It is only two months until local elections in Taiwan, and this year many new candidates are hoping to challenge the two major parties after the Sunflower Movement unleashed a torrent of young political energy.

One group called Flanc Radical, or the Radical Wing, was founded two years ago with a left-wing and Taiwan independence agenda. They are fielding a total of five candidates in Kaohsiung and Hsinchu, all young first-time aspiring politicians.

So are they as “radical” as their name suggests? Just last week their 18 year old campaign manager Ming-wei Yan threw the book “Formosa Betrayed” at President Ma Ying-jeou, but what do we know about their policy stance, growth strategy, and vision? We ask candidate for the 10th district of Kaohsiung Dr. Hsin-yu Chen about his personal decision to run for office, policies for Kaohsiung, and the future of the organization.

Ketagalan Media (KM): Hsin-yu, thank you for your time today. First of all, how did you go from a doctor to running for Kaohsiung city council? What is your motivation, and how did that motivation begin and turn into your decision to enter politics?

Dr. Hsin-yu Chen (Chen): I was already interested in politics, philosophy, history and such social sciences, so through that process I slowly developed my own political views, and discussed with my friends Taiwan’s situation and issues, like sovereignty.

KM: So it started all the way in college, talking with friends. But while a lot of people chat about politics with friends, not everyone ends up running for office right? So how did that happen?

Chen: During the seventh year of college [in medical training] I had to intern at hospitals. It was the year before residency. As an intern, we had little to no labor rights. We have to do the same work doctors do, but we have no benefits. Overall, Taiwan’s medical system is under a lot of pressure, and all medical care personnel are horribly overworked. Therefore, the entire working staff within the medical community is suffering. I realized, after thinking about it, the problem lies with the system. Taiwan has not had a tradition of thinking comprehensively about the system, and so each piece is not in sync with the others. Residents do the job of three people, there are not enough assistants, and so all the leftover work is picked up by residents. It’s the weak exploiting the weak. It’s no use blaming anybody, because everyone is exploited by someone else. The only way to solve this is changing the system through political process to make the medical field better.

In reality, this description fits for Taiwan in general. Many aspects of this society suffers from this systematic kilter, and I came to see the bigger picture. After I graduated, I happened to listen to a presentation by Shinichi, the founder of the Flanc Radical, and he pointed out three overarching problems in Taiwan: politics, sovereignty, society. After hearing his speech, I wanted to help his organization. The group’s strategy is to send people into politics through elections. I thought I was just going to be a staff, but during the March 18th events (start of the Sunflower Movement) I was the Kaohsiung area convener for our group, and Shinichi convinced me to run for office myself. I decided it was an opportunity, and a challenge for me, so I decided to do it.

KM: So you’re saying that Taiwan’s labor structure is one where people share the pain, but only a few benefit, and that’s what you want to change. Changing tracks a bit, in your district in Kaohsiung, we saw the tragic accident of gas line explosions just two months ago. If you are elected, what concrete policy do you want to push for to make that better? How would you deal with entrenched interests in the petrochemical industry?

Chen: Kaohsiung’s petrochemical industry was established around the 1970s, during then president Chiang Ching-kuo’s “Ten Major Projects,” aimed at putting Taiwan in line with the global economy. Since it was during the martial law era, the people of Kaohsiung had no choice whether they wanted it in their backyards. After the gas pipe explosions, the people of Kaohsiung realized just how risky petrochemical industries are—especially since the industrial pipelines are intertwined within residential and commercial areas. Now that we are a democratic society, I want to see a referendum in Kaohsiung to decide if we want to get rid of the industry.

Kaohsiung is surrounded by petrochemical plants and pipelines. We have the duty to give Kaohsiung an option to decide what to do with them. Of course, after the industry leaves, how do we take care of the petrochemical labor force, is another problem. After they lose their livelihoods, they need help and oversight from policy; we have seen the plight of highway tollbooth personnel after tollbooths were abolished, and we need to avoid that. If the referendum decides that the petrochemical industry needs to go, then we need to oversee their departure; if the result is them staying, we need to revisit their safety regulations, and more heavily oversee their operations.

KM: To follow up, how would you personally vote in the referendum? Will you support petrochemical industry leaving?

