‘The Tiger Awakens’: An observer’s view of the Sunflower Movement

di Genova is an anthropologist and novelist, pleasantly exiled in Taiwan for over a decade.
Trista di Genova / Politics & Commentary

March 30, 2014

I don’t read the newspapers or watch TV, since I lost my job in the media. Now I prefer to just show up and ask questions, and listen to what people say.

On the way to Taipei, now, and to the Legislature, thinking about how suddenly this all happened. On the evening of March 23, students occupied the legislature.

Why? The Kuomintang (KMT) President Ma apparently tried to ram a China Trade Pact through the legislature.


In response, last week students stormed the Legislative Yuan, occupied the speaker’s podium and have held this prime bit of property ever since.

Freelancer Dave Johnson captured video of the nasty fray of that first evening, which involves water cannons and police officers who look like they don’t really want to be there.

Last Sunday, I visited he to hand out candy to thank the student protestors. Wire fences close down all avenues to the Presidential Palace.

Now, behind them, as their leaders speak extemporaneously on the platform, is a hand-painted sign in English it says “5% President Ma Ying-jeou forced the legislature” to pass the China Trade Pact.

This is an amazing story!

I want to know more details of what really happened at that point in time, a) notably, Ma’s relations with the Yuan at that time; and 2) what really happened the night the students took over the legislature? I feel if that is truly the case, Ma should be forced out of office.

In this sense, the Taiwan people are right to wake up in alarm; they fear this trade pact would be ‘selling’ Taiwan out to China. People fear Taiwan will be sucked into China like the case of Hong Kong, and are furious at Ma for this.


Many of my friends — foreign and Taiwanese alike — feel like I do right now.

Foreign observers such as myself unanimously seem to feel so proud of Taiwanese people.

The Taiwanese people are such a kind and good-hearted people, and have had such a long, often sad history of being squelched. From Koxinga to the KMT to the Japanese, for so long their desire and quest for creating an autonomous republic have until now always been crushed by these successive and oppressive administrations.

Taiwanese have long been denied a right to autonomy, and statehood, and recognition as its own separate entity: Taiwan. Pray for Taiwan, is one of their spontaneous slogans of this purely peaceful and democratic show of one’s love of country. This is pure patriotism.

So it is exciting to see the tiger awaken — the Taiwanese people’s sudden, fierce spring to action, in the defence of their own interests, immediate and long-term.


After former DPP President Chen Shui-bian was thrown in jail for 17 years for corruption, now we see the people’s occupation of the legislature. Their demands are what? That is another question to ask of them. Are they demanding Ma step down?

He’s seen even by those who voted for him in both elections as ‘weak’. Ma’s nearly inexistent approval ratings haven’t improved with his recent statements a few days ago, urging the Taiwanese to ‘respect the law’, and that the trade pact would help Taiwan’s ‘competitive edge’. Like Taiwan’s economy needs any help! They don’t call it an Asian Tiger for nothing!

Another thing I’d like to know: How did the students take over, logistically, how did they overpower the police?! It makes me afraid that if our American friends tried this stunt in Washington, DC, there would be quite a lot of bloodshed and a lot of taser gun deaths.
America is not the democracy it was meant to be.

No, this feels like democracy in action.

DON”T TRY THIS AT HOME ha. It’s sad to say, this probably would not be accomplished without taser deaths and other bloodshed back home in the US of A.


I watch the TV. Even though my Chiineese she is poor, but it’s a good chance to improve, for want of understanding, finally.

I admire the students for their sudden, fierce bravery, and feel the Strawberry Generation has finally graduated… into the students’ Sunflower Movement.

What is the Sunflower Revolution?

It is peaceful, with healthy elements of derision, for instance in the recent banana ‘trend,’ there is much public mocking of a legislator, who insisted publicly the sunflowers used by the students were actually bananas).

And the image on television that made me laugh outright today (30 March) was that of a stolen Ministry of Foreign Affairs sign being held up as a type of booty; defaced and stolen, by all appearances! I will explore the satirical elements of this movement further, later.

But these recent developments make it almost worthwhile to get myself a TV after avoiding them all these years!

Having studied political science at Berkeley under Alan Ross and Taylor E. Dark III, I can safely say this is by far the most inspiring political event I have ever witnessed!

— Trista di Genova is a writer, painter and poet, pleasantly exiled in Taiwan for over a decade.

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