Political biography: it’s a winner

Professor Alex Danchev attended the annual awards dinner of the Political Studies Association at Church House, Westminster, on 29 November, to pick up the Association’s 2011 Award for Innovation in Teaching.

The citation highlighted the course in Political Biography Professor Danchev has developed, in collaboration with Ion Trewin, formerly editor-in-chief of the publishers Weidenfeld & Nicolson and now administrator of the Man Booker Prize. Mr Trewin is also an Honorary Professor in the School of Politics and International Relations. In recognition of their collaboration, the nature of which Professor Danchev recently outlined in the Times Higher Education Supplement, the award was made jointly.

The Political Biography course builds on Professor Danchev’s research in the field: he is a biographer of Georges Braque and Basil Liddell Hart. Here, and in just 60 seconds, he outlines the importance of political biography.

Professor Danchev is also part of the AHRC Challenges to Biography Research Network and will be hosting a symposium on that subject at Nottingham on 20 December 2011. Those who wish to attend this event should contact Dr Adrian Smith at this address: a.a.smith@soton.ac.uk.


CCP interference in Taiwanese elections

Ever since Taiwan held its first direct presidential election in 1996, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has tried to influence the outcome of elections on Taiwan through implicit and explicit means. Many of you will remember the missile threat authorized by the CCP in 1996. And perhaps too, the harsh warning made by former Premier Zhu Rongji (朱鎔基) during Taiwan’s 2000 presidential election, in which he told Taiwanese voters to “make a historical decision wisely,” otherwise war between Taiwan and China would become a “the logical necessity”.

However, Taiwanese voters seemed to disregard Zhu’s threats and elected the DPP’s Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) as the president. Since Chen’s rise to presidency, the CCP has modified its means of influencing Taiwan’s politics through subtler ways, mainly by providing incentives for particular politicians, Taiwanese businesspeople, and media, in order to affect and mold the public opinion to create an image in favor of the China. In this post, I will summarize some of the political intentions behind the scenes and discuss how the KMT and the DPP respond to China’s interference.

There is abundant evidence that the CPP attempts to influence Taiwan’s domestic political scene. The DPP recently provided some evidence to support their suspicion of the CCP’s interference in order to help President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) be re-elected. DPP spokesperson, Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) outlined five tactics which China had adopted to ensure Taiwan’s elections would result in President Ma’s re-election. These include sending provincial-level purchasing delegations to boost economic performance, providing incentives to mobilize Taiwanese businesspeople in China to return to Taiwan to vote, allowing the assembly of Taiwanese businesspeople to campaign for President Ma, bribing some particular legislators to influence Taiwan’s policy-making, and hindering other presidential candidates from obtaining political donations from Taiwanese entrepreneurs who are active in China through direct or indirect threats.

Many more examples of such interference have been uncovered by the media. According to a report by Business Weekly magazine, DPP Legislator Tsai Huang-liang (蔡煌瑯) said China permitted Straits Exchange Foundation Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) to brief senior Chinese officials on Ma’s “golden decade” platform at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Oct. 28: an explicit signal that Beijing backs Ma. Furthermore, according to media reports, DPP spokesperson Liang Wen-jie (梁文傑) said that Lai Xiaohua (賴曉華), wife of Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), was investigated by the Chinese government for allegedly embezzling USD$300 million, which was listed as “media purchasing in Taiwan.” This outlay was supposed to be spent on “influence” within Taiwan’s media.

Confronted with these accusations, President Ma defended himself in a BBC interview, arguing that these allegations were made up by his rivals and none of them would be able to present evidence reasonable enough to bolster their claims. President Ma further justified his position, proclaiming “is Beijing kind to me, when it has missiles targeting Taiwan?”

The DPP showed the evidence that the CCP aided the KMT and thereby doubting the KMT’s sincerity to put the Taiwan’s interests in priority. While the DPP usually emphasizes on the CPP’s political intention harmful to Taiwan’s sovereignty and security but failed to distinguish the practical matters from political manipulation. From the DPP’s perspective, it seems that anything related to China is dubious and perceived negative. This kind of self-constraint weakens the DPP’s ability to convince people that it can deal with China issues in a proper manner.

The KMT believes that Taiwan can rely on China, and avers publically that politics can be separated from economics. This view is at odds with the CCP’s views on Taiwan, which put politics ahead of everything else. The KMT intentionally downplays the controversy of Taiwan’s national sovereignty and status. It rarely mentions the potential risks inherent in such an asymmetric power struggle between China and Taiwan, as well as the CCP’s insistent denial of recognizing Taiwan as an autonomous political entity.

