The French director’s new documentary puts the spotlight on Taiwan’s struggle


Filmmaker Alain Lewkowicz’s latest attempt has educated European audiences about Taiwan’s precarious situation with regard to China

  • By Jonathan Chin / Staff Writer, with CNA

Taiwan’s story of being the only functioning and democratic pariah state in the world inspired the production of Taiwan vs. China: A Fragile Democracy, said the film’s French director Alain Lewkowicz.

The documentary was screened this year at the International Film Festival and Forum for Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland, and the Festival International de Programs Audiovisuels (International Documentary Film Festival) in Biarritz, France.

That Taiwan democratically elects its president and has its own currency, passport and constitution but is not recognized by the international community is an unprecedented situation that should alarm the world, Lewkowicz said.

Photo courtesy of Alain Lewkowicz via CNA

“If Taiwan gave up in the face of Chinese aggression, it would mean the end of Western-style democracy,” he said.

The film is aimed at the majority of French people who know little or nothing about Taiwan, he said. The documentary emphasized the contrast between the country’s precarious situation and its innovative democracy.

After public television broadcaster ARTE broadcast the documentary in Europe, many French viewers came up to say they had never heard of Taiwan or its security issues, he said.

Many viewers were also intrigued by the minister with no portfolio, Audrey Tang (唐鳳), who played an important role in the film as a transgender “hacktivist” of Taiwan and an anarchist who became government minister, he said.

Compared to Taiwan’s dynamism and innovation, French democracy is ancient, centralized, impersonal and opaque, he said, adding that this has not escaped the French audience.

“We have perceived Taiwan from the perspective of China for too long,” said Lewkowicz. “This film aims to show that maybe seeing China from the perspective of Taiwan is the right way to understand the threat China poses to the world.”

The film also gives voice to the will of Taiwanese people, who they want to be themselves and not an appendage of China, and to show that Taiwan will not give up democracy like China has, he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly raised Taiwan’s international profile and the country’s health policies to combat the virus have been widely discussed in France, he said.

The pandemic broke France’s two decades of infatuation with China, Lewkowicz said, adding that the public are afraid of Beijing as a military and economic hegemony.

Unlike other countries, Taiwan’s democratic institutions are united by COVID-19, he said.

The rapid public acceptance of emergency measures and political consensus on public health policies improved Taiwan’s image in France, he said.

“That’s not to say Taiwan is flawless, which is why I used it [the term] ‘A fragile democracy,’ ”he said.

Taiwan should recognize the dangers of not being recognized by other democratic nations, facing the threat of hegemonic China and the unresolved crisis of transitional justice of the generations in its society, he said.

Internal social justice issues prevented full reconciliation between victims and perpetrators of repression during the authoritarian era, he said.

Taiwan’s innovative democracy fascinated Lewkowicz, especially the development of digital democratic tools by “hacker activists” that have changed the way people think about politics and governance, he said.

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