Can extra-democratic tactics be democratic?

Is it justifiable for students to physically occupy the legislature?  Is it undemocratic to use extra-legal methods?  Many thoughtful people are asking these sorts of questions right now, and they are good questions.  As always, it depends.  However, my answer is almost always “no.”  It is almost never ok to go outside normal democratic procedures.  Bypassing democracy is rarely the way to protect democracy.

However, as I’ve thought about this case, I have come to the conclusion that this is one of those rare exceptional cases.


The Services Trade Agreement is a critical decision for Taiwan’s future.  This pact has the potential to fundamentally alter Taiwan’s character.  It is not merely a question of liberalizing Taiwan’s international trade regime; it will have important implications for Taiwan’s sovereignty.  Moreover, it has now become a point of contestation for whether or not democratic procedures will be respected.  The free trade aspect, as important as it is, is merely the third-most important aspect of the current struggle.

Such a monumental proposed change needs to be legitimized by the legislature.  Short-cuts are simply not acceptable.  The KMT has the right to pass the pact and it has the right to do so without making any changes, but it must do so by following certain procedures and demonstrating a unity of purpose.  In any democratic process, the losing side has the right to lose according to the rules.


The trigger for the student occupation was the Interior Committee hearing in which KMT Convener Chang Ching-chung 張慶忠 slunk off in the corner and unilaterally determined that the committee should report the bill to the floor.  Chang justified his action by pointing out that DPP legislators had physically occupied the podium.  He wanted to report the bill that day, and this was the only way he could see to do it.

Opposition obstruction is a challenge for every ruling party in every legislature in the world.  There are many ways to deal with obstruction.  Ruling parties can change the procedural rules to eliminate common obstruction strategies.  For example, they can shorten the amount of time allotted for debate or rule particular amendments out of bounds.  In Taiwan’s immediate context, the opposition often blocks proceedings by occupying the podium.  I have always wondered why the KMT doesn’t simply change the rules to allow the speaker to declare that another location in the room is now the official podium.  Another thing the KMT could have done was to bypass the committee stage.  That is, if the KMT didn’t think it could pass the bill in the committee, the floor has the power to take a vote to pull the bill out of committee.  Alternatively, Chang could have demanded a vote in the Interior Committee to report the bill to the floor.

What these various tactics all require is repeated effort and high degrees of unity from the ruling party.  The opposition may strenuously oppose, but the ruling party has the numbers and can eventually prevail IF it can match the opposition’s intensity.  This may require painful vote after vote.  It may require many days or even weeks of scorched earth legislative tactics.  Most importantly, it requires the ruling party to collectively and individually assume political responsibility for the measure.  If it is really that important, every legislator has to get his or her hands dirty.  In the face of an intense minority, the measure is only legitimized if a majority proves again and again that it is unified in support.

That is not what happened.  Rather, the KMT tried to take a shortcut.  We don’t know whether the KMT is unified in support of this bill because the leadership hasn’t asked them to demonstrate solidarity.  Heck, even Convener Chang doesn’t want to claim ownership for the pact.  He was quoted as saying there was no reason for him to take responsibility since he wasn’t the one who signed the agreement.  He was just following orders.


In effect, what the students are doing is to remind the “adults” about the basic principles of democracy.  The various student groups have many varied demands; all of them insist that Chang’s decision should not stand.  They want the pact sent back to committee where it should receive a thorough review.  This student occupation movement is not like the Arab Spring or the American Occupy Movement.  The students are not asking for fundamental regime or structural changes.  They are demanding that the politicians respect the process.  I think they understand that eventually they will have to yield the floor back to the legislators, and the legislators will make the critical decisions about how to handle the Services Trade Agreement.  However, students are focusing public attention on the procedures and the content of the pact so that when the legislators make those decisions, the public will be paying closer attention.  Instead of only asking what party leaders want, legislators will have to worry about what their voters think.  Hopefully that will be enough to convince legislators to eschew any further shortcuts.

15 Responses to “Can extra-democratic tactics be democratic?”

  1. joequant2013 Says:

    I guess I have to talk about here about trade and parliamentary procedure. The problem with trade legislation is you have two sets of negotiations. One is between trade negotiation which comes up with a package. Once you have a package, you bring it to the legislature for an straight up-or-down vote without amendments. The vote by the legislature on any trade related legislation has to be straight up-or-down, because in any usual situation, any amendment cause a renegotiation which kills the bill.

