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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times The Sunflower movement’s legacy

The Sunflower movement’s legacy

Exactly a decade ago today, university students and civic groups from throughout Taiwan congregated in the Legislative Yuan in a demonstration against the then-ruling Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) hasty attempt to pass a proposed Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement.

Apprehensive that the agreement might allow Beijing to put Taiwan’s autonomy in severe jeopardy via economic means, protesters occupied the legislature and chanted slogans to voice their outrage.

Initially, the government stood firm on its intent to implement the agreement, with demonstrators dispersed by police force and water cannons as they endeavored to expand their activities to the Executive Yuan. However, after generating widespread support among the public, the protesters eventually succeeded in compelling the government to revoke it.

This later became known as the Sunflower movement, the largest mass demonstration in Taiwan since democratization.

Many attribute the consolidation of Taiwan’s democracy to the movement, believing that it successfully prevented China from influencing Taiwan’s population demographics. They also complimented the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) for enabling Taiwan to become an integral part of the global economy through its rejection of the agreement.

As time passed, the Sunflower movement gradually faded from Taiwanese’s memories. However, it has resurfaced in recent months after Taiwan People’s Party (TPP) Chairman Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) advocated for the resumption of negotiations on the service trade agreement in June of last year.

The remark immediately drew intense backlash, as many accused him of exploiting the protest to bolster his mayoral campaign in 2014, only to later abandon its core intention.

TPP legislator Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌), one of the leading figures in the demonstration, also received harsh criticism for endorsing Ko in this year’s presidential election, despite Ko’s ambiguous stance on the enforcement of the cross-strait treaty.

After the presidential election, similar concerns have continued to arise upon the KMT and TPP’s recent proposal to shorten the naturalization process for Chinese spouses.

Opponents of the proposal contend that as Chinese nationals are not required to relinquish their nationality prior to their acquisition of Taiwanese citizenship, the Chinese government could easily take advantage of these naturalized citizens to manipulate the election outcomes, thereby posing a threat to Taiwan’s sovereignty. They also argue that exempting Chinese spouses from taking the citizenship test could cast doubt on their allegiance to the country, which could imperil Taiwan’s national security.

Polling from TVBS News showed that 89 percent of all respondents disapproved of the plan to shorten the citizenship application procedure for Chinese immigrants, which indicates that the opposition parties’ proposition is at odds with the opinion of the majority.

Worried that the proposal might place a heavy burden on the national healthcare system, thoracic surgery division doctor Tu Cheng-che (杜承哲) launched a petition campaign against the proposal on Feb. 27, which attracted more than 90,000 signatures within three days.

Just a decade from the abandonment of the CSSTA, a proposal that would have had detrimental consequences for the nation, it is ironic that a bill on Chinese spouses is being deliberated in the legislature.

Both would potentially render the nation’s political structure more vulnerable to Chinese influence. Hence, critics of the opposition parties’ proposal have urged them to act in adherence to public opinion — lest the same mistake committed 10 years ago be repeated.

Reflecting upon the Sunflower movement’s legacy, it is imperative that we not only recognize the significance of cherishing democracy and resisting foreign aggression, but also hold politicians accountable, ensuring the voices of their constituents are upheld in the legislature.

More importantly, maintaining democracy requires the concerted cooperation of the entire society. Communication must therefore be regularly held between political parties and citizens, so that the overall interests of Taiwanese can be thoroughly safeguarded.

Tshua Siu-ui is a Taiwanese student studying international relations and politics in Norwich, England.

Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2024/03/18

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Senior US officials were allegedly told during a private meeting with Singaporean Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew (李光耀) that Beijing aims to bring Taiwan into its fold by forging greater economic links and that it did not matter if the process took one or even three decades.

Held in Singapore’s Presidential Palace in May last year, the meeting was attended by US Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg and former US charge d’affaires Daniel Shields, according to reports of the confidential talks revealed as part of the recent cache of classified US Department of State cables released by whistleblower site WikiLeaks.