The gap between domestic political attitudes towards China provides room for the CCP to polarize and divide solidarity in Taiwan and leeway to manipulate Taiwan’s politics. As a result, there is continuing controversy in defining national sovereignty and cross-strait relations, and it seems very unlikely that a consensus will be reached in a short period of time.

The CCP’s interference inTaiwan’s politics is nothing new. While the means of achieving this end have become increasingly delicate, and both carrot and stick tactics are conducted. Although there are various ways of implementation, the logic behind these tactics is the same: to provide attractive incentives for sympathetic elites while threatening and sanctioning troublesome ones. Applying this logic to the context of Taiwan’s elections, the target elites for the CCP include politicians, businesspeople, and the media. The most general tactic is to provide economic or material incentives in exchange for their cooperation. In other words, the CCP intends to influence public opinion through money politics, which can easily affect the outcome of elections, especially when it is linked to gambling behavior common in some electoral districts at the local level.

The CCP’s maneuvers to influence Taiwan’s elections are consistently operating behind the scenes and we should be aware of their methods and resist this interference. The Taiwanese democratic system is a result of many people’s efforts. In order to maintain the Taiwanese democracy, we should not compromise with any force that seeks to harm it.

Muyi Chou is a Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science at Humboldt University of Berlin

Remembering the British Communist Party


Once referred to as ‘interesting but insignificant’, the British Communist Party has been the subject of many academic studies that have explored its chequered history.

Emily Robinson, a post-doctoral researcher based in the Centre for British Politics has just published an article that looks at the party’s dissolution in 1991, something which brought to an end just over 70 years of life struggling on the margins of British politics.

As she explains here, Emily’s article explores the way in which history and memory were used and understood by Communist members as their party – one in which the idea of History played such an important role – broke up.

Hsiao Bi-khim at Columbia University: report

Ms. Bi-khim Hsiao 蕭美琴, spokeswoman and advisor for the Tsai Ing-wen Presidential Campaign, recently spoke at Columbia University. The event took place on 16 November 2011 and was organized by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute. Ms. Hsiao was invited to speak as a prominent alumna, who graduated with an M.A. in political science in 1995. Political Science Department Professor Andrew Nathan served as the moderator. The venue was filled to capacity with students, scholars, and members of the public. There was a question and answer session following her speech. A number of the questions came from Chinese students who were fascinated to learn more about  Taiwan, their democratic neighbor.

Ms. Hsiao began by discussing her background, simultaneously weaving her own life story and interest in politics into her perspectives on the process of democratic transition and consolidation in Taiwan. Recalling the night when she emceed Chen Shui-bian’s presidential victory rally in 2000, she saw tears in the eyes of older generations of Taiwanese. They had waited their entire lives to change their government through the power of the ballot box. Ms. Hsiao poignantly remarked that following the historic victory, Democratic Progressive Party leaders had to deal with a bureaucracy that formerly saw them as enemies of the state, and had throw a number of them in jail. An opposition party that was born and raised on the streets had to learn how to put its ideals into practice by working within the political system and from the Presidential Palace.

When Tsai Ing-wen took over as chairwoman of the Democratic Progressive Party in May 2008, the party was five million dollars in debt. Many had quipped that the DPP was in the ICU, and Ms. Hsiao said that the process of recovery was difficult and divisive. However, Chairwoman Tsai took a number of steps that enabled the party to once again become a relevant force in Taiwan politics. Her leadership marked a generational change: Tsai was one of the first DPP leaders who was neither politically active during the martial law period nor a victim of political persecution. One of her goals was to encourage the younger generation to help play a leading role in the renewal and regeneration of the party.

Under Tsai Ing-wen’s stewardship the DPP has refocused its attention on socio-economic policy issues, not only cross-Strait issues. It has also sought to win back the public confidence it lost in 2008; Ms. Hsiao noted that in her own mild and moderate way, Tsai Ing-wen has managed to achieve a feat that many had thought impossible. During the November 2010 municipal elections, the DPP won more votes nationwide  than the KMT, despite winning only two out of five mayoral seats. Ms. Hsiao believes that if the DPP wins this election, the party will win on a center-left socio-economic agenda.