    The trouble with parliamentary procedure is that sometimes you can use procedure to kill a bill without formally killing it. This happens a lot with trade legislation. In principle, this shouldn’t matter. All the procedure does is to insure that a measure comes up for a final vote. In a democracy what should happen is that when the measure if voted on, if people don’t like the vote, they can deal with the legislators in the ballot box.

    So why don’t we just have the vote and if the legislators vote in a way that the public doesn’t like, have the legislators suffer at the ballot box? The trouble with trade legislation is that because it is a black box, if it passes, there are people who benefit, and those people are going to support the legislation once it passes are going to be against reversing it.

    Personally, given all of the trouble, I think it is a good idea if the legislation go through more review. People are too emotional right now for a final vote, and if it takes a month or two of hearings to get people to calm down, that’s fine. However, the one important principle is that the services pact should come up for a straight up-or-down vote within a reasonable time. This pact has been on the table for many, many months, and at some point, people have to say “we’ve studied this enough, it’s time to make a decision.”

    One thing that *is* interesting is that the DPP has come out for “more review.” They haven’t come out full force against the legislation. The reason for this is that in the past when they have come out strongly against cross-strait legislation, they’ve gotten killed in the ballot box. Killing the legislation by procedure let’s them kill the legislation without suffering from the consequences of the voters.

  2. joequant2013 Says:

    Sigh….. I promise that I’ll post this one thing and then shut up.

    One problem with these protests is that people start acting from emotion. This can be important in politics, but acting purely from emotion without thinking can cause problems in the long run.

    I have to say that I am extremely spooked by this weeks events not just in Taiwan, because of what is happening in the Crimea. Russia basically did a military takeover, and the US responded by doing nothing. This is not going to happen this week in Taiwan, but I’m deeply worried that something like this will happen in my lifetime. I’m also deeply worried about the amount of international coverage events in Taiwan are getting. Essentially, none at all. No one in the United States seems to care about Taiwan anymore, and if the US does not care about Taiwan, then Taiwan is doomed.

    If you want to think about the future of Taiwan, you have to think strategically over decades. Both the KMT and DPP have come up with a working strategy to deal with “the China problem.” This involves trying to increase links with China while at the same time balance China with the rest of the world.

    The problem with this weeks events is that they’ve totally changed the calculation, and I’m deeply worried because I don’t know what series of events will happen next. I do not think that there will be any sort of immediate crisis, but a lot of the assumptions that I’ve been having with the state of Taiwan politics have gone out the window. and that’s pretty scary.

    One thing is whether the issue is about “China” or about “globalization.” In fact these two cannot be separated, because China is increasing it’s power through globalization. China is very strongly globalizing itself, and so you can’t separate issues of “China” from issues of “globalization” because those are in fact part of the same thing.

    How Taiwan choose to react to this situation is going to be something that people have been discussing, and will continue to discuss. These sorts of conversations are on-going. However, my opinion is that facing China and globalization by “localization” is an ostrich strategy that will ultimately have Taiwan end up like the Crimea.

  3. Tony Yustein's Thoughts | Can extra-democratic tactics be democratic? Says:

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  4. erik Says:

    I think you used the correct terminology in the post compared to the title: I am not sure that occupying the Legislative Yuan is an “extra democratic” technique, although it may be illegal. The chief prosecutor, after all, does have discretion deciding which crimes he/she wants to pursue.

    This distinction, in part, gets to the point of your piece: sometimes putative “illegal” acts must be used in order so that the legal mechanism of democracy may be respected.

  5. joequant2013 Says:

    Things are calming down….. So I have to disagree with some of the questions and put in a good word for the students.

    First all whether political tactics are legitimate or not depends on who exercises them. As the hours pass, I (and probably a lot of other people) are coming to the conclusions that *these students* are using legitimate tactics, simply because they are very well behaved.

    Second, I do not think that these students are using “extra-democratic” or “extra-legal” tactics. Democracy is very messy and hard to get right. A lot of it involves having people that very strongly disagree figure out what the rules are, and try to both work with each other and fight each other at the same time, and I think that this is what is going on right now. Democracy is more about following rules, but actually trying to figure out what the rules are.

    In this case, I think we will have a democratic outcome. If you have five people barricade themselves in the LY, then they will get removed by riot police. One thing that probably happened this morning was that everyone looked outside the window and counted noses. The number of protesters is 15,000 and growing, and that means that you have no choice but to figure out how to negotiate, because if you send in the riot police, instead of having 15,000 well behaved people, you will have 500,000 angry people and the problem will get worse.

