By Beth Main.
Taiwanese students are now protesting for their right to protest after the government ‘clamped down’ on their freedom to protest the planned sale of a Taiwanese media outlet to a pro-China conglomerate.
The Taiwanese government tried to dissuade students from protesting in the most Taiwanese way, by expressing concern for students health in the cold weather (rainy but still about a balmy 18 degrees). The education ministry sent a notice to 37 universities expressing “concerns over the health of students” for joining street protests — despite bad weather — against Next Media’s plan to sell off its Taiwanese assets. Students are concerned that the sale of Apple Daily and Next magazine as well as Taiwan Sharp Daily and Next TV to buyers such as Tsai Eng-meng, who has substantial business interests in China, would infringe on the freedom of the Taiwanese media and that it will become increasingly pro-Beijing.
The affronted students retorted via the Youth Alliance Against Media Monsters:
“We are very healthy and we want to defend Taiwan’s freedom of speech and democracy. It’s the education ministry trying to suppress student movements that is sick.”
On a more serious not, at a meeting on Monday, DPP Legislator Ho Hsin-chun expressed concern that universities might punish students who took part in the protests. However,
Chen Wei-Ting, a co-convener of the Youth Alliance Against Media Monsters, took offense and retorted with ‘offensive language’, in what has been condemned as ‘bad manners’. He has since apologised.
Taiwan’s education minister Chiang Wei-ning has also apologised for the issuing of the notice and ordered schools not to keep tabs on student protest activities.