Taiwan Corner supports Taiwan’s democracy from Europe
Michael Danielsen, chairman of Taiwan Corner
All members and volunteers in Taiwan Corner regard democracy as the first and foremost important aspect of the Taiwanese experience and strive to protect and develop it. In dialogue with the public, politicians, and civil servants in Europe about Taiwan’s international challenges and current affairs we always emphasize the question of democratic development, and try to engage with this based on values of trustworthiness and independence.
Today, we have members in five European countries and in Taiwan we have more than 7000 likes on Facebook. We are an association that embraces both Taiwanese and Europeans in political work for Taiwan and at the same time allow our members to meet and relax with each other socially. Our strongest asset is that we are volunteer-based and independent of political and economic interests: We are here because we care about Taiwan.
The mission of Taiwan Corner – Why are we here?
Taiwan Corner is a publicly-registered volunteer association in Denmark. We were formed in 2008 by six individuals who wanted to provide a different and more balanced story about Taiwan. Since its foundation, we have based our work on three clear purposes:
- to support Taiwan’s democracy
- to support Taiwan’s right to membership of all international organizations
- to support Taiwan’s right to self-determination
We have expressed our concern over democratic development in Taiwan in open letters to President Ma Ying-jeou, by writing comments in newspapers and on social media and by going public in the support of the right for foreigners in Taiwan to demonstrate. We also spoke out against the opposition DPP when it decided to support the “Personal Data Protection Act” which allows such weak and uncertain language as “acting in the “public interest” to permit derogation from its principles.
In early November 2014, Taiwan Corner made it possible for politicians, civil servants, and academics to meet and engage privately with two of the principal leaders of the Sunflower Movement, Wei Yang and Wu Cheng. In this way, we supported Taiwan’s democracy by making the Sunflower Movement directly accessible to policy makers in Europe.
In line with our second goal, we support Taiwanese membership of all international organizations. Taiwan is much larger than most of UN’s member countries and therefore it is only right for us to support Taiwan’s ambitions in this regard.
Lastly, according to our third principle, we support Taiwan’s right to self-determination. We believe that foreigners have no right to decide the future of Taiwan. However, we do believe that we can and should facilitate and support Taiwanese people to affirm and establish their right to determine their own future free from outside pressure.
Taiwan Corner has an efficient and flexible organization that can react quickly to new events and circumstances. This is done by having a small board consisting of three board members and two supplementary board members. We operate a democratic structure and all board members are elected at the annual meetings.
Working with volunteers
Our normal activities such as operating a social media presence on Twitter and Facebook, publishing newsletters and gathering information about new articles and formulating new projects cannot be done without our loyal members and the many volunteers around the world. We have dedicated people, people who are interested in our goals and who have the perseverance and patience to continue the work for years.
What kind of work do we do in Taiwan Corner?
We raise the profile of Taiwan with people in various places by giving talks about Taiwan to local communities, visiting political parties, giving talks at international conferences, in the European Parliament, or at academic seminars at for instance London School of Economics (LSE). We also write comments in newspapers and on social media. We provide a monthly newsletter to our members, journalists, politicians, academics and others with an interest in Taiwan.
We also facilitate direct contact between political figures in Taiwan and Europe. That was for instance the case when we in November 2014, had the pleasure to be the main organizer of a five-day trip by Wei Yang and Wu Cheng, two principal representatives of the Sunflower Movement, to London and Brussels. where we were able to arrange direct encounters with European politicians, civil servants, academics, and journalists.
Taiwan Corner is sometimes also involved in specific issues, such as the case of Daniel Helmdach, a young German citizen who was improperly denied entry to Taiwan in March 2013. After he was sent back to Germany, he filed a petition against the National Immigration Agency with the help of Taiwanese lawyers. Now his ban has been lifted and the Ministry of the Interior has admitted his innocence and the injustice of his treatment. Because of our action German politicians are now aware of the limited democratic rights of foreigners in Taiwan and of problems with its legal system.
Taiwan Corner was also happy to act as election observer during the 2012 elections with the International Committee for Fair Elections, assisting in writing the final report signed by the 18 election observers from seven countries.
Media attention is vital. We have focused on writing comments in newspapers. We do this because we believe that we can reach people who are not already committed to a view about Taiwan and thus reach new people who are interested in Asia or in foreign affairs.
Our comments in newspapers focus mainly on Taiwan’s relationship with China. It is our experience that two other areas are important. They are identity issues and especially the issue of being “Taiwanese” (as opposed to being “Chinese”) and the development, or current lack of a positive development in Taiwan’s democracy.
Where do we fit in?
Taiwan Corner operates on our own, or in cooperation with, others on different projects. In addition, we can work in between governments and between political parties and government institutions. This can consist of very simple things like personal contacts to politicians or institutions. In this way, politicians can get a broader impression when they visit Europe or when European politicians are visiting Taiwan.
This kind of public relationship is important for Taiwan. Today, nation states can no longer provide the same assurances to their citizens as before, because numerous economic decisions are taken elsewhere by companies, world unions, or other international actors. They operate above governments and for this reason, governments need to create or enter economic blocs, such as the EU, in which countries can obtain greater control.
This development challenges Taiwan because it is typically not invited into international trading organizations due to China’s obstruction. Taiwan needs to develop an even better public relations strategy and utilize its uniqueness, its democratic brand and its industrial background to break this trend. This is partly done by Scotland, Catalonia in Spain, and Bavaria in Germany. They are able to brand themselves as unique and special. Taiwan has a public relations option, which today is not used well enough.
Taiwan can win even more sympathy by engaging itself in a professional public relations strategy that can portray Taiwan as a unique and democratic country.
When we look at our work in the past six years, it has become clear that there is a dormant support for Taiwan among politicians in Europe and among the public. There is a widespread sympathy for Taiwan and for the challenging position Taiwan faces in the world.
Taiwan Corner tries to do our small part in spreading knowledge about Taiwan in Europe and supporting Taiwan’s democracy by working together with Taiwanese and Europeans.