    Likewise, if you had 500,000 people demonstrating wanting to have the Services Agreement killed, then you should kill it immediately. But that is not the situation. I think that people have done the polls, and found that there is a pretty large and quiet support for the Services Agreement, and killing the Agreement is not an explicit part of the demonstrators demands. So at that point you can consider salvaging the agreement.

    As far as law. It turns out that law is very murky. The students are in the Legislative Yuan. Wang Jin-Pyng is allowing them to stay there. That makes it legal. One thing that you will find is that the law is usually a lot more murky than it first seems.

    The problem with defining democracy merely as “following rules” is that if you do that then people with power will make the rules, and you have to ask at some point, why do the rules apply to me. One general problem that we are having is that young people have been completely abandoned by the system, and sometimes to make yourself heard, you have to start screaming so that people are willing to negotiate with you. This is not extra-democratic or extra-legal, this is democracy and law. It’s a messy and extremely tiring system, but democracy is not easy which is why there are so few of them out there.

  6. joequant2013 Says:

    Let me talk about what I think/hope will happen next, since there are interesting bits of legislative procedure. Wang Jyn-Ping will go back to the KMT and DPP caucus and get people to agree to some rules of procedure to handle the Services Agreement. Once he does that and you have an agreed procedure, then you go back to the students and ask them politely to leave. Wang Jyn-Ping is extremely central to this, because he is the only person that has the trust of all of the parties, and it was a stupid thing for Ma to try to get rid of him, but they seemed to have made up.

    Getting the procedure right is important because the procedure will determine the outcome. Since I’m a strong supporter of the Services Agreement, let me tell you what worries me and some of the parliamentary implications. One of the demands is a “review” of the Services Agreement, and a lot depends on what the term “review” means. If there are more hearings so that the public understands the content of the agreement and put pressure on the legislators to vote for/against the agreement, that’s fine. If it turns out that after looking at the Agreement, people think it’s a bad idea, then we can/should go back to the table and renegotiate. Also, the students have brought up very valid concerns about the role of large corporations, and if there are things that we can do to help SME’s, those can be added as a separate piece of legislation.

    What I am concerned about is that people will use “review” as a mechanism to kill the Agreement through procedure. This can be done in two ways. The first is that the Agreement (like any trade agreement) cannot be amended without killing it. If we start adding amendments to this Agreement (or any trade agreement) then it’s dead for this year, and it will be years before anything passes. Trade agreements cannot be amended, because the whole point of having one bill is to avoid “cherry picking”. When you do trade negotiations, there is a lot of give and take between the two sides. If you are able to amend the bill after it is negotiated, then you can just take the parts that were good for you, reject the parts that aren’t, and that kills the point of the negotiations.

    The second danger is “running the clock down.” You can use procedural issues to slow things so that they don’t pass at all. The legislative session ends in June. If you people want to spend a month in hearings that’s fine. If people want four months of hearings, then that’s just an excuse to kill the bill without a vote.

    The final danger is “poisoning the well.” One thing that I was really worried about was that people that were against the Services Agreement would provoke a confrontation or that Ma Ying-Jeou would panic and send in riot police. Once the Services Agreement is associated with riot police then it is dead for the next decade, and given the political climate in Taiwan, this is the only way to permanently stop any sort of trade liberalization. That doesn’t seem to be happening.

    The thing that I would propose to the DPP if I were a KMT negotiator is that the DPP comes up with a single replacement bill. That goes through a straight up or down vote to replace the current agreement. If they DPP loses the vote (which I think they will), then there is a straight up or down vote on the Services Agreement. At that point the DPP can take the issue to the voters. The offer to the students would be have a set of reviews of limited duration (one month). Amendments to the Services Agreement would not be allowed, but we can add a supplemental bill that includes measures to protect small businesses.

    One issue here is that unless there is a radical change in the political landscape, with those rules the Services Agreement will pass this legislature. People can raise this as an issue in the elections later this year, but I think that people will find more good than bad in the bill or once the Agreement goes into effect, it will be impossible to repeal.

    The issue with legislative oversight of cross-strait relations can be pretty easily dealt with. The DPP could win the presidency in 2016, and the legislature is gerrymandered so that it’s unlikely that they would win the legislature. They probably don’t want legislative oversight because they don’t want the KMT interfering with President Su.