Chen: Any referendum will have two sides. These plants are located in Kaohsiung, but their tax revenue is collected by the central government and then redistributed to the local governments. China Petroleum (Taiwan’s state-owned petroleum company) paid up to NT$43 billion in taxes, but only NT$0.6 billion came back to Kaohsiung. While we are dealing with the downsides of pollution and public safety, where did the NT$42.4 billion tax revenue go?

Kaohsiung is actually very weak in these tax situations. China Petroleum’s headquarters are based in Taipei, and their corporate tax revenues are allocated mostly to Taipei. There is a disparity in resources between the north and south. As a Kaohsiung city councilmember, we need to tell the government this is wrong. If the petrochemical industry only brings in so little for our city, I will vote to send them away. But if I lose, we will still need to build more stringent oversight mechanisms.

KM: So this referendum is going on, the pro-petro side asks you about how to sustain Kaohsiung’s economy if we get rid of the petrochemical industry, what would you say?

Chen: We have been looking into the local small and medium enterprises. For example, there is a friend who makes high quality wooden chairs and tables. These kinds of workshops have been neglected by Kaohsiung, but they are actually quite competitive. This workshop has won awards in Europe, and their products sell for a high price. Things like these can grow to support new product chains, and even effect vocational education. Currently, Taiwan’s industrial policy is controlled by the central government, and Kaohsiung cannot decide what it wants; and for too long the south has been sacrificed for the north, plus government’s subsidies to specific industries, it’s hard for Kaohsiung to switch tracks. Kaohsiung has been promoting tourism, but tourism alone cannot sustain a city. High quality crafts like woodworks, footwear, could be an opportunity for Kaohsiung.

KM: Perhaps it’s actually because they were neglected, that they developed competitiveness to survive.

Chen: That does make sense too. But the situation now there are a lot of traditional craftsman who are sad to see their craftsmanship going away, and these competitive industries are very important to Kaohsiung.

KM: I want to ask about your organization the Flanc Radical now. How do you play the role of a minority party? How do you work with major parties?

Chen: We have seen data, and in the 50 years of Taiwan’s recent history, only Tainan’s local council has seen the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) take majority, and everywhere else the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) has always held majority. So we don’t think the DPP will win majority in Kaohsiung this year. We want to be a key minority. In the past, independent legislators always side with the KMT when the vote count is close. We want to change that; we want to withhold our support for either side and exert our influence to extract concessions from the major parties. For example the petrochemical referendum, originally the question may to whether to reroute the pipes, we want to press for removing the whole industry, and use that to pressure the two parties.

KM: After this year, how does the Flanc Radical participate in the 2016 legislative and presidential elections?

Chen: After the local elections in November, we want to become a bottom-up political group. In the past there were “third parties,” like the Third Society Party in 2008, which was formed by academics and experts. They didn’t have any support on the ground, and so they eventually fizzled out as a group of academics talking within themselves about things normal voters won’t accept. So we want to be independent for now, and earn the public’s support.

In 2016 we will still need to register as a political party to be on the proportional representation ballot. After the November elections, we will start a nationwide speaking tour. We won’t field our own presidential candidate in 2016, but if things go well we will then field mayor candidates for 2018 local elections, and then think about 2020 presidential elections.

KM: So it’s to accumulate the power among the public, and then use that to build a party. Furthermore, one of the Flanc Radical’s three pillars is social democracy. What would that look like if applied to Taiwan? Do we need to raise our taxes, like Scandinavian welfare states? Or are there other strategies?

Chen: Our pillar is talking about distributive justice. Right now in Taiwan, power between capitalists and labor is very off-balanced, and Taiwanese labor has been heavily exploited. But recently, a lot more of these conflicting lower-class voices are being heard, and so we believe the path to social liberalization is possible. Other than tax policy, unions are another very important factor.

In Taiwan’s urbanization, each person is an atom and cannot speak for him or herself. They cannot speak for people who were unfairly fired, and everyone only cares about him or herself. If unions can operate normally, they can speak for laborers, they can fight for collective rights. In the past, Taiwan’s unions were only built from the bottom-up, and they cannot stay united; meanwhile the union laws and political forces have been fighting against the unions, because the politicians are well connected with corporate interests. We want to help the unions from the top-down, so they can be empowered to fight the employers.