Since becoming Chairwoman, Tsai has focused on seeking small individual donations (小募款) and refusing large donations. Ms. Hsiao described how some corporations would attempt to funnel 90 percent of their campaign donations to Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) candidates, and donate the remaining 10 percent to the DPP. Even such a  relatively small amount of money would benefit the coffers of the DPP, which has always had to compete with a party believed to be one of the world’s wealthiest. However, given the political accusations flung at former President Chen when he accepted corporate donations, Chairwoman Tsai wanted to rebuild the party’s public image as devoted to clean, transparent politics.

In this spirit, the Democratic Progressive Party is currently in the midst of its “Three Little Pigs” fundraising campaign. Ms. Hsiao explained how young triplets attempted to donate money from their piggy banks to Tsai’s campaign, with their grandfather at their side. The KMT protested to the Control Yuan (a government watchdog and one of five equal branches of government in Taiwan), which subsequently ruled that the children’s donations violated the Act Concerning Political Donations because they had yet to reach voting age. Many indignant Taiwanese voters responded by presenting piggy banks full of coins and bills to the DPP. The party began ordering its own plastic piggy banks from the only factory in Taiwan that produces them (the others have moved to China), and tens of thousands of them have been snatched up by party supporters wishing to make donations.

Ms. Hsiao argues that Taiwan is currently standing at the crossroads of a number of policy issues. How will Taiwan deal with security issues, national sovereignty issues, and economic integration with China? She noted that as the debate over nuclear energy continues, the DPP has proposed to invest resources into new energy sectors. Taiwan current operates three nuclear power plans and is building one more. All four plants rest on earthquake fault lines. There is also a renewed interest in agricultural issues in Taiwan. Although production costs are high, the industry creates many jobs. Taiwanese are increasingly aware that as Taiwan moves toward greater economic integration with China, the subsequent economic growth has not benefited all sectors of society equally. Although the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement has already been signed with China, Ms. Hsiao remarked that if any adjustments need to be made in the future, under a DPP administration they would occur only with the democratic consent of the public via the legislative process. The DPP has previously argued that the ECFA negotiations were not transparent and that the Legislative Yuan was not properly informed during the negotiation process.

The Democratic Progressive Party believes in an activist-oriented approach toward its role in Asia. Ms. Hsiao noted the importance of connecting to the region through democracy. Democracy is not just a moral value, but also a strategic asset for Taiwan, a form of soft power that is critical to its survival. Taiwan needs to not only preserve its democratic achievements, but also consolidate and deepen its gains. Taiwan must continue to find creative solutions to find adequate international breathing room, such as working through NGOs and INGOs. Although Taiwan is already a de facto independent country, Ms. Hsiao asserts that Taiwan seeks recognition. At the same time, she emphasized that Taiwan and China have common interests and can work together without seeking to antagonize each other.

Julia M. Famularo is a Research Affiliate at the Project 2049 Institute and a fourth-year doctoral student in Modern East Asian Political History at Georgetown University.

Daily shorts Nov 29

Minimalist shorts today (not because Australian Masterchef beckons, but because the candidates are serving up some tasty quotes that work better without my insouciant waffling).

For starters, how about this zinger from Tsai Ing-wen talking about agriculture in the South: Ma “reads the data of his public opinion polls more carefully than economic data.”

Extracted from Time interview: Ma: “Many of my key programs require a long period to be implemented”.  TIME: “Has Beijing given you any indication that it might reduce the number of missiles aimed at Taiwan given the improvement in cross-strait relations?” Ma: “No, they never have”.

Ma has published a book, entitled The Audacity of Hope. Correction, its called Listening and Conversations.

James Soong said something.

KMT’s new campaign slogan “A vote for Soong is a vote for Tsai”.

The KMT website is promoting an editorial from the friendly China Times. “This is the first time in our nation’s history that a sitting President and current Presidential candidate has ever sued his challenger. This is unprecedented. A court battle will become part of the Presidential race”. Um, KMT if you’re thinking of hanging your hat on that, you’re in trouble.

