It was perfect weather for a rally and march last Saturday: you couldn’t have ordered better weather on Amazon Prime. This was fortuitous because every year supporters of Taiwan go on a march to rally for one of American’s best friends in East Asia. This year it was organised by Jenny Wang, Alex Chang, and Eason Wu under the banner of taiwanmatters.com, a clearing house for Taiwanese activism in the United States. The event seems to get a little bigger and little younger every year. While this event primarily focuses on Taiwan’s situation, they also stand with all peoples living under the grim shadow of the Communist Party of China’s authoritarian regime. They focus on the courage, strength and resilience of the Taiwanese community, as well as the Uyghurs, Tibetans, and other oppressed groups within the People’s Republic.
The day started with a rally opposite the Consulate of the People’s Republic of China by the Hudson River and was prelude to a cross town foot walk, via the famous “the duce” – 42nd St., to the United Nations on the East River. A “Long March” if you will. It was well attended with 300 or so people; a mixture of American born Chinese, Taiwanese citizens and non-Chinese “friends of Taiwan” such as your correspondent.
The 20 floor consulate building itself is a strange edifice, architecturally. It was built in 1961 and until the Chinese bought it several decades ago it was a hotel and a beautiful one at that if mid-century architecture is your thing. It is a touch weird to see that red flag and seal above an old, refurbished Sheraton, but what does one expect of a Chinese consulate? A pagoda? You can bet that the diplomats behind the telephoto lenses within the consulate got good shots of all march participants and in a few hours our individual faces were being run through various databases in some unmarked grey building in Beijing.
The march has been going for decades now and as the oldies retire and recede a new generations of young Taiwanese, hungry for the rights and recognition of Taiwan, take up the baton. They’ll be passing it for generations, though, as cross-straight relations seem to be frozen. There’s a grudging but peaceful standoff between the PRC and Taiwan, a less than optimum state of affairs but still one the rest of the world (Palestine, anyone?) could learn much from.
Taiwan, in the words of Rodney Dangerfield, “don’t get no respect” internationally. It is a vibrant, free democracy with advanced social policies like the greening of their entire energy policy and being the first country in East Asia to allow gay marriage. Their treatment of aborigines, those inhabiting the isle of Formosa before the influx of mainlanders fleeing communism, has been more compassionate than Japan, Australia, or the US….to make comparisons.
Further, they are one of the most stalwart of US allies, a valuable cog in the machine of democracy in an area that is democratizing but still has some distance to go. On background, there’s a long running battle for diplomatic recognition the world over between the People’s Republic and Taiwan which, at the moment, is being won by Beijing. A more thorough analysis of it from your correspondent here.
There’s a need for the march. At every turn Beijing blocks Taiwan’s cooperation and progress. Beijing gets them dis-invited to all the cool international parties as it pursues its agenda of being the ONE China, casting Taiwan not as the effectively independent country it is, but rather as a “renegade province”. Thus, Taiwan is shut out of nearly all international organizations, even the World Health Organisation. They’re also shut out of the United Nations, the protesting of which was the point of Saturday’s events.
And the rally and march were *FUN*: lots of flags, slogans, free t-shirts, happy people and the like. There’s a special thrill to being outside on a pleasant Manhattan day with several hundred like minded citizens doing something active in pursuit of progress and democratic rights – helping out a friend indeed.