Tax is of course another method. Taiwan has had very low inheritance taxes, which help create these wealthy dynastic families, and hurt social mobility. So both tax policy, and union policy, are very important. For unions, a lot of laws are very unfriendly for unions to form, and makes demonstrating very difficult, which hurts unions.

KM: Lastly, for this organization made up of mostly young people, hoping to take Taiwan towards the left, how will you do that? Especially since Taiwan has not yet have mainstream left-wing thought. What do you think is different now?

Chen: In the past, the economic miracle helped capitalists make the case of “if you work hard you can be a boss too.” “愛拼才會贏” (a popular Taiwanese song), or you will win as long as you work hard, was forced on the people by the rulers. In the lyrics, it says that 70% depends on hard work, meaning that it’s the workers’ fault for being poor, for not working hard enough. Taiwan’s real wages have reverted to 1990 levels, but we work longer hours than most countries in the world. How can you say the Taiwanese still don’t work hard enough? We already work so hard it’s scary. You look at Western countries, it’s unthinkable to work this hard.

There is an inherent conflict in the society. Young people cannot find the jobs that realize their potential, but work at jobs where they are exploited every day. The conflict is intensifying. We need to let people know that some rights and benefits are not earned by hard work, it’s because they are purposely withheld from us. We need to fight for them. We need to educate, discuss, and share these thoughts.

KM: Thanks to Hsin-yu for your time today, would love to speak more and thank you for your thoughts.

Chen: Thank you.

台灣地方選舉不到兩個月的時間,而這一次的選舉氣氛卻跟以往稍微不同。經過三月太陽花學運,許多團體紛紛希望搭上民意轉型的時機,推出候選人,希望在台灣兩大黨以外,推廣長久被忽略的聲音。

其中一個團體「基進側翼」,早在兩年前在高雄發起,試圖代表左派社會民主以及台灣獨立立場,以體制內參選的方式改變台灣。今年年底,在高雄和新竹推出總共五位市議員候選人,而每一位以無黨籍參選的候選人,都可以說是太陽花世代的政治新手。

講到基進,而且基進到自認為是側翼,應該是給人很火爆的形象;18歲的辦公室主任顏銘緯,上禮拜才拿「被出賣的台灣」一書砸中馬英九總統,但是他們實際上的政策考量,發展策略,國家願景,又是什麼呢?今天我們訪問基進側翼成員,高雄市前鎮小港市議員候選人陳信諭醫師,他個人的參政路程,對於高雄的政策,和組織的未來。

Ketagalan Media (以下 KM):信諭很感謝你今天答應給我們時間專訪。第一個問題想先問,如何從一名醫生的身份轉為參選高雄市議員,是基於怎麼樣的信念,這個信念是怎麼開始的,怎麼演變到今天的決定?

陳信諭醫師(以下「陳」):我先從我一開始的想法說起,我本身在大學的時候就對政治、哲學、歷史這些社會科學滿有興趣的,在這過程之中我漸漸培養了自己的政治意志,也會跟朋友討論一些台灣的政治或是主權的現況

KM:原來是從大學的時候開始接觸,與朋友間的討論開始,但很多人都會跟朋友討論政治,卻不是每個人都會去參選市議員,所以你怎麼會走到參選市議員這步?

陳:我大概在大學七年級的時候需要去做醫科實習,就是要進入住院醫師的前一年,但台灣對於實習醫生的勞動保障很低,實習醫生需要做醫生的正式工作,卻幾乎沒有福利,再加上台灣的醫療體系近乎崩壞,整個包括護理師與住院醫師的勞動體系都接近無法負荷的狀態,在這樣的情況下整個醫療的勞動氣氛非常差;看到這樣的問題,我當下想著為甚麼台灣的醫療會變成這樣,原來這都是制度的問題,台灣在製訂制度的時候沒有通盤的考量,每個環節的失控造成這樣的情況,住院醫師一個人當三個人用,護理師人力嚴重不足,只能把擠壓出來的工作塞給實習醫師做,這其實是弱弱相逼;了解問題的本質後才發現不該去責備他們,他們也是被剝削的一群,整個環節需要透過政治與體系上的改變制度,才能讓醫療更好。