From the same editorial: “Tsai Ing-wen and the DPP are seeking high office. A word to the wise. Voters will not tolerate a political party that fabricates lies to reacquire power”. Must…Resist…Australian…Masterchef…Starting soon…Must Resist…

Mail me at jonathan.sullivan@nottingham.ac.uk, follow me on Twitter @jonlsullivan, or access my papers at http://jonlsullivan.com

Ma Ying-jeou and Ai Weiwei

Ma Ying-jeou spent fifteen minutes at Ai Weiwei’s ‘Absent‘ exhibit at Taipei’s Museum of Fine Art on Friday. Hours before Ma’s visit, I posted this piece by Harry Wu criticising the human rights situation in Taiwan during the Ma administration. In that post, Wu wrote of “the silence of government associated sectors on the persecution of Chinese dissidents, including the vague attitude held by Taipei Fine Arts Museum towards Ai Weiwei’s arrest”. So, does Ma’s visit to the Ai exhibit represent a change of heart or tool for an ailing campaign?

First of all we should recognize that, given the strategic context, this is one of those damned if you do, damned if you don’t moments for Ma. Having made détente with China the cornerstone of his successful campaign in 2008, Ma has had to tread a fine line when it comes to offering support to people and causes blacklisted by China. But this is also an ‘easy issue’ for domestic opponents to attack on, and it is a sphere in which the KMT has its own historical vulnerabilities, so he can’t be seen to be a total walkover either.

Thus the Dalai Lama came to Taiwan (after much oohing and aahing), but was assiduously avoided by officials in the Ma administration. Ma issued a press release after Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize, saying that it was “not only an individual honor but also has great historical significance for the development of human rights in China.” Since information about Liu’s Nobel was put on lockdown in China, Liu Xia has since disappeared and Liu remains in jail somewhere, we can wonder what ‘development of human rights in China’ actually means. Indeed, these sentiments are the same as expressed in Ma’s yearly thoughts on Tiananmen-a fairly safe time to criticize the PRC as it closes its ears to everything outside of China on that day. But lest we castigate Ma too strongly for toeing the line when it comes to China, think of how many other world leaders, CEOs, universities and many others are doing the same.

Ma has mentioned Ai Weiwei, publicly, twice in nearly four years; in his Tiananmen statement in June 2011 and when he visited the exhibit. Speaking to media at the gallery on Friday, Ma spent as much time referencing his Tiananmen statement as saying anything new. The line that 人權保障越接近,雙方距離就能更接近 (the closer the two sides are on protection of human rights the distance between them will decrease) is not new: its essentially the same old ‘when China becomes a democracy etc.’ wishful thinking. The ‘new’ was this: 艾未未是一位藝術家,藝術家應該有表達其藝術觀點的自由,這是臺灣重要的核心價值 (Ai is an artist and artists should have the freedom to express their artistic perspective; this is an important core value for Taiwan).

That is a very clever workaround. As I describe in this paper on Ai Weiwei’s precarious online communities, the cause of Ai’s problems with the Chinese government  is not artistic freedom per se, but the fusion of his art with his activism. But Ma can spin his comments both ways; art as activism for domestic (Taiwanese) critics and “art as art” if China gets upset. It’s interesting that according to observers, Ma avoided “Studies in Perspective”.

Not on Ma’s gallery tour

As if there is any other position for him at the moment, Ma was on the defensive at the museum. He first felt the need to explain/justify the reluctance/incompetence of Taipei Mayor Hau Long-bing in failing to invite Ai to Taiwan. He would soon thereafter have to defend criticism that this was simply a 选举秀 (lit. election show). One would like to think that Ma’s support for Ai Weiwei is genuine, and I have no reason to doubt that on a personal level it is. But several things point to instrumental motives.

As documented on this blog, Ma’s campaign is in trouble, and frankly, it needs all the positive distractions it can get at the moment. Taking up a cause celebre that could show Ma as a strong leader not willing to sell-out Taiwan’s core values, seems like a pretty good idea to me. Especially given how the disastrous ‘peace accord’ gambit failed utterly to resonate with voters (indeed, following National Chengchi University’s Center for Prediction Markets, it could be responsible for Ma’s big poll drop through October). And frankly, whatever Ma says during the campaign, China is not going to hold it against him and start wishing for Tsa Ing-wen to win.

Maybe a better test of Ma’s new taste for human rights is to see whether he mentions any of China’s detained rights defenders–who are also emblematic of Taiwan’s core values?

Mail me at jonathan.sullivan@nottingham.ac.uk, follow me on Twitter @jonlsullivan, or access my papers at http://jonlsullivan.com

I am a Muse

‘We campaign in poetry, but when we’re elected we’re forced to govern in prose’. So said then-New York Governor Mario Cuomo in 1985.

