worry about being attacked by tanks?¡¨ Shouldn¡¦t we first ask Vice President Hsiu-lien Annette Lu and the incumbent government elected by the people this question? Or is the one to blame in Tiananmen Massacre should be the unarmed protestors, not the government that sends Tanks to suppress them? Or since there is electoral democracy in Taiwan, therefore the participants of any massive populace movement should be totally responsible for the potential danger of violent clashes?
Lung criticizes the media for over-reporting police barricades, restrictive redlines, Tiananmen Massacre and mobilization of tanks to incite people¡¦s emotion. However, what¡¦s wrong with being dissatisfied and worried about Taiwan¡¦s elected leader using the brute force of state violence (including old models of barricades used by the former South African Apartheid Regime, the new models of barricades, the assault rifles behind restrictive redlines as well as learning from Tiananmen Massacre) to intimidate and even attack protestors? Isn¡¦t this an appropriate civil education that can help citizens of Taiwan to further understand the essence of state violence and the importance of monitoring state power? Lung does not criticize the government for threatening protester, but rather put the blame on activists and the media. This kind of talk cannot be called ¡¥angering the masses¡¦. It is actually missing the point all together.
Lung worries that ¡¥people¡¦s revolution would destroy democracy itself.¡¦ She¡¦s actually over-exaggerating and missing the target. Did ¡¦Battle of Trafalgar¡¦ destroy England¡¦s democracy? Anti-Vietnam War Movement and Civil Rights Movement were so rampant under the American democratic system, but did they destroy its democracy? No. They actually ¡¥deepened¡¦ the democracies in England and America.
Moreover, there is indeed zealousness in the Million People Depose Bien Demonstration started by Shih Ming-teh, but it is far from being a ¡¥revolution¡¦. The ¡¦Battle of Trafalgar¡¦ in which policemen and protestors were actually fighting was an act of civil disobedience at best, calling it a ¡¥revolution¡¦ would make Marx and Sun Yat-sen jump from their graves. So far the ¡¥legal¡¦ (i.e. approved by the unjust Assembly and Parade Law) Depose Bien Action can¡¦t even be called a ¡¥civil disobedience¡¦, let alone a ¡¥revolution¡¦.
Of course, our democracy is not mature enough. Our leader¡¦s head is full of the poison of autocratic regime. When Lung and Taiwan¡¦s ruling government try to gorify and demonize the upcoming Depose Bien Action, any small-scale clash often seen in populace movement under democratic system can be made into a big deal and even used as an excuse for suppression and clampdown. In light of that, we must urge all participants of the Million People Depose Bien Demonstration to exercise their utmost restraint.
In conclusion, given the low quality of Taiwan¡¦s democracy standard, we can forget about the imagination of a romanticized version of a revolution. We don¡¦t even need to fantasize of the kind of violent clash between police and protestors like the ¡¦Battle of Trafalgar¡¦. If only the Million People Depose Bien Demonstration could set a historic standard for Taiwan¡¦s civil disobedience movement and teach everyone (including Lung Yingtai) a couple of simple yet profound lessons of civil education, that¡¦ll be good enough already.
 This article was published in China Times, 27 August 2006.
I-Chung CHEN is a member of the Taiwan: A Radical Quarterly in Social Studies and an associate research fellow for the Research Center for Humanities and Social Science at Academia Sinica.
Contact address: Research Center for Humanities and Social Sciences, Academia Sinica, 128, sec. 2, Academia Road, Nankang, Taipei 115, Taiwan.