更進一步的來看,醫療的勞動情形其實就是台灣社會的縮影,這個社會上有很多環節都是這樣的崩壞狀況,這也擴大了我看事情的角度;畢業後我在因緣際會下聽到了基進側翼新一的演講,他點出了台灣社會的三大問題(政治,主權,社會),聽完後我想有機會可以幫忙這個組織,因為當初基進側翼主要的論述是透過參選參與政治,我卻本來沒有想要選舉,一直到三一八時我擔任了高雄區講座的總召,認識了新一本人並且說服我參選,我覺得這對我人生是一個契機也是一個挑戰,所以我才打定主意參選。

KM:台灣的勞動結構是把痛苦分享給大家,得利的人非常少,所以你想要改變這樣的情況。再請教你一個問題,你是前鎮小港區的候選人,兩個月前才發生過氣爆案,如果你當選後,會想要推動什麼樣具體的政策來改善這樣的狀況?要怎麼面對石化業的既得利益者?

陳:石化業是十大建設時期(1970)為了要融入世界的經濟進入高雄的,在那個威權時代的人民是沒有辦法決定高雄要不要石化業,經過這次氣爆之後,高雄市民心中都知道石化業在高雄市有非常大的危險性,工業用管線與住宅區商業區混雜;既然我們台灣是民主的社會,代表我們應該要有一個地方性的公投來決定,這些石化業該不該繼續留在高雄,高雄整個市區的外圍都被石化管線包住,我們有義務也有責任提供高雄市民選項來選擇這些石化業的去留,石化業撤離後基層的從業人員該何去何從?勞動人口釋放出來之後應有政策上的保護與監督,過去台灣在產業轉型的過程中我們可以看到,國道收費員所受到的不公不義,都是必須避免的,假如公投的結果是石化業需要撤離,那我們應該監督他們的離開,若結果是留下,那我們應該重新檢視他們的安全規格,與建立監督的標準流程,要求石化業者提出更嚴格的管理辦法。

KM:再追問一下,您本身對於這個公投的答案是?是支持撤離的決定嗎?

陳:公投一定會有兩方利益的拉扯,這些石化工廠雖然設址高雄,稅收卻都是中央統籌分配,台灣中油去年上繳的稅金高達430億,最終卻只有6億是回到高雄,當我們承受這些汙染與公安問題時,這中間差距的424億到底花在什麼地方?大家都不知道高雄在稅收部分非常的弱勢,中油總公司在台北,稅金繳給中央後中央只分配給台北市,這是南北不均的問題,高雄市議員應該有義務告訴政府這是不對的,既然石化業可以帶給高雄的這麼少,我會投撤離一票;若是最後的結果是留下這些石化業,那我們應該建立更嚴格的監督機制。

KM:假設這個公投真的被提出,反對撤離方對你質疑高雄的經濟以後怎麼支撐,你會怎麼回答?

陳:我們長期有在關注在地的中小企業,比如說有位市民朋友在做木質的椅子和桌子,但這類的小工廠過去是被高雄市忽略的,而這些其實是很有競爭力的產業,他們曾經在歐洲參加比賽拿到很不錯的名次,賣出的物品都是高單價高收益,這其實是可以帶起新的產業鏈,甚至影響到職業教育層面;台灣目前的產業政策都是中央統籌,很難由高雄自己決定,長期的重北輕南加上重點扶植重工業,高雄其實很難轉型,雖然最近高雄大力發展觀光,但觀光不是一個足以支撐高雄的產業,精緻工業(木工、鞋子)的發展會是高雄產業的下一個契機。

KM:說不定是傳統上被忽視的他們造成在夾縫中求生存的競爭力。

陳:也是合理的說法,在這個情況下其實很多精緻工業是在感慨於傳統技藝的流失,而這些非常有競爭力的產業對高雄很重要。

KM:另外請問,基進側翼身為一個政治團體,在市議會裡面要怎麼扮演少數黨的角色?要怎麼跟其他政黨合作?

陳:我們分析過,台灣五十年來只有台南市是民進黨過半,在每個地方議會都是國民黨過半的情況下,基進側翼評估這次在高雄也不會過半,所以我們扮演的是關鍵少數的作用,過去在兩黨議員數接近的情況下,無黨籍的議員通常會像國民黨靠攏,而我們想要打破這樣的慣例,在法案表決上保持未表態以換取兩黨對基進側翼某些主張得讓步,比如說石化業的撤離議題,可能本來的表決題目是產線撤離,基進側翼提出的則是完整撤離,利用與兩黨的政治交換來達到自己政治主張的實現,我們目前是往這個方向去走。

KM:那基進側翼在2016年的全國性選舉除了國會議員之外會怎麼投入總統選戰?

