The Sunflower Movement's Triumphs

Taiwan - Taiwan Voice
Taiwan Voice, 8.4.2014
Sunflower Movement 太陽花學運

"The triumphs of the Sunflower Movement"

Translated from Issue 671 of Next Magazine Taiwan)

A 500,000-strong rally on Ketagalan Boulevard that disbanded within 30 minutes after the main stage announced its ending. The student leaders kept their word and sent off the protesters as safely as they came, leaving behind zero trace of litter. Through this demonstration, the “black-shirt army” has redefined the power of the people and Taiwan’s political ecology, and written down a record that one could only marvel at.

Leading the protesters are twenty-something university and graduate school students, who appeared to be wearing shoes too big for their feet, but carried with them the composed and charismatic air of an ideal social group leader. Under their headship, the voice of the people blended perfectly with the social trend to create a nearly-flawless social movement.

The still ongoing Sunflower Movement has already achieved the following:

1. Shed light on all the pros and cons of the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement. If it were not for the Sunflower Movement, this contentious trade pact would have passed through legislature, but the movement highlighted the wealth disparity issue that’s the imminent trade-off of free trade and globalization. Most social or student movements in the past dealt with democracy or human rights issues, yet the Sunflower Movement hints at left-wing political beliefs as it deliberates economic benefits of the trade pact with China.

2. The movement revealed the autocracy of President Ma Ying-jeou, the vicious and never-ending conflict between ruling and opposition parties, and the legislature’s failure to function. The ruling Kuomintang, heeding orders from Ma (who doubles as party chairperson), considers the CCSTA—which not only affects Taiwan’s economy but also its sovereignty—as a mere executive order, turning a deaf ear to public opinion. On the other hand, lawmakers belonging to the Democratic Progressive Party have done nothing but boycott the review meetings, which only enhances its incompetency as a major opposition in the legislature.

3. Opposing the CCSTA has brought forth a plethora of underhand dealings between the KMT and the Chinese Communist Party. This form of cross-strait interaction has created political and business corporations that are the inductors of this trade pact. However, the rise of disagreement from the society and the stimulation of a new set of interaction and negotiation principles have changed the coordinates between Taiwan and China. In the future, any cross-strait interaction will be monitored by the eyes of the citizen; underhand arrangements will not work.

4. The Sunflower Movement has come a long way since the Wild Lily Movement of 24 years past; forms of spreading the word have evolved from person-to-person to digital mobilization. More importantly, the movement is supported by a handful of NGOs. The civic groups act as a shield to the students inside the Legislative Yuan, and various orientations are conducted. Open discussions and a Citizens’ Constitutional Assembly take place for the first time in Taiwan’s history of social movements, allowing protesters in all walks of life to attend classes on the streets. After over twenty years of experience in social protests, the civic groups have finally matured into a major supporting factor for the students, and this “power of the people” is set to play an essential role in further days to come.

From sunflowers to black shirts, from students to society, the power of citizens in Taiwan is on the rise. The student movement will eventually end, and the students will become a part of society, but the flame will be passed on from generation to generation. As long as the power of the people grows stronger, new coordinates are set in cross-strait relations, and a new set of rules are devised regarding interaction between Taiwan and China, both ruling and opposition parties will feel the heavy impact this student movement has brought upon them. The politicians will see their hideous self-reflections when facing the students, but the people will see the hopes for a better Taiwan.