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100,000 protesters take to the streets in Taipei

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100,000 protesters take to the streets in Taipei

Opposition parties play "black box politics" bringing memories of protests 10 years ago


Welcome to this week’s RealTime Mandarin. Before we start, a quick reminder we have in-person community meet-ups over the next few weeks in Beijing (next Wednesday, 5 June), Washington DC (18 June), and Geneva (19 June).

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Now onto this week’s delicious words and phrases!

Chaotic scenes unfolded in Taiwan’s parliament on Friday, May 17. 

Lawmakers shoved each other and exchanged blows in a dispute over five controversial reforms to the chamber, its Legislative Yuan (立法院 lì fǎ yuàn).

These reforms were proposed by the opposition parties, the Kuomintang (KMT, 国民党), and the Taiwan People's Party (TPP, 民众党).

The KMT and TPP want to expand the powers of parliament, and restrict the power of the new government.

The KMT holds more seats in parliament than the ruling party, the Democratic People’s Party (DPP, 民进党). But not enough for it to hold a majority.

So it’s been working with the TPP to promote policies on which they both agree.  

The ruling party, the DPP, claims the opposition are forcing through policy reforms without the customary consultation process, calling it "an unconstitutional abuse of power".

In response to what was happening inside parliament, crowds of DPP supporters gathered on the streets outside the Legislative Yuan, calling for the democratic process to be upheld. 

Some people began calling on others to demonstrate outside the Legislative Yuan on the social media platform, Threads.

Young students started to gather there, protesting: "The Blues and Whites are violating procedural justice."

Following calls on social media, hundreds of people poured into the scene to support the protesters. Police were deployed and roads blocked around the Legislative Yuan due to safety concerns.

社交媒体 Threads 上也有人开始号召群众立刻集结至立法院外抗议。同一时间,数十名青年学生开始在立法院外集结举牌抗议,诉求“蓝白违反程序正义”。随著社群媒体的号召,现场陆续涌进数百人声援民众。为了防止冲突,现场已加派警力,并在立法院周遭封锁道路。[1] 

  • (Note: The first time I've ever heard Threads being used for anything, let alone starting a protest! Instagram was also a social media platform used to gather public support for protesters.)

The crowds continued to grow over the following week.

By Friday 24th of May, around 100,000 demonstrators had gathered. 

Inside the Legislative Yuan, lawmakers had still not resolved their dispute. Representatives of the three parties continued their protests inside the chamber: 

In the Parliament, DPP legislators hung slogans like “Parliament is becoming more like the National People’s Congress in China; Taiwan is becoming more like Hong Kong”, “No to black box politics. Yes to consultation”, and “Democracy is dead. Elegy to the Parliament”.

Whereas, KMT and TPP representatives hung slogans such as “No to violence. Yes to reform”, “No to corruption”, “Investigate corruption cases”, and “The policy debate must continue”.


Scenes on the streets of Taipei and other cities in Taiwan over the past week are reminiscent of the “Sunflower Movement” (太阳花运动), student protests which took place in March, 2014. 

Ten years ago Sunflower Movement protesters were calling for proper democratic process in the passage of the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement, or CSSTA (海峡两岸服务贸易协议 or 服贸 for short) between Taiwan and the Mainland, pushed by the then-ruling KMT.

Ten years on, many protesters of the Sunflower Movement were gathered again, some with their young children, protesting once more against what they see as the lack of due democratic process.

That tie is exactly what protesters wore on their head ten years ago, with the words: "Taiwan will not be well until the KMT falls."

In the protests last week, seats were filled, and crowds of people without seats stood on both sides of the road, holding banners saying: "I am in contempt of parliament" and "No debate, no democracy". They protested against the blue and white parties' "forcible" passage of the bill.

In the eyes of opponents, this kind of behaviour is similar to "black box politics". It is a reminder of the Sunflower Movement ten years ago, where similar issues led to huge waves of unrest.

这条布条正是十年前抗议民众头戴的布条,上头写著“国民党不倒,台湾不会好。” 现场座位已经满座,没有座位的人潮则站在道路两旁,手持著“我藐视国会”、“没有讨论,不是民主”的标语,抗议蓝白两党“强行”通过法案。在反对者眼里,这般行径近似“黑箱”,让人联想起十年前的太阳花运动,也是因著“程序正义”的问题掀起滔天巨浪。[4]

So that's what we are discussing this week. 

But first, a quick refresher on key words you need to know discuss politics in Taiwan: 

  • 朝野 cháo yě - ruling and opposition parties

  • 蓝白 lán bái - Blues (KMT) and Whites (TPP), or "the opposition"

  • 立法院 lì fǎ yuàn - Legislative Yuan (sometimes referred to colloquially as "parliament" 国会)

  • 行政院 xíng zhèng yuàn - Executive Yuan (equivalent to the Cabinet)

And you can read more here about the Taiwan elections in January.

All clear? 

Good. Let's dive in.

Favourite Five

Artwork by Derek Zheng

1. 黑箱 hēi xiāng

black box; black box politics

在反对者眼里,这般行径近似“黑箱” - In the eyes of opponents, such behaviour is like "black box politics". [4] 

2. 既视感 jì shì gǎn

déjà vu

几乎所有来到现场的民众都会认为现场的气氛有“十年前的既视感” - Almost everyone present there felt a sense of déjà vu from ten years ago. [1]

  • More: Likely to originally be from English. The original Chinese equivalent is 似曾相识 (“like seen it before”).