陳:在年底的地方選舉後,我們計畫組黨成為一個由下而上的政治團體,過去的第三勢力(第三社會黨)是由學者專家組成,因為沒有基層的力量,而最終泡沫化成只有知識份子在談一些沒有民眾會接受的理念,所以我們主要要透由這個無黨籍的力量來攏絡民意的支持,組黨之後2016才可以提出不分區的立委,經過今年的地方選舉後,我們在2016年前會做全國性的宣講,但應該還不會提出總統候選人,長期目標會是2018提出地方首長候選人,再考慮2020年的總統大選

KM:所以是先累積基層的力量,有了民意的支持後再去組黨提不分區立委,全國性的宣講,變成不分區的政黨。再請問一下,基進側翼三大核心價值之一是社會自由化,這樣的願景在台灣實現的想像會是什麼樣子?要達成這樣的願景是否需要像北歐國家提高稅率這樣的做法?還是有其他實踐方式?

陳:我們的社會自由化講的是分配正義的問題,台灣目前勞資雙方的力量極度不平衡,台灣勞工被剝削的狀況非常嚴重,許多底層的矛盾的聲音漸漸被大眾所聽到,所以我們認為堅持社會自由化的理念是有可能全面擴展的,除了稅率制度外,工會力量的扶持是非常重要的元素,台灣在都市化的過程中每個人都只是一個原子,無法為自己發聲,沒有辦法為無故被解雇的人說話,大家都在自掃門前雪,如果在工會運作正常的情況下,他們能幫勞工發聲,爭取權利,台灣以前的工會是由下而上的組成,這樣的組成沒辦法團結,台灣的工會法與政治力量都在抗衡工會的組成,因為政治力量都是跟財團掛勾,工會的力量沒有辦法被鞏固;我們的想像是在進入議會之後可以由上而下的扶植工會力量,讓工會有辦法跟雇主抗衡。稅制上的改革是另外一方面的做法,大家都知道台灣的遺產稅非常低,造成權貴世襲的社會現象,階級不流動,所以稅制與工會兩個方面的改革都非常重要,工會的問題又牽扯到,有些法律對工會的組成非常不友善,對於上街集會遊行的狀況也非常不友善,導致工會沒有辦法強大。

KM:最後再請問一下,主要由年輕人組成的這個政治團體,希望可以帶著台灣社會向左轉,台灣一直以來都有左派的社會民主論述,但一直不在主流的民意觀點中,你覺得當年的時空背景跟現在有什麼不同?

陳:在以前的狀況底下,經濟起飛幫助了資本家灌輸人民”只要努力就可以當老闆”的概念,”愛拼才會贏”是統治者灌輸給人民的意識,當時的勞工意識漸漸起飛,但七分靠打拼的說法指責了勞工是不夠爭氣才居於弱勢;現今的台灣則是實質薪資倒退到1990年代的薪資,台灣人的工時卻是世界名列前茅,這樣的狀況怎麼可以說台灣人不夠努力?台灣人的努力已經到令人覺得可怕,你看歐美國家,沒有人會工作到這麼誇張的地步,所以目前社會已經產生一種矛盾,年輕人找不到好的工作無法實現自己,卻又每天被工作所剝削,矛盾的張力正逐漸累積,我們必須要在這個情況底下讓他們知道,某些權利不是不努力,而是有些人故意不給我們的,這是我們自己要去爭取的,我們可以透過教育、街頭宣講或網路的力量讓大家知道這樣的狀況,但社會的矛盾點是存在的。

KM:感謝信諭的時間,我們有機會可再深聊,謝謝你今天給我們這樣的分享。

陳:謝謝。

 

(Feature photo of Dr. Hsin-yu Chen, from his Facebook fan page, with permission.)

 

About The Ketagalan Project

History and culture are the frames that prescribe how we understand the world around us. Our co-hosts present in-depth interviews on how art, culture, history and politics intertwine throughout time and space to connect us. Find out about the cosmopolitan modern Taipei downtown in the 1920s, regional trade, the future of aboriginal culture and more.