Daily Bloom is the shortform blog of New Bloom, covering breaking news events as they occur in real-time. 

Is there any way to stop the Xi-Ma meeting at this point? In fact, some argued for legal grounds to restrict Ma from going to Singapore including the argument that the Legislative Yuan would begin impeachment proceedings against Ma by law professor Cheng Yi-Huang and calls by the Green Party-Social Democratic Party Alliance that Ma should be persecuted under the Criminal Code. These attempts to prevent Ma from going to Singapore were probably raised more in the endeavor to draw attention to the perceived illegitimacy of Ma’s actions than the actual expectation that they would stop Ma. There was also an attempt to storm the Legislative Yuan which occurred last night and led to several hundred gathering outside the Legislative Yuan. 

But it is that Ma’s actions in the past week may serve to remind us of where political power rests in Taiwan. When needed, KMT politicians like Ma Ying-Jeou can unilaterally make decisions that will affect all of Taiwan, and are totally willing to do so in spite of public opinion. Though KMT politicians like Ma are voted in by the population, it would seem to be that because Ma has no need to pay attention to public opinion because he has no need to seek another term. And the KMT acts for its own benefit and in the service of its ideology, rather than for the sake of the people of Taiwan.

Who are we to turn to resist the KMT, then? The DPP? Actually, recent backsliding by Tsai Ing-Wen, has raised concerns that foreign policy under Tsai might not necessarily be so different than under the KMT. Tsai’s recent statement that she would be willing to go to Beijing to meet with Xi Jinping as president was met with disbelief by members of Taiwanese civil society that had otherwise backed her campaign. Tsai’s statement was seen as a betrayal in light of that after founding so much of her campaign on opposition to Ma and his policies, she had seemed to indicate she would be willing to consider similar policies. Indeed, probably a Tsai visit to China would be perceived by international media as Taiwan ceding part of its sovereignty to China in some sense, which could be very threatening for Taiwan. But this would seem to be an early indication that a DPP as ruling party could not necessarily be relied on to safeguard Taiwan’s de facto independence.

Perhaps it will then, that as with last year, Taiwanese civil society will have to go it alone. Ultimately, it may be that the people of Taiwan can only take their future in their own hands, without reliance on political parties, entrenched political interests, or established politicians.

If political power accrues in the hands of politicians who then decide that they do not have to answer to the people, it may be that the best and only way of the Taiwanese people to demonstrate that Ma Ying-Jeou’s actions do not represent the popular will of the Taiwanese people is through protest. And it is in this sense that we will see protest actions today, as the expression of the will of the Taiwanese people.

Today will see a number of actions, slated to take place at the same time as the Xi-Ma summit as it happens in Singapore. The largest and most prominent of these is demonstration planned for this afternoon by post-Sunflower activist groups as Democracy Tautin, Dreamdom, and Taiwan Restoration of Social Justice. These three groups also sent representatives to Singapore to protest outside the TECO there.

If from the time of the early textbook protests this summer, we saw activists and organizers hoping that a spontaneous event which would lead to something like last year’s Sunflower Movement would happen, sometimes incorporating such contingencies into their event planning, we will see what happens today.  For many activists, present circumstances have summoned up the memory of Zhang Zhijun’s visit to Taiwan seven years ago, the event which sparked the “Wild Strawberry Movement” in which we see the first inklings of the activist culture that would sprout up in Taipei and develop in the years leading up to 2014’s Sunflower Movement. Will today be another historic day? It is hard to say. But demonstration today will be significant for Taiwan, regardless.

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Author: Brian Hioe
Photo Credit: 楊淳卉/AppleDaily
Biography: Brian Hioe (丘琦欣) is an M.A. student at Columbia University, a freelance writer on politics and social activism, and an occasional translator. He is a resident of Taipei, Taiwan.