    In the end, the question is “is this really about procedure?” or “is this a sneaky way of killing the agreement?”

    Also, these can seem like dry boring bits of legislative procedure, but it’s these dry boring bits that are pretty essential to have a democratic outcome.

  7. Joseph Wang Says:

    Also I do not know if it is possible to pass the Services Agreement at all. There will come a point where its just not going to happen, and it will make things worse to even try. We aren’t at that point yet, but things are fluid.

    I think that the signal will be the DPP. The DPP has not explicitly come out against the Agreement, and if it does, then it’s game over. At that point, the best thing to do (and the only real option here) is to just give up trying to pass it, and figure out what else to do. Personally at this point, if it will get the DPP on board, I’d rather just take the DPP counterproposal and then renegotiate everything with the Mainland. I think that Wang is trying to figure out what the DPP thinks, and the DPP is trying to figure out what it thinks. You not only have a conflict between Ma and Wang, but there are obvious differences between Su, Tsai, and Hsieh in the DPP, with Su being a lot more skeptical of relations with the Mainland then Hsieh. It’s notable the Su has been very active with supporting the students, while Tsai and Frank Hsieh have been rather quiet.

    If the DPP comes out against any services agreement, then its dead, and the thing to do is to fight this issue at the next elections. Also, whatever happens Ma is finished. The reason the DPP hasn’t explicitly come out against a services agreement is that a lot of their voters are in favor of some form of agreement with the Mainland.

    Just a bit of my background. I come from the world of investment banking, so being at the wrong end of a protest is not new for me. For a while after 2008, I had to walk past protestors regularly just to get to work. It’s extremely humbling and somewhat painful to be facing a room full of idealistic and passionate young people, and be the target of their ire, and find out that they happen to disagree with everything you believe.

    Two things that I’m thankful for. One is that no one called in the riot police. Once you call in the police, then you just poision dialogue permanently, and then things look like Thailand or South Korea or the Ukarine. Once things calm down, someone might actually listen to me. Ma is a bumbler, but he isn’t Yanikovich.

    Two is that Beijing knows to just shut up, and let whatever happen in Taiwan, happen. One then that is a deep subtext which I think scares people in Taiwan is that in some sense Beijing has “won.” Regardless of what Taiwan does, Beijing is going to have a more and more powerful influence on Taiwan over time. Taiwan can’t do what Estonia did to Russia and turn it’s back on the Mainland. People are trying to figure out what to do with these realities, and at least Beijing has the good sense to let Taiwanese figure this out.

  8. frozengarlic Says:

    I thought a bit about the terminology, and I’m not sure I got it right. In academic language, I would have called it “extraordinary.” However, in popular parlance, that can mean “awesome,” which is not at all what I meant. I am very conflicted about seeing the legislature occupied. I do not want to see this become a regular part of politics. Taiwan’s democracy would benefit from more respect for the legislature and the legislative process, not less. It’s one thing to take to the streets; it’s a much more serious step to block the democratic process by physically occupying the legislature. To me, it matters a lot whether the students withdraw voluntarily after making their point and raising awareness, or whether they stay in the legislature for the long haul. At some point, you must respect the 2012 election results and turn everything back over to the people’s democratically chosen representatives.

    Does the legislature have an obligation to hold a straight up or down vote? I don’t think so. On the one hand, the executive branch negotiated this pact without any input from the legislature. Lots of countries have “fast track” arrangements, but there is almost always backdoor communication to make sure that key legislators are on board and a majority will support the eventual agreement. That didn’t happen here, and now the legislature has a legitimate right to demand some input. President Ma didn’t allow legislative input in the negotiation stage, so it has to come in this stage. On the other hand, does amendment kill the pact? I am not so sure. This is not a multi-lateral agreement in which everyone would have to start the whole process all over. This is a bilateral agreement. If Taiwan demands some modifications, there is nothing to stop the PRC from agreeing to them.

    • joequant2013 Says:

      I agree on the importance of democratic discourse, and I’m trying to do my small part by being reasonable even when I have strong feelings on a topic, and I’m trying to remain calm here.

      That actually worries me a lot. One thing that I hope happens is that even if the Ma and Wang do completely cave in (which might be the right course of action) they don’t do it too quickly and easily. On the other hand, refusing to talk simply escalates the tension, and you can have a situation where people take to the streets because they don’t think of any other way out. There are a tricky set of trade-offs that is made more tricky by the fact that we are dealing with falliable humans.

