Wednesday, April 09, 2014

In defense of the Sunflower Movement (中文 link at bottom)

Musings on the definitions of democracy, rule of law, and why student leaders would be prisoners of conscience if they were incarcerated for their role in the occupation

Aside from shedding light on a poorly crafted and potentially harmful services trade pact with China, Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement has performed an extraordinary, if under-appreciated, service to the country by sparking a necessary societal debate on the meaning of democracy.

Ironically, the great majority of the Sunflowers’ detractors, both in the West and here in Asia, have used “democracy” and “rule of law” as weapons with which to discredit the activists’ nearly three-week occupation of the Legislative Yuan. While conceding the possibility that the movement’s ideals might have been laudable, the critics often expressed strong disagreement with the “illegal” techniques adopted to pressure the government.

Many have lambasted the movement for acting outside the parameters of democracy and laws and argued that the activists should instead have engaged in legal protests outside government buildings. As the Ministry of Justice mulls severe punishments for the student leadership, with charges that could result in as much as seven years’ imprisonment, a number of critics — including people who should know better — have come out saying that young leaders like Lin Fei-fan and Chen Wei-ting must face prison for their acts.

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

New! A Chinese-language translation of this article is available here.

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