Today I attended what may have been the single largest political rally in the history of the world, although that claim, like many others, is arguable.
This is a good place for giving context. The rally today, which was supposedly a protest against the 500 nuclear missiles pointed at Taiwan across the Taiwan Strait, is actually about a number of things: Taiwan's modernization; its dislike of the backwardness of the Mainland; the ethnic split between the Fuzhou people and the mainlanders, the desire of Taiwan, and other small nations, to stand up for their independence in a world where United States hegemony is not to be trusted; Chen Shui-bian's idealism and\or demogaugery; and a tradition in Chinese history of the North attacking the south that goes back to the time of Qu Yuan.
My critical mind knows that the ethnic pride of the Taiwanese people, and its ability to disrupt the status quo and threaten peace in East Asia is not necessarily a good thing. The fault lines of the Taiwanese independence movement, are already rippling around the world, causing the United States to have to walk an even more delicate line when requesting help from China in their situations in North Korea and the Middle East. Taiwan's desire to be an independent is causing it to seek allies elsewhere, in such nation as Mongolia and Thailand.
It's hard to say why and when this all started. The reason that the rally was held today dates back to something called the Febuary 28th Incident. 2200 years ago, the Qin Dynasty was overthrown because some soldiers, faced execution for being later to muster after being trapped in a rainstorm, and realized they might as well face execution for treason. The Febuary 28th incident, which occurred slightly after the reoccupation of Taiwan by nationalist forces, in 1946, was equally minor in its beginnings. A woman was arrested for selling cigarettes outside of the government monopoly, and was beaten. This caused a round of rioting that led to the Nationalists imposing martial law for several decades.
And that is one of the reasons, why, today, over a million Taiwanese attempted to join hands across the island, either to protest Beijing pointing missiles at them, or as a way to protest the continued presence of the KMT area corruption and cultural domination in the government. (Although, of course, the current President is a the pro-Independence Chen Shuibian, who faces a rather difficult election in a few weeks). But whatever the motivation and history behind it, I have to say something for the fact that a country with such a fractitious history can have an open, democratic demonstration without violence or ill-feeling. Whatever the politics involved, it has been a long time since I have seen such a positive display of democracy.
228 Incident: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/archives/2004/02/28/2003100472
Pictures of the rally: http://pdxcb.net/gallery/thechina?page=18