Revolutionary Content in the Sunflower Movement

by Wen Liu, World War 4 Report

On March 17, a group of students and citizens gathered in front of Taiwan's congress, the Legislative Yuan, to protest against the passing of the Cross-Strait Services Trade Agreement (CSSTA) by the ruling party, the Kuomintang (KMT). The office of President Ma Ying-jeou, the Executive Yuan, had approved the CSSTA, and the KMT leadership said time for debate had expired, demanding a vote to ratify—despite public discontent. The sit-ins grew larger overnight. The next day, March 18, hundreds of protestors climbed over the fence, bypassing the police and entering the Legislative Yuan. About 300 protesters successfully occupied the Legislative Yuan chamber, while hundreds more surrounded the building, demanding immediate withdrawal of the CSSTA and establishment of a negotiation mechanism that will allow democratic oversight procedures for any treaty between Taiwan and China.

This was the beginning of the "Sunflower Movement" that unprecedentedly occupied the legislature until April 7—for 24 days—and mobilized millions locally and abroad. On the surface, the movement seems to be about procedural accountability, as emphasized by one of the main student coalitions, Black Island Youth. However, the movement has revealed multiple layers of social concern, including the stagnant economy, youth unemployment, worsened labor conditions, the KMT's political dominance—and the question of Taiwan's national sovereignty that has occupied Taiwanese public consciousness for decades.