OLD SCHOOL

To mainland China, Taiwan’s student protests prove that democracy doesn’t work

Obsession
China's Transition
Obsession
China's Transition

Thousands of Taiwanese students are occupying government offices to protest against a trade deal that will open the country’s services sectors to firms in mainland China. Police sprayed students with water cannons, arrested over 50 protesters, and ordered media to stop reporting from inside the building housing the country’s executive branch.

Meanwhile, about 180 km (110 miles) away, mainland Chinese are watching the events unfold with rapt attention—and concluding that democracy is not all that it’s cracked up to be.

Mainland Chinese have always watched political events in Taiwan with special interest; many view the island as a test case for democracy in a Chinese society. The latest unrest is causing some mainland social media users to question the wisdom of protests that impede the government’s ability to govern.

“Taiwan is a democratically elected government…Capturing the Executive Yuan is contrary to the rule of law and undermines democracy,” one blogger in Beijing said (registration required). Some called the protesters “radicals,” while one blogger just said, “Complete chaos.” Another said, “Your democracy has shocked us.” The Global Times called the demonstrations “a farce.”

Still, some support the students’ freedom of expression, and the rights of the media to cover the protests. One blogger whose account says he is in Fuzhou, China said: “Taiwan, hold on! Tonight, we are all Taiwan.” Some even questioned why Chinese students were not also demonstrating against a trade deal that could mean mainland jobs may be given to Taiwanese workers.

A few bloggers drew a dark parallel with a student-led demonstrations on the mainland that most young Chinese hardly ever discuss. One blogger said, “This looks like 6/4 Taiwan version,” a reference to the violent crackdown on China’s student protests on June 4, 1989, often just called “6/4” in China. “Chinese people’s belligerent instincts are the same all over the world.”

Police use water cannons to disperse demonstrators as they protest against a trade pact with mainland China, near Taiwan's government headquarters in Taipei, early morning March 24, 2014. Hundreds of demonstrators occupied part of the headquarters on Sunday night in protest against the controversial trade pact with mainland China. President Ma Ying-jeou says the pact with Taiwan's main export market is essential for the island's prosperity. However, the main opposition party says it could hurt small service companies, and many others are reluctant to let China expand its influence over a fiercely independent and democratic territory that China still sees as a renegade province. REUTERS/Cheng Ko (TAIWAN - Tags: CIVIL UNREST POLITICS BUSINESS) - RTR3IA94
Police use water cannons to disperse demonstrators. (Reuters/Cheng Ko)
A protester looks out from a window next to a cartoon depicting Taiwan's President Ma Ying-jeou at Taiwan's legislature in Taipei, March 21, 2014. The speaker of Taiwan's legislature will be able to retain his party standing, a court ruled on Wednesday, in the latest development in a dispute seen as a potential threat to Taiwan's China-friendly ruling party ahead of local elections this year. The Chinese characters on the cartoon read, "Anti-black box" (top, L), "Communist Ma the black hand" (bottom, L), "Rape Taiwan" (R) and "Nine percent approval rating" (C).   REUTERS/Patrick Lin (TAIWAN - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST) - RTR3I0BW
A poster depicting Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou. (Reuters/Patrick Lin)
Students protest inside Taiwan's Executive Yuan in Taipei, March 23, 2014. According to local media, some demonstrators have moved into Taiwan's Executive Yuan on Sunday evening after taking over Taiwan's parliament and massing in the surrounding streets for the past five days. REUTERS/Cheng Ko (TAIWAN - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST BUSINESS) - RTR3I8G9
Students protest inside Taiwan’s Executive Yuan in Taipei on March 23. (Reuters/Cheng Ko)
Hundreds of police in riot gear clear the streets surrounding the government Cabinet buildings occupied by student protesters in Taipei, Taiwan, Monday, March 24, 2014. Hundreds of protesters opposed to a far-reaching trade pact with China have invaded Taiwan's Cabinet offices, marking a sharp escalation in a student-led movement against the island's rapidly developing ties with the communist mainland. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
Hundreds of police in riot gear clear the streets surrounding the government Cabinet buildings occupied by student protesters in Taipei. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
Student protesting against a China Taiwan trade pact confront police after storming the government Cabinet buildings in Taipei, Taiwan, Monday, March 24, 2014. Hundreds of protesters opposed to a far-reaching trade pact with China have invaded Taiwan's Cabinet offices, marking a sharp escalation in a student-led movement against the island's rapidly developing ties with the communist mainland. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
Students clash with police trying to evict them. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
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