Youth must speak out to protect internet freedom

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.

2 thoughts on “Youth must speak out to protect internet freedom

  1. Necessary and timely letter Dave, good work. I agree with the comments on Mike’s blog that the warning on PTT may have been to encourage University administrators to unilaterally impose their own restrictions separate from the Government perhaps to prepare for the influx of Chinese students, who they fear may either engage in online discussions in ways that raise antagonism on Campus. I’m waiting now for all the student starved private universities to start changing their rules so as to attract and ‘protect’ Chinese students …. scary times.

  2. Thanks Ben. I think Chinese students will become an issue in the near future. The thought of the 50 Cent Army (五毛黨) embedded in Taiwanese universities is a scary one. However, I think these cases are related to the elections. It looks like the KMT are going to lose their stronghold of Taipei City and this has struck fear into the party. I also think the Hu’s girls video displayed the poor sense of judgement of Jason Hu (first in producing the video, second in responding to the KUSO version).

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