An Interview with Professor Tsay, Chairman of the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan (ART)
FL: Recent photos of the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan base indicate that a sit-in has been going on now for over 900 days. How did this all get started?
PT: It started with my hunger strike on October 25, 2008 after a rally of about 200 thousand people in front of the Presidential Palace. It has been more than 900 days since then.
My hunger strike was in protest of Ma’s decision to permit a Chinese Communist envoy to visit Taiwan. If the Taiwanese were to let this go without any public objections, Ma and the Chinese Communists would have succeeded in confusing the international community by creating the impression that Taiwan is a part of China. I first called for a referendum on Ma’s policy. In his 2008 presidential campaign, he had openly promised that all 23 million Taiwanese would be able to decide the future of Taiwan.
While I was on hunger strike, I noticed that even the Legislative Yuan, which was controlled by the Kuomintang (KMT), couldn’t do anything to stop Ma’s policy due to a well-manipulated electoral system. As the street protests continued, the police tried to silence us forcefully. However, we believe that the hope of democracy should continue and that we should be there to guard it.
FL: Who was the Chinese Communist envoy that you are referring to? What’s his name? Could you tell me or give me examples of how the police tried to forcefully silence you and the protesters?
PT: His name is Chen Yun-lin (陳雲林) and he is the Deputy Director of Cross-Strait Relation Association of China.
The first time Chen Yun-lin came to Taiwan, the police used brute force on a few people when they tried to show the Republic of China (ROC) flags in front of Mr. Chen. People were physically injured and sent to the hospital for treatment. The ROC flags were confiscated by the police and thrown into the street garbage cans. A music store located near the Welcome Dinner restaurant, where the owner played Taiwanese songs over the big speakers was forced by the police to shut its doors while customers were still inside the shop. At that time, I was on hunger strike and not personally involved in those protests. The police did not want to let Chen see any ROC flags and kept shifting protesters far away from Chen, giving him the impression that there were no demonstrations at all. They moved transportation, including pedestrians, many blocks away from wherever Mr. Chen was.
FL: Why was the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan formed?
PT: We are under the superficially democratic system of the Republic of China, which is the Chinese Nationalist Government (aka Kuomintang) now exiled in Taipei (aka Chinese Taipei). This government has installed many barriers within the Referendum Act, which severely limit citizens in exercising their referendum rights. Additionally, the electoral system was designed so that the ruling Kuomintang regime will forever be in the majority and able to dominate the parliament. Even worse is the existence of the Parade and Assembly Act, which suppresses freedom of speech.
[NOTE: You can learn more about the Parade and Assembly Act and the debate over it here: http://www.taiwantoday.tw/ct.asp?xItem=120135&CtNode=423]
FL: Professor Tsay, what is your role in the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan? Are you the founder of the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan?
PT: I am not the sole founder of the ART but one of many founders and I now serve as the Chairman of the ART. The Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan (ART) was founded in response to my calls “to return people’s civil rights” and after my hunger strike on October 25, 2008, which lasted for 7 days in front of Legislative Yuan. My hunger strike was in protest of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) policy of selling out Taiwan to Communist China. At the time, I was the President of the Taiwan Association of University Professors (TAUP). Many Pro-Taiwan independence organizations, such as the Alliance of Taiwanese Teachers, Taiwan Society, Taiwan North, South, and Central Societies, Taiwan Hakka Society, and Su Beng’s Independent Taiwan Society, etc. came out to back me up and together we founded the ART.
FL: Could you give me some examples of how President Ma has sold out Taiwan?
PT: He promised in his 2008 presidential campaign, “that the future of Taiwan will be determined by the 23 million people of Taiwan.” After he took office, he opened the doors to Communist China by signing the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) between China and Taiwan and permitting an envoy from China to visit major cities in Taiwan despite people’s protests. Ma has said that Taiwan is part of China under current Republic of China (ROC) Constitution and he will pursue reunification with China eventually.
*To learn more about the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan (aka ART), visit their website: http://taiwanra.blogspot.com/
NEXT: Part III Beyond 900 days