Submitted by Johnathen Anthony
Former Valemount resident Johnathen Anthony and his fiancée Minerva Jiang were part of the crowd when the student “sit-in” started in Taiwan on March 18. Anthony has settled in Taiwan, and once he had a fair grip on Mandarin, he started a double major degree program in geography and life sciences there, and will graduate this year.
He sent these photos of the protests to his friends in Valemount and tells us the story:
Taiwanese students stormed their legislative building and took total control of it by physically pushing out the police and the politician who was trying to pass a bill.
The reason for this is Taiwan has signed a treaty with China and, to my understanding, part of the treaty will allow Chinese nationals to come into Taiwan and do pretty much any kind of service related job. Why is this bad? One negative aspect is that Chinese wages are way lower than Taiwanese wages, which means that though this will be great for those who already have businesses, it will be bad for a good portion of Taiwanese people who are working through university etc.
Example: my fiancée gets paid about US$1100 per month for her full time job, which is about average in Taiwan at the moment. Sounds low, and it is, but at the same time it’s ok because a lot of stuff is way cheaper over here.
However if this Services Free Trade Agreement is passed there are going to be candidates who will do the same job for lower salaries.
In my mind it’s basically equivalent to the States totally opening their doors to Mexico, from an economic point of view, not altogether good for the majority of Americans.
The Taiwanese government has already signed the agreement, but they still need to use the legislative building to pass the bill democratically. They can’t do this at the moment because the students and professors are in total control of the building.
The situation has a lot of other consequences as well. For instance though China forces most other countries, including Canada, to recognize Taiwan as part of China, it’s actually independent, as this protest clearly demonstrates. I mean, if this happened in China, the students would be hosed down and gassed out on the same day as they took the building.
Another sign I was holding literally translates to “What is the price of lowering costs?” But it is difficult to get the full point across, because it is actually referring to the overall development of Taiwan – something which has long been advocated for in Taiwan, and which this bill could seriously jeopardize. Taiwan used to be able to do battle with the rest of the world with cost-down policies – that is why I grew up with cheap toys made in Taiwan. But with development, we’ve seen that Taiwan has switched to producing medium- to high-end products for consumers (Giant bicycles, Asus laptops, Acer laptops, HTC smart phones, AMI original design manufacturer, BenQ, CyberLink and a whole host of other great products). To me and for many Taiwanese, this is the future of Taiwan.
There are other things at stake here too, such as keeping the Chinese media companies out of Taiwan, which is also part of this treaty with China. If they’re allowed to come in, Taiwanese identity will be seriously jeopardized, which could gravely threaten the future of Taiwanese independence.
So if you’re reading this, and you have any way of getting this onto CBC or CTV please do. I’ll try, but I need my fellow Valemoutonians to help in this time of crises – Taiwanese independence and one of the only East Asian strongholds of democracy is at stake here…..
That is my two cents. There are probably some good things about this whole free trade agreement, but it’s a good thing that the students took control so that everyone notices, and can have a good look at the thing. I mean this politician was trying to pass the bill in a matter of minutes or less, without any discussion whatsoever.