3. 口角冲突 kǒu jiǎo chōng tū

verbal conflict, argument

相较17日的激烈肢体冲突,今日表决过程仅有零星口角与各自口号叫阵 - Compared to the intense physical conflict on the 17th, today's voting process only saw sporadic verbal conflicts and slogan shouting. [2]

  • Related:

    • 肢体冲突 zhī tǐ chōng tū – physical conflict

    • 零星冲突 líng xīng chōng tū – sporadic conflict

4. 挑灯夜战 tiǎo dēng yè zhàn

work late into the night

国民党团、民众党团已提案通过延长院会开会时间到午夜12时,本日院会也将挑灯夜战 - As the KMT and the TPP's proposal to extend meeting until midnight was approved, today's session would also continue late into the night. [2]

5. 头破血流 tóu pò xuè liú

head broken and bleeding, severely injured

我不希望学生只是看见立法委员打架、头破血流,觉得政治很无聊 - I don't want the students to think that politics is boring, because all they saw is legislators fighting and getting badly injured. [2] 

Refer a friend

Consuming the Conversation

CNA photo May 24, 2024

Useful words

6. 做票 zuò piào

vote rigging

人数与票数明显对不上,民进党愤而不满高喊“做票” - The number of voters clearly didn't match the number of votes, prompting the DPP to angrily shout "vote rigging". [1]

  • Related:

    • 跳票 tiào piào - not delivering one's commitment

7. 挽歌 wǎn gē


民进党立委挂出“反黑箱,要协商”、“民主已死,国会挽歌”等标语 - DPP legislators held slogans like "No to black box politics. Yes to consultation." and "Democracy is dead. Elegy to parliament". [2]

8. 藐视 miǎo shì

contempt, disdain

有民众手举“我藐视国会”、“国会藐视民主”的标语 - Some people held up slogans such as "I have contempt for parliament" and "Parliament is in disdain of democracy". [2]

9. 挂彩 guà cǎi

to suffer injuries in a fight or battle

表决冲突不断,多名立委挂彩 - Many legislators suffered injuries in non-stopped conflicts during voting. [1]

10. 声援 shēng yuán

stand in solidarity with

白天,除了公民团体以外,前来参与声援的民众多是请假前来 - During the day, the majority of people apart from civic groups took leave in order to show solidarity with the protesters.[4]

11. 杯葛 bēi gě

to boycott

将少数声音尽可能纳入立法过程,同时给予国会少数党合法的杯葛机制 - It is designed to allow minority voice their opinions as much as possible in the legislative process, while also providing legitimate boycott mechanisms for minority parties in the parliament. [1] 

  • Note: Used in Taiwan, equivalent to 抵制 on the mainland.

Three-character phrases

12. 冷冻期 lěng dòng qī

cooling-off period

冷冻期间,立法院长韩国瑜也并未针对相关法案召开协商遭致民进党批评 - During the cooling-off period, Legislative Yuan President Han Kuo-yu did not hold consultations on bills to be debated, which drew criticism from the DPP. [1]

13. 真善美 zhēn shàn měi

truth, kindness, and beauty

应该让世界看到台湾的真善美 - We should let the world see the beauty of Taiwan. [2]


14. 鱼贯而入 yú guàn ér rù

to stream in

雨势渐收,下班、放学的民众陆续进场,人群鱼贯而入 - As the rain gradually subsided, people who finished work or school started streaming in. [2]

15. 方便之门 fāng biàn zhī mén

gateway to convenience, easy access

有舆论质疑,相关法案为亲中势力大开方便之门 - Some people question whether certain bills create a back door for pro-China forces. [3]

16. 慷慨激昂 kāng kǎi jī áng

passionate and fervent

他慷慨激昂地说即便身为学生,还是有许多可以参与的事 - He said with great conviction that even though he is just a student, there are many things that he can do. [4]

17. 落人口实 luò rén kǒu shí

provide evidence against oneself

也为了避免落人口实,应该遵从员警指示的比较好 - It's better to follow the instructions of the police officers rather than get yourself in trouble. [4]


18. 国会扩权 guó huì kuò quán

to expand the powers of the parliament

“国会改革法案”俨然在为“国会扩权”铺路,违反宪法中五权分立的原则 - The "Parliamentary Reform Bill" seems to be paving the way for the expansion of parliamentary powers, in violation of the constitutional principle of checks and balances. [1]

19. 火力全开 huǒ lì quán kāi

to go all out, to unleash full force

在这三分钟的时间内,只见民进党立委火力全开批评蓝白两党 - During these three minutes, DPP legislators went all out to criticise both the blue and white parties. [2] 

20. 不公不义 bù gōng bú yì

injustice, unfairness

今天来这里的人都是来抗议不公不义的事 - All of those who came today are here to protest against injustice and unfairness. [4] 

21. 动乱不安 dòng luàn bù ān

turmoil and unrest

因为老共的指令,新政府上台了,你赶快去捣蛋,要台湾动乱不安 - Order came from the CCP that you (the opposition) should make trouble and bring turmoil to Taiwan when the new administration takes office. [3]


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