I had a letter published in the Taipei Times today in response to two recent incidents where freedom of speech on the internet was threatened. I wrote an article on my posterous blog which gives some more background on the issue. The post also includes links to the Hu’s girls videos. Tim Maddog has written a post at Taiwan Matters! on freedom of speech issue. Michael Turton also has more on the issue and notes that the Data Protection Act which will come into effect next year may create further problems for internet users. My letter from the Taipei Times is below.
The Ministry of Education’s attempt to interfere with political discussion on the PTT Internet forum (“Notice to Ministry sparks outrage,” Nov. 4, page 1) marks yet another attack on free speech by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government.
This comes just after an Internet user faced threats of legal action for producing a spoof version of the “Hu’s girls” promotional video for the campaign of Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強), the KMT candidate for the Greater Taichung mayoral election (“Prosecutors say no suit against altered Hu video,” Nov. 3, page 3).
Watching the two videos, it is difficult to actually tell which one is the parody.
These two events are part of a series of incidents since the KMT returned to power in 2008 where the government has tried to limit free speech. They also reflect the paternalistic attitudes of many government officials, whose thinking remains rooted in the Martial Law era.
Taiwan has made great advances in developing a free and open society since the end of Martial Law in 1987 and the subsequent onset of democracy.
However, some universities still place restrictions on freedom of speech and there are still military instructors on university campuses and in some high schools.
In spite of these hangovers from the Martial Law era, the young have strong opinions and are not afraid to express them.
The Wild Strawberry Movement in 2008 shattered the image of Taiwan’s youths as docile and disengaged from society. Earlier this year, students at Tainan Senior Girls High School engaged in a mass protest over the right to wear shorts to school.
Many young Taiwanese are actively engaged in politics. They have ideas and opinions that will shape the future of the nation.
Taiwanese lived through four decades of the White Terror. Taiwan’s youth must speak out to ensure that they don’t experience White Terror 2.0.