An Open Letter from DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen
An Open Letter from DPP Chair Tsai Ing-wen regarding the May 17th Rally and Sit-In
To all democracy loving friends,
I believe that you, like me, feel both deeply frustrated and a sense of crisis over the rollback of democracy during the first year of Ma Ying-Jeou’s presidency. Therefore, I would like to invite you join me at the 5-17 rally in Taipei and the 24 hour sit-in that follows on Katagelan Boulevard in front of the Presidential office.
Our older generation took to the streets in the past to fight for direct presidential elections, which symbolized tremendous progress and subsequently strengthened Taiwan’s democracy and sovereignty. But our present leader, elected though he was by the people, has turned his back on these important values. Since his inauguration, President Ma has distanced himself from public opinion, weakened the role of the Legislative Yuan, blocked the right of assembly, manipulated the media, and shifted from one-party to one-person political dominance.
President Ma has seen fit to trade Taiwan’s sovereignty for uncertain benefits from economic relations with China. He has forsaken our own land and downgraded our country, Taiwan, to simply a region, seeking his comfort in the nostalgic idea of a “Greater China.”
The Taiwanese people are suffering from the erosion of their quality of life. Unemployment has reached the highest levels since WWII and people’s income is decreasing. The government’s measures to solve the economic crisis have proven ineffective, as they borrow and spend large amounts of money that line the pockets of their political allies. Ordinary people have seen little benefit from these measures, while their children will bear the huge burden of the debt imposed.
Recently, the government has stood ready to force through a revision of the Parade and Assembly Law. If it passes, it will serve as a “martial law edition” of the Law. The streets, which should belong to the people, will fall into the hands of the police and the government. All the chaos and disrespect for human rights that occurred when Chen Yunlin came to Taiwan last year is bound to repeat itself if this law passes. The people will be muzzled. This is the way dictatorships act, and thus this should never occur in democratic Taiwan!
This year we’ve witnessed the cession of our sovereignty, the rollback of our democracy, and a sluggish economy. If we Taiwanese don’t stand up now and use our strength to defend Taiwan, how long must we wait?
People have asked me, “What will change if we take to the streets?” Honestly speaking, we are not going to pull down this regime in this one effort. Given that President Ma possesses a secure constitutional tenure, as an opposition party, we simply lack the numbers to put forth a recall motion. But the energy generated by reforms is cumulative and builds progressively. Many democratic movements in the past did not initially bear fruit during the course of their protests. Yet as the energy level rises and finally reaches its zenith, it proves sufficient to produce systemic change. This is what we must do: we must create pressure through our constant and continuous efforts to eventually overcome all resistance.
We must ask ourselves: if we don’t come out to march because we are discouraged, what will those in power think? I believe they will think that their actions over this past year were correct. They will think that as long as they keep taking advantage of Chen Shui-bian’s judicial case, they can continue to rule. They will think that as long as they control the resources, weaken the Legislative Yuan, block our access to the streets and manipulate the media, then they can bring Taiwan back to the time of martial law: an era of leader worship and social stability through terror!
I don’t want such a fate to befall my country, and I don’t believe that you do either!
I understand that some friends, who feel as though they have lost hope in the DPP or don’t want to reveal their “color,” are hesitant to participate in a DPP sponsored event. To these friends I say that today, as an opposition party the DPP has left its past behind and is moving forward every day. We have gradually abandoned the old “strongman” leadership style. We now depend on small contributions for our support. We have reestablished our links with grassroots social movements, embodying their spirit and values while making progress on all fronts. With experience and our lessons in failure to guide us, over time we are taking on a new look.
Most importantly, when the ruler becomes a monster who controls the state machines, judicial system, and the media, with China’s help, we cannot afford to let the few remaining checks and balances we control to be lost and broken apart easily by those in power. The 517 demonstration and sit-in are not meant as a confrontational game between political parties. The purpose of these events is to boost the power of the people, and to force those in power who have ignored public opinion to hear the roar coming from deep within the hearts of the Taiwanese people!
At key moments during our historical drive for democratic reform, the Taiwanese people have never failed to disappoint us. From the bottom of my heart, I ask you to come out and stand with us, sit with us! Let’s change Katagelan Boulevard from the personal domain of those political elites in power who wish to encircle and ensnare our government to a stage for the people of Taiwan.
517. Let us write our history in the streets!
Chairperson, Democratic Progressive Party