Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Say goodbye to ‘peaceful unification’

The successful occupation of the legislature shows that peaceful unification is a pipe dream. A counter-protest today made that all the more obvious 

Today I saw Taiwan’s future, and I saw its past. Nearly two weeks after the Sunflower Movement occupied the Legislative Yuan in Taipei to protest a controversial services trade pact with China, hundreds of very different people answered a call from a pro-unification gangster to “retake” the legislature, sparking several clashes and showing which side history is with. 

First, let’s look at the future. They are the tens of thousands of people nationwide who have joined the Sunflower Movement to express their opposition to the Cross-Strait Services Trade Agreement (CSSTA), which critics say was negotiated in secret and was never properly reviewed by the legislative branch and civil society (which was for the most part was excluded from the process). Since its signing in Shanghai in June 2013, opponents of the pact have raised fears about its impact on the island’s services industry and of the political consequences of opening several sectors — from construction to telecommunications — to investment by an authoritarian regime that does not recognize Taiwan’s sovereignty. 

Opponent of the Sunflower Movement on April 1
The Sunflower Movement, which held a successful protest on March 30, attracting about 350,000 people, came into being following several months of government unwillingness to take input from critics into account. For many months prior to the current impasse, one of the main precursor groups, the Black Island Youth Alliance, had held peaceful protests and information sessions across the country, but was not allowed to attend the public hearings organized by the ruling Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). While the CSSTA became the catalyst for the events of March 18 and the occupation a week later of the Executive Yuan, the principal cause of the snowballing protests is growing disillusionment with government institutions that Taiwanese feel have failed them and now operate for the sole benefit of a narrow few on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. 

My article, published today in The Diplomat, continues here. (Photos by the author)

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