As someone interested in political fiction of different kinds – films, novels, television dramas and plays – I have shied away from poetry. However, I know it’s out there. Spike Milligan for example wrote a poem in which Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher and Neil Kinnock get a mention. More recently (and perhaps more seriously) one of Carol Ann Duffy’s first poems as Laureate was called ‘Politics’ and, according to the Guardian, was a ‘powerful, passionate commentary on the corrosiveness of politics on politicians and the ruinous effect on idealism’.

So, imagine my surprise and delight when I learnt that an interview I gave to Sarah Lyall of the New York Times during the 2010 general election campaign had inspired a poem about politics. Of the leaders’ debates I claimed viewers were likely to regard politicians performing on television in the same way they looked on protagonists in fictional dramas. ‘It’s not that they confuse them with TV characters’, I said, ‘but that they see them in the same framework. The leaders’ debates exaggerate that by encouraging voters to focus on the minutiae rather than the policy’.

Gershon Hepner a resident of Los Angeles, expatriate Brit and self-confessed ‘prolific poet’, some of whose work can be found here read those words and was inspired, thus:


When on TV the politician

perform, the sight of inhibitions

may harm them. They must all hang loose,

ending with the truth their truce,

declaring covert war on it,

a fact which they do not admit,

acting in their soap box dramas

as wooly as lost long-haired llamas.


Every line that they have quipped

follows a most careful script

protagonists will never write,

be they center, left or right,

since their narrative’s depiction,

though not factual, being fiction,

must ring more true than fiction does,

so that voters get a buzz.


Providing that they focus on

minutiae in their marathon

they hope to win in polling booths

before unslanted, sordid truths

emerge, which they can then explain

away on TV, that takes pain

away, because when people focus

on pundits, policy seems bogus.


On television all depends.

That’s where the fiction always ends,

glossed by the commentators who

will tell you what is false or true,

which fictions that you may to believe,

and ones from which to take your leave,

performing without inhibitions,

as if they, too, were politicians.

Steven Fielding

Refuting the “DPP smear campaign”

Yesterday I wrote that Ma’s campaign is a car wreck and suggested that to get it back on track, his team should get on message, and self-promote and attack on the economy. Instead, they have decided to fall back on a tactic that predates the first presidential election in 1996 and has been present ever since. Namely, invoking the “DPP smear campaign”.

In a troop-rallying speech in Tainan  Ma Ying-jeou “urged party members to be cautious about smear campaigns, while pledging to run a positive election campaign”. Ma argued that “we are facing a tough battle in both the presidential and legislative elections, and our opponents will launch more smear campaigns against us. We should take more cautious measures and prevent such negative campaigning from affecting the party’s performance in the elections”.

I have a paper coming out in January in The China Journal (which I can’t link to yet) in which Eliyahu V. Sapir and I attempt to explain the campaign behaviour of KMT and DPP candidates. I will write a proper post on the findings (which are highly relevant as we move forward in the campaign), but I just wanted to quickly refute the notion of DPP candidates as persistent smear artists.

Using empirical data derived from seven presidential and subnational campaigns between 1996 and 2008, our models provide a robust picture of campaign behaviour in Taiwan. Our findings simply do not support Ma’s (or many of his predecessors’) concerns about DPP skulduggery. In fact, our models show that after controlling for a range of covariates (incumbency, closeness of the race, time to election etc), there are no statistically significant differences between the two main parties in terms of their proclivity to ‘go negative’ or to engage in a certain type of negative campaigning.

There is, however, a statistically significant difference between the parties in terms of what we (euphemistically) call in the paper ‘negative strategic appeals’. This includes the type of claim that Ma made yesterday, and our models suggest this is true to form. Indeed, it is so spot on that I will simply excerpt the relevent paragraph from the paper’s conclusion:

“…use of negative strategic appeals often contain unsubstantiated claims that voting for an opponent will lead to dire consequences (multiple variations of the ‘fear card’), contributing little to the information environment and potentially propagating political mistrust. One of our strongest findings for the KMT is that their candidates’ negative tactics rely heavily on strategic appeals.In many cases (indeed in most of the campaigns analysed in this article) KMT candidates attempted to harness longstanding stereotypes about the DPP by associating vote choice and turnout levels with the purported risks of the DPP coming into positions of power. In addition, KMT candidates frequently associated their DPP opponents with campaign tricks and misleading voters. In our view, this type of claim contributes more to the atmosphere of political mistrust than attacks on the issues or even personal traits, both of which often contain legitimate information about the candidates. We suggest further that legislation is needed to improve this situation, in the same way that Article 48 of the President and Vice President Recall Act forced parties and candidates to ‘stand by their ads’…”