      One thing that is obvious is that Ma is *terrible* at connecting with people. This might have been good when he was the justice minister doing anti-corruption, but it’s a bad thing right now. One thing that really worries me about the demand that Ma speak to the students, is that I worry that Ma will say something stupid that will just make things worse. (I’m thinking about Li Peng at Tiananmen.)

      As far as “obligation”, I wouldn’t put it in those terms. The legislature doesn’t have an obligation to do anything. I’m merely stating what I think is a consequence of a non-straight up/down vote, and my belief that at least some of the people that want a “review” of the legislation really just want to kill any agreement. Part of the reality of legislation is that you end up having to play these chess games, and that’s why these sorts of procedural agreements are incredibly tough and time consuming.

      I do agree that this has been a disaster because “key people” where not on board. I think Ma’s thinking was that since he was not subject to election, he could do some things that he knew that people hated. But this has backfired in a big way. Another problem is that the early trade agreements were extremely popular, contained very few controversial elements, and so he really didn’t need to consult with anyone. However, eventually you reach a point in which people get nervous.

      One thing that I find interesting in the poll number is that questions of identity remained constant during Chen’s term, but the number of people that identify as “Taiwanese” has really spiked since Ma became President. I think that this is a reaction to the fact that China is in fact closer and closer, and the closer China is and the more links and influence it has on Taiwan, the more people get worried, even if it is “symbolic.”

      One poll question which I would like to ask is that you have a number of polls that ask what people think *should* happen with Taiwan. One thing I would be interested in asking is what to people think *will* happen. My hypothesis is that the more people think that China in the end will absorb Taiwan, the more likely they are to identify as Taiwanese, and that the number of people that think that Taiwan *will* be independent in the end, has dropped sharply since 2008. I’m also interested in generation gaps. My expectation is that Taiwanese identity is higher among young people, but that young people are also more likely to see some sort of union with the Mainland as inevitable.

      I also think that identity and globalization can’t be neatly separated. One thing that has happened since the GFC is that long domnant separatist movements have been given new life (i.e. Catalonia, Scotland, and Basque country) and you have a lot of anti-EU sentiment. My reading of these protests is that it’s not a “NO TO CHINA” but rather “I’m scared of the future.”

      I don’t think it will be impossible to renegotiate this agreement. I do think that if it’s not done quickly, they it won’t be done before 2016. If it doesn’t get done now, then you hit the elections. Also, I can imagine Beijing willing to negotiate a new agreement. Unless they are completely insane, I can’t imagine how they can negotiate with Ma Ying-Jeou, since he will be a lame duck. That moves us to 2016, and if the DPP gets elected that means another two to three years of argument over symbolic issues which gets us to 2020.

      The other issue is that I really don’t think that the problem is with the agreement itself, but rather the symbolism and the circumstances of its negotiation. One reason I’m warming to an idea of a line by line review is that I don’t think that the problem is any particular clause, but rather people are worried that there is some hidden agreement that says “China takes over.” If the purpose of a line by line review is to reassure people that there is no “hidden conspiracy” then that will help. But we may be past that point now. If we are, then we are going to have to redo the entire negotiation framework to come up with an agreement, and that’s not going to happen this year.

      Meanwhile, TPP and other multilateral agreements are dead. TPP is going to be a really tough sell as it is, and so are the agreements with ASEAN, South Korea, Japan. If Taiwan can’t negotiate a bilateral agreement with the Mainland, then forget TPP. The symbolism is less, but the actual substantive issues are more pressing.

      I think that this would be a disaster for Taiwan. The problem is that the world is moving. I’m writing this from Hong Kong, which has the same set of nervousness. The dragon has awoken, and it’s growing *fast*, and each year that passes with “nothing done” is a year that causes the balance of power to shift even more unfavorably against Taiwan.

  9. joequant2013 Says:

    One other point. I think I might me more open to street demonstrations because I live in Hong Kong. Hong Kong has never been an electoral democracy, and both elections, political parties, and the legislature are something of a joke. However, because you don’t have those institutions, a lot of things happen through street demonstrations. However, there are certain “procedural rules” that everyone follows, and Hong Kong has the most organized street demonstrations that I’ve ever seen.

