[alaya_dropcap]O[/alaya_dropcap]n Monday, June 4th National Chengchi University hosted Taiwan Fellowship visiting scholar Prof. María del Mar Llera Llorente to give a conference on her work regarding the recent Catalonia Independence Referendum. Prof. Llera Llorente is a Spanish academic who is currently an associate professor at University of Seville, Spain.
On October 1st, 2017 Catalonia, Spain held a referendum vote. With the question “Do you want Catalonia to become an independent state in the form of a republic?” Catalonians were supposed to participate in a free and democratic exercise to self-determine their political future. However, less than a month before the election took place, the referendum was declared illegal and it led to a major political crisis for Catalonia and Spain. Due to irregularities and the use of force, international observers declared that the referendum failed to meet the minimum international standards for elections.
In the presentation given by Prof. Llera Llorente, she overviewed the results of her research on this topic. She gave an analysis on the social and political issues that prevailed in the preceding years and elections that slowly built up to the call for a referendum. As with many other political topics, there is no clear black and white picture of the situation, but one with many different tones. A comprehensive summary of events and detailed explanations were offered to allow those in attendance to better comprehend the complexities of this political exercise.
The incidents during the Catalonia independence referendum were amply covered by the international media, with images of police brutality and repression putting the central government in a very awkward position for their handling of the situation. In her presentation, Prof. Llera Llorente gave a more in-depth analysis of the violence and painted a broader picture of the underlying situation. It was also pointed out that in the aftermath of the referendum, several politicians were legally prosecuted and that the situation was mishandled by some of them, going as far as leaving the country without offering any explanations.
However, she clarified that in the end, the rule of law prevailed and the principles of democracy and freedom of speech still apply. As an example, she mentioned that in the most recent elections, all of the pro-independence parties were allowed to run for office legally and were even elected into important positions within the government.
The last part of her presentation focused on highlighting the differences and similarities between the situation of Taiwan and Catalonia with regards to independence. She mentioned that while some parallels can be found, Catalonia’s historical conditions have been very different and therefore it cannot really be compared to the cases of Taiwan or Hong Kong.
Before finishing the conference, a lively Q&A session was filled with questions by the students in attendance. Prof. Llera Llorente addressed all the points raised diligently, making for a very entertaining and informative conference overall.