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The Taipei Times featured History Professor Joseph Tse-hei Lee's piece "In turmoil, Taiwan offers change"

11/02/2020

The Taipei Times featured History Professor Joseph Tse-hei Lee's piece "In turmoil, Taiwan offers change"

The world is on fire as vulnerable individuals and communities face state violence. Yet increasing numbers of people still demand change, fighting for a more equitable society.

The effective use of social media is vital to successfully mobilize political resistance. This is particularly true in Hong Kong, Minsk, Bangkok and Lagos, where courageous citizens defy curfews to oppose police brutality and clog busy intersections to bring financial districts to a standstill.

Last year’s protests in Hong Kong remain the most livestreamed popular uprising, providing a template for social media mobilization and grassroots activism around the world. In particular, the so-called “be water” philosophy of the territory’s protesters, emphasizing fluidity, flexibility and adaptability, has become an integral part of global activism to fight oppression.

In Belarus, despite the government’s threats of mass arrests and use of lethal force, people have challenged the fraudulent presidential electoral results since August, and in Lagos, the anti-police brutality demonstrations have escalated into serious confrontations with the Nigerian military.

In Bangkok, college students have inspired people to join peaceful rallies, demanding an end to military rule and reform of the Thai monarchy. They even forced the Thai prime minister to lift a state of emergency, opening room for dialogue.

These examples represent a new form of civic engagement in this interconnected age, as social media tools have awakened a whole generation of citizens.

As the first generation to grow up in this era of information technologies, they believe themselves to live in a boundless virtual world that is at odds with the hopeless realities they see around them.

Having witnessed the Arab Spring and the Sunflower movement while growing up, young people recognize that the established orders could vanish overnight.

Even though the pervasive control of public discourse is common in many oppressive systems, tech-savvy youths are expressing their opinions online. They turn to electronic media to subvert state censorship and organize peaceful gatherings against the “status quo.”

Without the rigid hierarchy of traditional political parties, advocates reach out through Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube on a scale that would have been unimaginable two decades ago.

Social media platforms facilitate the speedy flow of ideas and information, contributing to unprecedented levels of global and local support. In this brave new world, winning the virtual sphere is as important as occupying the public square.

The Internet offers conscientious citizens countless opportunities for mutual interactions, and for private access to multiple sources of information outside of pro-government media. This development is a terrible omen for any dictator, as people can decipher the lies fed to them through government propaganda. 

Read the full The Taipei Times article.