  10. Brido Says:

    I’m conflicted here. On the one hand, the students’ concerns are understandable for the symbolism of the pact even if the substance is a different colour than painted. On the other, how can preventing the functioning of the elected organs by a small group ever be held democratic? All told, hardly anyone comes out of this looking good, except perhaps the cops for taking casualties without dealing them in response.

  11. joequant2013 Says:

    It’s important to distinguish between the demands of the students and the demands of the DPP. It’s also difficult in this type of situation to figure out what the demands are. There are a lot of students with a lot of different ideas. One thing that has happened is that we now have a person that can articulate the students views.

    The demands of the DPP are:

    1) Apology from Ma
    2) Return of the bill to commitee reading
    3) No use of force

    The DPP has also stated that they are not against the services agreement (and personally speaking some of the amendments that the China Committee of the DPP has presented are reasonable, and should be discussed).

    The demands of the students are:

    1) Direct talks with Ma and Wang
    2) Renegotiation of the services agreement
    3) A bill giving the legislature control over cross-strait negotiations and a promise of no negotiations until then.

    The KMT/government’s position is

    1) No use of force against students
    2) Willingness to review the legislation without returning the bill to committee
    3) No discussion with Ma or Wang. Talk with the Premier

    The DPP’s three points are rather easy to deal with. 3) is going to be the situation. 2) is a minor parliamentary point that can be fixed. However, it is worth noting that the DPP’s position is considerably softer than the students. One important fact is that the DPP wants a cross-strait agreement to pass. There are large groups of deep green supporters that benefit from China trade (Taiwanese business people in China tend to be deep green, and a lot of agricultural products and tourism hits deep green areas.)

    Also TVBS polls have come in. The polls are 48:40 in favor/against of the students. Also opinions about the pact are 48 opposed 21 in favor 31 percent undecided. The number opposed has jumped 11 points since the last poll, which is good because those seem to be soft opposition.

    Student protests in democracies are very different than dictatorships because in dicatorships, students can sometimes count on 99+% support. In democracies, students are just another interest group. One other thing is that in dictatorships, governments cannot allow any dissent, because any dissent is weakness that will cause

    The student position is different from the DPP. Also in the last day, the demands of the students have made it clear that they want to kill the bill and just just reconsider it. Not every student in the protest feels this way, but the student position as articulated by their spokesman makes it clear to me that their demands have been crafted to eliminate any services agreement, and over the last day, I think the DPP has backed away from full support of the students, since the demands of the students are more extreme than what the DPP wants. The other thing that has made me suspect that the students are “political operators” with an agenda was when they ordered an occupation of the KMT bureaus.

    The fact that the KMT government has stated that they will not use force gave me a sigh of relief, because I was *really* worried that Ma really was that stupid.

    I think it is great and wonderful that you have students wanting to participate in the political process. I think it is also great that we are no longer talking about the use of raw force. We are now in the world of “political chess.” Someone may win, someone will lose, but no one will get physically harmed.

    However, now that we are in the world of non-violent political chess, I think that KMT should take an extremely “hard line” with respect to the services agreement. Yes, we will have discussions, but unless public opinion turns, the agreement will pass, and if people have problems with that then we have elections at the end of the year.

    With the students. Let them talk. Let them sit-in. Stop everything. The longer they are there, the more public sympathy will turn against them.

  12. Brido Says:

    I disagree with your point that no-one will be harmed, they already have been when entry was forced to the Chamber. It hasn’t got to the stage of permanent injury or death but the possibility has to be taken seriously. The student protest is being led by a group who’ve seen demonstrable ’results’ from forcing their way into buildings and are likely to have their increasingly extreme demands thwarted by a lack of support from mainstream politicians.

    Those are ideal conditions for increasing radicalisation amongst the student movement and that’s pretty much by definition A Bad Thing For Democracy.

    • joequant2013 Says:

      Yes the possibility of serious injury or death has to be taken seriously, but the fact that the EY has pledged that the police will not be used reduces this possibility. Also the Taiwanese police are used to dealing with protests, and one part of police training in a democracy (that doesn’t happen in a dictatorship) is how to handle a protest without causing serious injury. The only way I think the police should or would intervene is if the students start physically fighting among themselves. Other than that, you can get the students in the building to leave by turning off the air conditioning, cutting the power, and a dozen other ways.

