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Dialogue renews partnership of hope

Dialogue renews partnership of hope

After years of estrangement, Taiwan's progressive social change, human rights, environmental protection and civic reform movements and the governing Democratic Progressive Party took a major step toward "reconciliation" based on a mutually perceived need for the resumption of "coexistence" in the face of the danger of restoration of Kuomintang one-party rule.
Led by veteran democratic publicist and human rights advocate Michael Lin and former DPP spokesman Chen Fang-ming, several leading activists met yesterday evening to "Challenge Frank Hsieh" in the "Taiwan Renovation" campaign headquarters of the DPP presidential candidate and former premier.
Taiwan's "Tangwai" (non-KMT) democratic movement, which later formed the DPP in defiance of KMT martial law in September 1986, and Taiwan's human rights, environmental and labor movements, had been indivisible during the democratic movement through the 1990s, when then-DPP chairmen Hsu Hsin-liang and Shih Ming-teh began to advocate the DPP's "evolution" into a "normal political party," emphasiz=ing that the DPP was "not anti-business" drawing a line of distinction with the "extra-parliamentary" social movements.
The gap grew wider after the DPP became Taiwan's governing party in May 2000, when the DPP administration of President Chen Shui-bian was unable to satisfy the sky-high expectations of its supporters and, largely due to its lack of a legislative majority, was unable realize important planks in its platform, such as the cancellation of the controversial fourth nuclear power plant.
The degree of estrangement was evident in the statements by the participants in yesterday's dialogue that the DPP had "deeply disappointed the Taiwan people" and seemingly had achieved few progressive achievements in the past eight years and called on Hsieh to "disassociate" with Chen.
Although the DPP administration actually has accomplished much more than its critics realize, the the degree of disappointment is genuine.
Not as it appears
However, the degree of disappointment also shows that many social activists have failed to perceive that the DPP was not really the ruling party given the continued grip over the Legislative Yuan by the former ruling KMT and its scorched earth boycott of most progressive measures proposed by the DPP government and its deliberate sabotage of the Taiwan economy.
Nevertheless, we commend the civil society representatives for the quality and sharpness of their radically fundamental questions on issues ranging from human rights and transitional justice, tax equity and social justice, environmental sustainability and, especially, on the failures of the Chen administration to fully uphold the DPP's promises of clean government. We also commend the DPP candidate for accepting these challenges and replying frankly and capably, if not always satisfactory, to these questions. Hsieh's courage to accept such televised grilling contrasts with his KMT rival former Taipei City mayor Ma Ying-jeou, who has declined to accept a "Challenge Ma Ying-jeou" session.
We believe that the session also produced several important political plans, such as Hsieh's suggestion that both he and Ma promise to fully open the political files of the KMT era intelligence and security agencies, such as the National Security Bureau, the Taiwan Garrison Command and the Investigation Bureau, carry out investigations into unjust martial law verdicts and unsolved state political crimes and, after concluding the search for "truth," realize genuine reconciliation.
The DPP candidate also affirmed the necessity for national leaders to put "Taiwan first" in any conflict of interests and also pledged that he would prioritize the interests of the environment and disadvantaged groups first in the case of conflicts of interest with economic growth or conglomerates.
We strongly affirm the DPP candidate's declaration that his concept of "Taiwan Renovation" is indeed a call for "revolution" and the adoption of new progressive values, such as his declaration that Taiwan must not pursue economic growth for the sake of expansion but must shift to focus on improving the quality of life and put priority on the environment, social justice and culture.
Hsieh also reaffirmed his concept of a positive and open sense of Taiwan-centric consciousness which is based not on a defensive insistence that "we are not Chinese" but will be built on an affirmation of "what we are," namely citizens of a democratic Taiwan by choice.
Facing the spectre of the restoration of one-party KMT dominance and unrestrained KMT power and corruption, both Hsieh, representing the DPP, and the social and civil reform groups involved in the "Challenge Frank Hsieh" seminar took important steps forward for the re-establishment of active dialogue and cooperation based on shared values. Perhaps the best summary of the significance of this re-establishment of dialogue between the DPP and social movement groups was made by Taiwan historian and transitional justice advocate Wu Rui-jen who stated that "we will continue to challenge Hsieh, but he is worth challenging."


Updated : 2021-03-03 11:35 GMT+08:00