Trista di Genova The Wild East, politics
Taipei, April 9 — Claiming in an April 7 press statement in the legislature they had made significant progress in achieving their goals, the student leaders Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷) and Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆) announced the so-called Sunflower Movement and its supporters would end their three-week occupation of the Taiwan legislature by Thursday 6pm.
Chen, a sociology student in Hsinchu, said upon some reflection that the first thing he would do after leaving the occupied legislature is “cry.”
The other leader, Lin Fei-fan, a political science student at National Taiwan University, said this decision to end the emotionally charged 21-day occupation of the Legislative Yuan was done by ‘consensus’, although the announcement came as a surprise to all but the supporters behind them at the press conference.
They said the students would clean up the legislature after themselves, urged supporters to help each other in avoiding potential political persecution, and deflected calls for further revolution and reporters’ questions regarding creating a new political party.
The two leaders, who are well-known in Taiwan for speaking out on many critical issues in the past (such as Miaoli 2013), said they would form a new organization to hold political leaders to their promises.
The students’ decision followed Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng’s (王金平) announcement, promising April 6 to enact a law regulating pacts with China before resuming the process of deliberating the cross-strait service trade pact. Wang has promised that oversight will be applied before any other pacts are passed, including the one being protested about at the moment.
The KMT (Chinese Nationalist Party) in control of the executive and legislative majority was reportedly ‘shocked’ at the unilateral action, and rejected the speaker’s promise.
In fact, Fei, KMT caucus deputy secretary, said he felt the party was “betrayed and sold out” by Wang, who “did not communicate with the party caucus before releasing the statement and made us who stood beside him appear to blindly endorse his views.”
Lin, the KMT party caucus whip: “DPP had agreed to have a clause-by-clause discussion and vote in last year’s inter-party negotiation. To say not to carry out negotiation anymore does not mean that the former ones are no longer binding.”
Lin the caucus whip then called on the students to leave the Legislative Yuan immediately for the 10 versions of the draft bill on cross-strait agreements oversight mechanism “to be handed to the committee by the legislative floor meeting.”
Lin said the non-government version of the draft will also be included.
“You keep saying the legislation is to be done prior to the review, but the reality is that we cannot even legislate now with the floor being occupied,” he said.
At first the Sunflower Movement’s accomplishments may seem negligible. But they did manage to peacefully seize control of the Legislature, send out a clear message on the need for greater transparency in cross-strait trade issues, and bring international attention and a temporary halt to the highly controversial issue of cross-strait trade relations.
Moreover, the three-week peaceful siege may have dealt a death blow for an already unpopular President Ma, whose approval ratings have sunk to single digits.
Student leaders Chen and Lin point out that even Ma’s own party have lost confidence in the KMT’s party leader, currently serving his second and last term.
— Additional sources for this article include reporting by Ian Rowen and Dave Johnson.