Some 1,000 activists from various civic groups marched in Taipei on the 73rd anniversary of the “228 Incident,” the 1947 uprising and massacre that marked the beginning of Taiwan’s “White Terror.” Li Ssu-yi, chair of TW Gong Sheng, a youth group dedicated to remembrance of the Incident, said, “We refuse to forget and insist on carrying on the spirit of what they fought for during this year’s march.” The 228 massacre was the opening chapter of the “White Terror” era, during which political dissidents were suppressed, imprisoned and killed. The Terror lasted until the lifting of martial law in Taiwan in 1987. A Transitional Justice Commission, established by President Tsai Ing-wen’s administration in May 2018, has since been engaged in documenting the crimes of Kuomintang rule in Taiwan between 1945 and 1992, when the transition to democracy began. (Image: Keep Taiwan Free)
Following a bitter campaign dominated by “fake news” generated from China and punctuated by sexist personal attacks on President Tsai Ing-wen, the incumbent was re-elected, overwhelmingly defeating Han Kuo-yu of the Kuomintang (KMT). Tsai, of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), received the highest total ever recorded for any candidate in a presidential election in Taiwan. With Han and the KMT calling for closer integration with China, the repression in Hong Kong was an inevitable and pressing context in the vote. The populist Han, described as Taiwan’s Donald Trump, cultivated an “everyman” image despite his own lavish lifestyle. But his closeness to Beijing led to fears that the KMT was willing to accept a “one country, two systems” solution for Taiwan—just as this model was collapsing in Hong Kong. (Photo of Workers’ Struggle demonstration in Taipei via New Bloom)
Lifelong Taiwanese independence activist Su Beng died in Taipei, just a few weeks away from his 101st birthday. A resistance fighter against the Japanese during World War II, he subsequently became an underground militant who plotted against the dictatorship of Chiang Kai-shek. After being forced into exile in Tokyo, he wrote his history of Taiwan, an openly partisan work with an anti-imperialist perspective, and became a vocal advocate for democracy in his island home, and its formal independence from China. He returned to Taiwan with the democratic transition of the 1990s, where he continued to agitate for independence, eventually becoming a respected advisor to current President Tsai Ing-wen. (Photo of Su Beng with Tsai Ing-wen via SupChina)
In Episode 39 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg explores the politics of the Hong Kong protests—and especially how they have been playing out in New York’s Chinatown. It is natural that the Hong Kong protesters have made common cause with the Tibetans, Uighurs and Mongols also struggling for their rights and dignity against China’s ruling party-state. But some supporters of these movements have come to embrace a separatist position, actually seeking independent states in Hong Kong, Tibet, East Turkistan and South Mongolia. Will self-determination for these regions and peoples be possible without active solidarity with the struggles for democracy and political empowerment by the Han Chinese majority of the People’s Republic? Listen on SoundCloud, and support our podcast via Patreon. (Map: East Turkistan National Awakening Movement)
Hong Kong riot police used tear-gas, rubber bullets and water cannon to disperse protesters as tens of thousands marched in the city, defying a ban. Police fired live rounds over the heads of the crowd as “warning shots” in Causeway Bay. Some protesters set fires and threw Molotov cocktails and bricks at police lines. TV news footage showed riot police beating people with their batons inside commuter-train cars. In a first for Hong Kong, police water-cannon trucks fired dyed water at protesters near government headquarters in an effort to identify those who fled for later arrest. The Civil Human Rights Front, a coalition of around 50 pro-democracy groups, had cancelled the march in response to the ban, but many organizations pledged to carry on anyway—with some calling the march a “religious” procession in a bid to evade the government ban. (Photo: HKFP)
Taiwan's Council of Indigenous Peoples signed an agreement with the Pacific Island state of the Marshall Islands aimed at increasing bilateral exchanges to promote Austronesian culture. The agreement seeks to promote cooperation between Taiwan's indigenous communities and the linguistically related people of the Marshall Islands, particularly in the fields of language and preservation of traditional wisdom. The agreement, signed last month, coincides with the opening of the UN International Year of Indigenous Languages, which acknowledges to the critical state of many indigenous tongues, and seeks to promote their protection and use, both at national and international levels. (Photo of Bunum people via Mata Taiwan)
Leaders of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples issued a joint statement directed at Chinese President Xi Jinping, who said in a Jan. 2 speech that Taiwan “must and will” be united with China, and darkly alluded to the use of force. The indigenous leaders retorted that their peoples inhabited the island for thousands of years before the first Han Chinese settlers reached its shores. “We are the indigenous peoples of Taiwan and have lived in Taiwan, our motherland, for more than six thousand years,” the letter says. “We are not ethnic minorities within the so-called ‘Chinese nation.'” The statement, entitled “Indigenous Peoples of Taiwan to President Xi Jinping of China,” further asserts: “Taiwan is the sacred land where generations of our ancestors lived and protected it with their lives. It has never belonged to China… We have fought against imperialism and every foreign intruder of our land. We have suffered military suppression from colonial and authoritarian regimes… We have never given up our rightful claim to the sovereignty of Taiwan… [W]e the Taiwanese indigenous peoples will not be threatened and will make no concessions.” (Photo of Bunum people via Mata Taiwan)
Pressure from China, restrictive legislation and self-censorship among Taiwanese youth have emerged as threats to freedom of speech in Taiwan, according to Nylon Cheng Liberty Foundation director Cheng Tsing-hua. He made his comments on Taiwan's Free Speech Day, April 7, which commemorates the day in 1989 that his brother Cheng Nan-jung, a young democracy advocate under the one-party dictatorship of the Kuomintang, self-immolated as a protest against government restrictions on freedom of expression. Cheng's observations are sobering, as Taiwan has emerged as a last bastion of free speech in the Chinese-speaking world with the closing of political space in Hong Kong. (Image montage from Nylon Cheng Liberty Foundation via FathomTaiwan)
A Chinese court sentenced Taiwanese democracy activist Lee Ming-cheh to five years in prison on charges of attempting to "subvert state power." Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council immediately denounced the sentence as "unacceptable" and "politically motivated." Lee was incriminated on the basis of social media content he posted on platforms including WeChat, QQ and Facebook.
Panama is the latest Central American nation to switch diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Bejing—under pressure of China's fast-growing economic presence on the isthmus.
Is Trump's breach with Putin real, or is all the sudden sabre-rattling part of an elaborate charade to throw Congress off the scent of ongoing Trump-Putin collusion?
Did Tsai Ing-wen exploit Trump's anti-China stance to score a point against Beijing? Or was she herself played by Cold Warriors who seek to exploit Taiwan in the Great Game?