Part of a continuing series, Lighthouse: Dispatches on Taiwanese Democracywhere we explore how democracy has deepened its roots on this island nation.


 

Dispatch #1: Regular People in Taiwan Find Outlets to Participate in the Democratic Process

Campaigns in Taiwan are raucous, but highly organized affairs. From caravans that trawl the streets blaring slogans and music, to election tents pitched by the roadside, to massive night-time rallies that fill public squares, there is ample opportunity for citizens of all stripes to engage in electoral politics.

In nearby South Korea, large election rallies — and even active campaigning — are severely curtailed. Singapore, which contests elections but is considered only “partly free” (because of restrictions on press freedoms and civil liberties) permits demonstrators in only one location.

In Taiwan, huge public gatherings take place right next to the Presidential Office. Rally organizers legally reserve the streets, and even provide ponchos in case of downpours. Tens of thousands of people show up to support their candidates and causes, accompanied by drummers and rock musicians. Many of them wave creative campaign flags.

In the United States, citizens might put up a yard sign as the extent of their campaigning. In Taiwan, with so many options for participation, when one feels moved, it is relatively easy to take part in the civic festival that is the democratic process.

motorcycle_campaigning

A fleet of campaigners rev up their motorcycles to ride on behalf of the Taiwan Solidarity Union

 

night_rally

Night-time DPP election rally on Ketagalan Boulevard, next to the Presidential Office, the seat of government

 

Photos and video by Kevin Hsu.

Kevin Hsu

Kevin Fan Hsu is Lecturer in Urban Studies at Stanford University and co-founder of the Human Cities Initiative. He crafts open online courses and designs other educational experiences with a social mission at Skyship Design (www.skyshipdesign.net)