      Having seen protests, from a “strategic” point of view buildings are terrible. If you control a park or a square, you can get food and refreshment. Once you are locked up in a building, the authorities can control food, water, electricity, plumbing, communications with the outside. The students have a “claim” to those things because they have outside sympathy. As sympathy disappears, you get less food and supplies.

      In Hong Kong, the occupy people were in HSBC for months before they were removed. There were some dead enders that had to be physically removed, but the police used unarmed marshals, and the media was specifically invited to cover that event. There were actually 5 times as many reporters as protesters.

      I don’t think it’s going to last that long in Taiwan. One thing that the KMT has agreed to is that they will not meet as a legislature anywhere other than the chamber. That’s a wonderful strategic move, because as time passes, the students are going to have to suffer the political consequences of holding up the agreement and the legislature. That’s going to increase tensions between students, and I don’t think that the students are going to be good at internal conflict management.

      Radicialization is a good thing when it happens in a safe training ground. That way people learn first hand why radicialization doesn’t work. What I’m pretty sure will happen is that the leaders of the students are the most outspoken and emotional, and that you have this competition of people outradicalizing each other. Within a reasonably short period of them, they’ll start fighting with each other, and any student that doesn’t agree with the leaders will be branded a traitor. You’ll have people disgusted, and anyone that is a “moderate” is just going to go home.

      Also it’s not really a movement. I’m pretty sure that the students disagree among themselves. Having a radical leadership issue demands is going to cause internal friction, and you will end up very quickly with Animal Farm/Lord of the Flies situations. It’s a lot better that students learn these lessons first hand now. None of the students have access to deadly force, and working within a student movement makes you quickly realize why things go bad when a student movement takes over a government.

      These are lessons you can’t teach in a classroom, and now that the use of force has been removed, we are in a “safe laboratory” where students can learn about how hard it is to really operate in a democracy. I’m expecting some wonderful things for the people that are camping out in the legislature. They are learning the same lessons that I learned during Tiananmen and afterwards, and this time, no one is going to get killed, so it’s actually fun.

      One thing that the students are quickly going to learn is the danger of being in an “information bubble”. Right now the Facebook and internet is overwhelming on the side of students, and I think a lot of the actions of the students is with the assumption that they have a lot more public support than they do, because they aren’t looking outside of their information bubble.

      One thing that has been pointed out is that the Services Agreement tends to be very strong among business people that are not academics in universities. Also business people tend to post a lot less on facebook, and a lot of the discussions they have aren’t public.

      Finally, Ma has been under the limelight for decades. The students are new to the press attention, and judging from their actions, they are not particularly good at dealing with the press.

      I expect that internal tensions are really going to start exploding in a matter of a few days. One thing that you learn when you are in the middle of a political movement is just how exhausting it is, and the mainstream politicians are getting a good nights sleep (and I think that Ma disappeared partly to get some sleep). The students aren’t, and once the adrenalin stops going you will tension. Also people will start getting on each others nerves (i.e. Ma and Wang). In the case of Ma and Wang, they can go to another room, but one problem with being in a building is that there’s no place to go when people just get annoyed at each other.

      There are people that are just good at reducing tension (Wang Jin-Ping) but those people get sidelined in student movements.

  13. Marc Anthony Says:

    “The people should have as little to do as may be about the government. They lack information and are constantly liable to be misled.” – so said Roger Sherman, one of the so-called founding fathers of the US. Framers like Sherman feared that the people’s power, so great in number and considered to be led more by emotion than prudence, would be a frequent cause of instability in the Rule of Law. Of course, these men considered themselves as democratic aristocracy and the only ones capable of enacting laws for the Common Good. They were well-educated, well-born, and well-to-do–and they mistrusted those less-educated plebeians as a potential source of tyranny–the naive masses, whose emotions “ran high and fast.”

    But, their motivation was more self-protective. They also feared the people’s power because it threatened to disrupt their power status, expose the links of personal benefit and identify sources of personal wealth which may have been acquired, or at least maintained, through their positions. In other words, they sought to restrict the people’s power because “they wanted their rights of property protected against those who did not possess it.”

    There was no strong rally against defrocking the leaders of the early US administrations, but saner forces in government made sure that legislation became much harder to enact and would be required to undergo a lengthy process to ensure that all representatives could have their say so that, in the end, as James Madison stated, it would “…first, …protect the people against their rulers; secondly to protect the people against the transient impressions into which they themselves might be led” by restricting the influences of any “major interest [that] might under sudden impulses be tempted to commit injustice on the minority.”

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