INTERVIEW: Age Doesn't Matter in Youth Politics, 28-Year-Old Taiwanese Politician Says

INTERVIEW: Age Doesn't Matter in Youth Politics, 28-Year-Old Taiwanese Politician Says
Photo Credit: 關鍵評論網 / 吳承紘

What you need to know

'No matter how young the person is, if he/she doesn’t propose policies that can help the future of Taiwan, then it can’t count as youth politics.'

Since the 2014 Sunflower Movement, Taiwanese have seen 28-year-old Miao Po-ya (苗博雅) advocating for marriage equality, the abolishment of the death penalty, labor rights and other social issues.

In 2015, Miao decided to run in the next year's general elections as a legislative candidate for the Social Democratic Party. Although she wasn’t elected, Miao has continued to make changes in society. The News Lens caught up with her for a short interview.

The News Lens: What observations have you made as a social activist?

Miao Po-ya: With the rise of social media, I have seen major progress in the level of concern young Taiwanese have expressed toward public issues. This has also influenced the decision-making of major political parties.

But I have also found that more traditional social movement organizations are still unable to grasp the way social media works because they lack manpower and resources. Civil society in Taiwan needs to think about how social movements can more effectively drive policy reform and institutional change.

TNL: What gave you the idea of starting your own online live broadcast?

Miao: Through participating in social movements, I have realized that the information in mainstream media has been filtered in a way that isn't necessarily ethical, while discussion on the Internet is usually too fragmented.

A good communication process is looking at a certain issue from different angles, and then compiling all the ideas to come up with the best solution to the problem. The advantage of social media is that we no longer have to rely on traditional media to compile information.

Call-in political talk shows were popular in the past because people wanted to have a chance to say something. But only two or three people out of hundreds [of callers] would get the opportunity to do so, and the topics they brought up might not have been that crucial.

The good thing about live broadcasting on the Internet is everyone can leave comments and see what others are saying. My live broadcasting program provides a platform for discussing different topics and compensates for the fragmented information available on the Internet.

But there are still lots of improvements that can be made. For example, during the strike by China Airlines flight attendants, I talked about labor rights with netizens on the program and while I saw people talking about their own experiences in the comments below, I didn’t have the resources to solve each of their problems. I hope to collaborate with unions or labor rights organizations in the future and follow-up these problems better.

TNL: Will you run again in future elections?

Miao: Being a politician is like being an athlete. A professional athlete doesn’t decide whether or not he/she wants to do physical training based on when he/she is participating in a competition. Physical training needs to be ongoing and your skills need to keep improving at all times. Athletes don’t constantly talk about their competition strategies, so it is not that important when I make an announcement on whether or not I will be running in a certain campaign.

What voters care about is whether or not a politician is able to effectively solve their problems and meet their demands. You need to put your ideals into practice so people believe your value. It’s like how baseball players need to practice swinging a bat to have solid basic skills.

TNL: How do you define youth politics? And how do you respond to those who say you are “too young”?

Miao: I believe the key to youth participation in politics isn’t the age of the decision makers, but whether or not the policies proposed by the politicians benefit young adults.

Looking at the political field in Taiwan, many people who are the second generation in wealthy or political families run in the elections to serve a certain family. No matter how young the person is, if he/she doesn’t propose policies that can help the future of Taiwan then it can’t count as youth politics.

If a country wants to cultivate an environment where the young people have hope, then there need to be policies that benefit the youth and the age of politicians isn’t that important at all.

The original interview was published in Chinese in The News Lens.

First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole