The Sunflower Student Movement: Taiwan, Democracy, Protest, and You

*Update: Shortly after I posted this, more aggressive protesters occupied the Executive Yuan and were later removed by the police using excessive force and injuring protestors, journalists, and at least one doctor. A water cannon was fired numerous times on the crowd. President Ma continues to ignore the people.

Long time no see!

It seems that I’m due for my yearly blog update. (I haven’t completely disappeared though. I regularly update my Instagram and have even been posting to Twitter.) Unlike my last post 12 months ago, the timing of this entry is not random. I would like to direct your attention to some very important events that have been unfolding here in Taiwan over the last week.

(If reading isn’t your thing, this is a pretty good video that explains pretty much everything below.)

What happened?

Since there are already countless blog posts, videos, and photos uploaded by people who understand the situation much better than I do, I will just give you a brief rundown on what is going on and post some links where you can find more information.  (You can find the links embedded in the text throughout this post.)  On March 18, 2014, protesters stormed the Legislative Yuan (the Taiwan legislature) in Taipei to rally against the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA), a controversial trade agreement between Taiwan and China that opens up the service sectors of both countries. Many say the process of the passage of the agreement has been undemocratic and lacking necessary transparency. Since then, protesters have occupied the Legislative Yuan, both inside and out (a first in Taiwanese history) and refuse to leave until their demands are met. Despite what some reports may say about the protest, those involved have been respectful and peaceful.

(Check out this video of protesters clapping for the police officers to show respect!)

Thus far, government officials have mostly ignored the protesters and their demands have been refused. So, the protest, and the wait, continues.

The protest has been given a few names that are sure to be written into the history books someday: March 18 Student Movement, Occupy Taiwan Legislature, or (my personal favourite) the Sunflower Student Movement.

Why is this important?

Taiwan, also known as the Republic of China (not to be confused with the People’s Republic of China, AKA China), has been a democratic nation since the 1990s and has maintained its independence from the People’s Republic of China for at least five or six decades. China, on the other hand, has declared that Taiwan is a renegade province of China and will one day “reclaim” Taiwan as its territory, by force, if necessary, or patiently by slowly taking control of the island nation’s economy. Many protesters view the passage of the CSSTA as a major problem for Taiwan’s economy, as well as the beginning of the end of democracy and freedom in Taiwan. They feel that passing this trade pact allows China too much control of the economy in Taiwan. They are gravely concerned that it will lead to considerable job losses and the deterioration of working conditions, and could eventually lead to the annexation of Taiwan.

What can you do?

Unfortunately, international media has not been doing a very good job of covering the protest. There are very few large, international media sources who have been broadcasting any details of the events, and any articles written about it have been misinformed or are lacking very important details.  You have the ability to do something simple, but profound.  Clicking the share button might not seem like you’re doing much, but it’s terribly important to get the news spreading around the world and to show your support.  Take a moment to read about what’s happening here in Taiwan and, while you’re at it, you can check out a bit of the history of Taiwan to gain a better understanding of why people here are so angry at their government and concerned about their future.

To receive updates as the events happen, I encourage you to keep checking the coverage by Ketagalan Media and clicking their links for live coverage (in English!) coming from inside and out of the Legislative Yuan. For a longer explanation of the protest, more great links, and some cool videos, head over to this post at Savage Minds by Dr. P. Kerim Friedman. You can also find more by following the hashtag #CongressOccupied on Instagram and Twitter.

Please, take a moment to sign the petition to let the people of Taiwan know that you and the rest of the world value their rights and freedom.

Thank you everyone! You’re beautiful!



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