Stepping out from Taipei and engaging the wider public; widening the scope of engagement for greater successAdapting academic discussion to the needs of a popular forum; realizing our goal of becoming a dynamic, action-oriented think tank.
The level of interest stirred by Taiwan Advocates’ international symposia was a clear indication that the people of Taiwan are deeply concerned about the country’s future and its development. To broaden the scope of participation in such events, while raising the level of debate on public affairs, Taiwan Advocates sought to take normally staid academic symposia and transform them into large public forums in which scholars share their insights with the general public. This unprecedented model of a forum with a high standard of discussion between the public and academics proved extremely popular. Not only did members of the public familiarize themselves more closely with ideas promoted by the think tank, scholars and experts were able to extend their influence to a larger-than-normal audience. The first conference of this sort organized by Taiwan Advocates attracted thousands of participants, far exceeding what most associations and organizations could previously achieve.
The public voice on constitutional reform inspires the country: A warm-up to the 288 Hand-in-hand to Protect Taiwan RallyPacked sessions across the island to hear Lee Teng-huiPublic Voice on Constitutional Reform, large public forums conducted around Taiwan in Feb 2004.
On February 8, 2004, Taiwan Advocates launched a campaign for constitutional reform and for the first time extended the scope of its activities outside Taipei, organizing activities in Taichung, Kaohsiung and Hualien, organizing four large forums titled Hearing the Public Voice on Constitutional Reform. The forums received huge support and attracted crowds in the thousands. The forum in Taipei filled the 3,000 seats of the Taipei International Conference Hall, and required an audiovisual feed to give access to the event to many others outside the hall. It is estimated that over 4,000 people participated in the forum. The three other forums each attracted between 2,000 and 3,000 people, offering clear proof of the surge of a Taiwanese consciousness among the people.
These forums were also broadcast to audiences who could not attend in person, and in the run-up to the presidential election, these events had a significant influence on voters.
Preparing for Taiwan’s first referendum: 2,000 people meet at Taipei’s Grand Hotel with real-time links to eight locations. An estimated 20,000 people from around the country take partA Referendum on Constitutional Reform: Taiwan speaks, a forum held in March 2004.
During the run-up to the 2004 presidential election, the questions asked in the proposed referendums were distorted, causing serious misunderstanding about the issues they raised. In response, Taiwan Advocates decided to hold a forum titled A Referendum on Constitutional Reform: Taiwan Speaks in a last-minute attempt to rectify misperceptions and encourage people to vote in the referendums, as well as to raise the confidence and self-awareness of Taiwan’s people. In order to meet the needs of the public who wanted to participate in this event, Taiwan Advocates set up eight additional locations for real-time audiovisual linkups so that people around the country could ask questions and make their comments heard. An estimated 20,000 people participated in the event.
Striving to subdue the chaos that followed the presidential election; Calling on the people to protect Taiwan’s democracy and constitutional governmentLooking at Taiwan’s Constitutional Government from the Perspective of the 2004 Presidential Election, a forum held in April and May 2004.
The 2004 presidential election did not bring about the security and stable political environment for which the public had hoped. Compounding this disappointment was the continuation of political chaosthat many feared might irreparably damage the progress achieved in Taiwan’s process of democratization. This crisis required that the social elite act in support of social justice and bring about a return to proper social values.
Taiwan Advocates has a responsibility to correct erroneous or misguided views, and so in the wake of the presidential election, on April 24 it began a series of open forums in Taipei, Taichung and Tainan, for the public to make their voices heard in support of upholding Taiwan’s democracy. Public response was even stronger than for events prior to the election, attracting between 3,000 and 4,000 people to each event, proving that even in chaotic times, the people of Taiwan can still distinguish right from wrong and uphold justice. These forums served as a minor corrective to the aberrations of the election period.
Countering China’s oppression; supporting the accusations of Taiwan’s businesspeople against ChinaVoicing Support for Taiwan’s Businesspeople in China, a forum held in June 2004.
The presidential election on March 20, 2004, gave a second term to a Taiwan-centeredpolitical party, namely the DPP. China’s response to this development was to increase pressure on Taiwanese businesspeople operating in China. Pro-green businesspeople were named and unofficially targeted as a way to stir fear in the Taiwanese business community in China. China’s aim was to apply pressure on commercial interests there in order to influence politics in Taiwan. This policy was implemented in total disregard for the huge sums of money that Taiwanese businesspeople have invested in China, and for their positive impact on China’s exports and its foreign exchange markets, as well as the many other important contributions brought by Taiwanese investment.
In response to China’s politically motivated campaign against Taiwanese businesspeople, Taiwan Advocates has repeatedly called upon Taiwanese to reconsider the hard lessons it has learned during the almost 20 years of implementation of its “go west” policy. It has called for a review of Taiwan’s trade policy and for consideration of alternative economic and trade policies. During forums sponsored by Taiwan Advocates, Taiwanese businesspeople with experience ?in China spoke of the oppression and unfair treatment they faced, providing a better understanding of the true nature of China’s authoritarian regime.