Friday, April 04, 2014

Debunking the myths about Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement

If foreign media and experts had been doing their job, they would known that the movement behind the occupation of the legislature is a lot more complex and resilient than its critics want us to believe 

In the absence of knowledge, fall back on conspiracies. This is what many foreign analysts and the Taiwanese government have done as they try to explain — and more importantly deal with — the activists’ occupation of the Legislative Yuan (LY), which is now on its eighteenth day. 

According to the official narrative, the Sunflower Movement, which on the evening of March 18 began an unprecedented occupation of the legislature, came of out nowhere. After months of circus and the occasional skirmish on the legislative floor over the controversial Cross-Strait Services Trade Agreement (CSSTA) signed with China in June 2013, young activists acting as proxies of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) climbed over the fence, slipped by the police, and invaded the LY. The student leaders and academics who turned the legislative floor, and then the entire area surrounding the LY, into a sea of placards, banners and posters, were but the continuation of a sinister DPP policy whose sole intent was to prevent the passage of the trade agreement. Incapable of countering the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), which enjoyed a majority of seats in the legislature, the DPP had resorted to undemocratic means and “mob role” to try to defeat government policy. 

For many, the Sunflower Movement had been too spontaneous and organized to not have had a structure, prompting one KMT legislator to use the unfortunate example of al-Qaeda to describe the protesters. Hence the belief, held by government officials, the media and foreign observers, that the DPP had orchestrated the whole thing. Only the main opposition party, with its contacts and financial resources, could have achieved such a feat, which eventually led to the occupation, albeit brief, of the Executive Yuan (EY) next door. Or so the story went. 

Dedicated to my love on her birthday, who I think will agree with this.

My article, published today on the CPI Blog, University of Nottingham, continues here. (Photo by the author)

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