Edited by Brian Bridges and Lok Sang Ho
Chapter 7: A Short History of Taiwan’s Democracy Movement
Byron S.J. Weng Few can honestly contend that Taiwan had a democratic government before 1988, not even the staunchest supporter of the anti-Communist regime. Few, if any, will deny that the people of Taiwan have been living in a democracy since 1996, not even those who dislike it for one reason or another. This is to say that, after a 40-year period (1948–1987) in which a severe dictatorship ruled with the pretense of democracy, somehow the government system of this island country has been transformed, in less than two decades, from authoritarian to democratic. Remarkably, that transformation has materialized by and large peacefully, though not without serious confrontations and regrettable bloodshed and sacrifices. Having become democratic in form, however, the people of Taiwan have come to realize that they are still not well equipped to handle their liberty with responsibility and that democracy can be painstaking and costly. Even though this adolescent democracy has a full set of elections from bottom to top and parties have been voted out of and into power, it is still struggling to learn the ropes. With each new experience, it seems to be growing and maturing as can be expected. The story is worth telling and retelling as it is unique and rich in lessons. In the following sections, we shall see how pretenses of democracy by an authoritarian regime underwent a metamorphosis and became true through the struggles of the people, many of whom sacrificed their freedom and lives, and also how...
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