Taiwanese farmers, fishermen protest
Taichung, Taiwan--The Nov. 23 demonstration of 120,000
farmers and fishermen almost took down the Chen Shui-bian administration.
This was the biggest social protest in Taiwan's history. Surprisingly, it
was held by farmers, the bottom of the Taiwanese social structure. The
demonstrators' demands included saving Taiwan's agriculture and fishing
industries by shoring up their credit unions and associations.
The massive protest prompted our premier, vice premier, a
county government, and an agricultural official to take full responsibility by
offering their resignations. Up to now, the premier has been willing to stay on
and rebuild part of the cabinet.
Here is the paradox: both President Shui-bian and the
premier come from farms. Logically, they should have taken good care of farmers.
However, the social structure does not change although the government has been
switched to ethnic Taiwanese from ethnic Chinese. Politically and economically,
farmers and fishermen are in a very underprivileged situation. I don't think
Shui-bian puts them out of his mind; however, I believe they are not among his
Compared to the bloody farmers' demonstration in 1988, the
main reason for the 2002 demonstration was to give farmers and fishermen a
voice. They came from all over the island and showed their concern for
themselves and their expectations for the Shui-bian government. During the
demonstration, they took care of each other; therefore, what people watched on
TV was a long march in good formation and with colorful banners. They did
not ask for officials to resign; rather, they wanted to direct the government's
attention to their basic life situation.
Published by News and Letters Committees