Mail me at jonathan.sullivan@nottingham.ac.uk, follow me on Twitter @jonlsullivan, or access my papers at http://jonlsullivan.com

Human rights and the presidential election

Approaching the Universal Human Rights Month, both the Ma Ying-jeou and Tsai Ing-wen camps are endeavouring to build their own images by presenting their human rights manifestos. The current ruling party KMT announced that it would implement no more executions (literally) of the death penalty before the election: in contrast to the impression it had given the voters previously, concerning its determination to build a powerful judicial system preceded by the standing down of a minister of justice, who opposed the death penalty.

Between 2010 and 2011, nine people were executed, in contrast with the record of the former government. During the Chen Shui-bian years, only two people were executed in the first year of his administration, before the government closed the discussion on this controversial issue.

The human rights records kept by the Kuomintang party have been rarely seen in post-Second World War Taiwanese history. Most of the records show inappropriate arrests and confinements of innocent individuals during the Martial Law period. The rise of the DPP was closely associated with its concerns for the weak and marginalized. Under the DPP rules, nevertheless, the government did not reach any significant achievements in the area of transitional justice apart from restoring the reputation of former political prisoners. The steadfast structure of government administration remained untouched; the reformation of judicial and taxing systems was not complete. The rights of indigenous populations, gender minorities and new immigrants were not satisfactorily regulated.

Since the KMT came to power again in 2008, Taiwan’s human rights record deteriorated, due to the government’s honeymoon relationship with China. The clashes between police and activists protesting Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin’s visit in November 2008 and the consequent events were seen as an indicator of dwindling freedoms of speech, assembly, and the press freedom. In 2010, when Liu Xiaobo won the Nobel Peace Prize, Taiwan’s government failed to condemn China’s human right violations soon enough to meet the pressure of public opinion. The newly created Presidential Office Human Rights Consultative was seen as a delayed response to balance the criticism.

The honorary chairman of the KMT, Lien Chan, being awarded the inaugural China Confucius Peace Prize was another embarrassing moment (this year’s winner, Vladimir Putin). The silence of government associated sectors on the persecution of Chinese dissidents, including the vague attitude held by Taipei Fine Arts Museum towards Ai Weiwei’s arrest, all make the promise of the current ruling party to pursue principles of human rights unconvincing and doubtful.

The recent maid abuse case involving Liu Shan-shan, the representative of Taiwan’s Kansas Office, again challenged the extent to which the Taiwanese government respects human rights in comparison to diplomatic immunity. This puzzle, however, does not only confront the KMT government, but the entire Taiwanese society. There are too many topics that are seldom discussed and underplayed not only by the government, but also the general population, due to the exhausting political contest between blue and green. There is still a general acceptance of the death penalty. The discrimination of minorities persists. Capitalists’ exploitation of labourers still plagues the labour market.

One view as to why Taiwan’s progress towards a “normal society” remains unfulfilled, is the possible collective mentality resulting from the long authoritative regime. People do not see the subordination to authority as an evil but only banality. They think that one should envisage the future instead of looking at mistakes made in the past. Therefore, the general public are indifferent regarding most of the unfair treatments in their daily life. They are also ignorant in most aspects of legal life. For example, in the recent restored injustice case of Jiang Guo-qing, an innocent soldier tortured and eventually gunned down by the military, the state only reimbursed the bereaved family without paying indemnity. Most of the public, including the press, do not understand the different nature between these two forms of compensation.

In November,  Human Rights We Care (台灣大選人權陣線), a league comprising thirteen NGOs, was formed to monitor the human rights manifestos of all presidential candidates. It has issued a questionnaire for all candidates to clarify the content of their human rights policy. Judging on the performance of two ruling parties in the past decade, the government’s actions were always sluggish and passive. The vast and unshakable system of government, which was left behind by the past regime, seems to be the main obstacle. If current KMT government cannot live up to its advantage in developing a small and powerful official procedure, but instead designs the structure of the public sector according to its obsessive desire to connect with China, which is already happening, then the reformation of human rights in Taiwan will be always hampered by its own bureaucracy, and will have to perpetually rely on the slow growth of civil society.

Harry Yi-Jui Wu is a DPhil student at the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, Oxford.