- Posted March 22, 2014 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
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The Sunflower Movement: How Taiwanese Youngsters Shine
What they have demanded, they have not yet received; thus they keep pressing on. As the 4th day passed by since student activists taking over Taiwan’s national legislative building on midnight March 18th, the momentum behind this protest against Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement between Taiwan and China has only grown stronger than ever.
“The Sunflower Movement,” as local media dubbed this unprecedented protest and a historical event, is the result of countless young Taiwanese men’s and women’s contributions and their passion for Democracy.
No one expected them would succeed, and certainly not last this long.
These young adults are called “The Strawberry Generation” by many of their own parents. This term uses soft strawberry skin as analogy to describe these young adults, who are born after 1980s and perceived soft and unable to handle any problem in their lives. Many baby-boomers in Taiwan believe this younger generation is inexperienced and unskilled simply because they are raised in a more abundant environment and face less hardship than their parents once did.
How these “strawberries” have proven their parents wrong this time.
Like many revolutions led by youngsters across the globe in early 21st century, these Taiwanese young activists employed the best tool they have ever wielded: the Internet.
It is no news for any Taiwanese to have access to Internet. With its well-known historic connection to global tech industry, Taiwan is indeed one of the most connected countries in Southeast Asia.
However, what IS impressive about these Taiwanese young Web surfers is how well they have organized themselves via social network sites and message boards.
Mustering Support Online
Soon after the first group of student activists broke into Legislative Yuan building, they set up live-streaming site to broadcast everything at the scene. The site soon drew the attention of thousands online and provided unbiased first hand image of the protest. Through Facebook, PTT (a popular local BBS message board site), Tweeter, and other social media, Internet users across the island saw what was going on and decided to participate.
In under few hours, hundreds if not thousands showed up around Legislative Yuan’s perimeter and started their sit-in to support for those inside the building. Quickly, groups both inside and outside of the building started communication between each other by phone calls and online message threads.
Anticipated a long protest ahead, the organizers created an online document detailed all supplies needed and the locations the supplies should be delivered to.
Cup noodle, canned food, sleeping bag, portable mobile battery charger, gas can for cooking, utensils, electric fan, even portable bathroom.
Supplies flew in as donations contributed from around the island after people reading about what supplies these young protesters desired. With supplies well stocked, these activists were ready for the prolonged battle they foresaw from the start.
More Than A Crowd-Gathering Tool
It is very obvious how many Taiwanese baby-boomers perceive this protest and its participants: “Misguided by online political enthusiasts and Democratic Progressive Party, these young kids know nothing about what they are doing and how terrible this act of occupying Legislative Yuan is to Taiwanese society.”
However, again thanks to the Internet, protesters are studying and getting to know more about the details of the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement and receiving more information than their government and main stream media ever provided.
Dozens of personal statements, professional studies, and reports both supporting or against the trade agreement are being shared among tens of thousands Internet users in Taiwan. It is said that many activists use the time they have while sitting in at the scene to read and study about the trade agreement and discuss with each others.
Also, there are professors coming from all fields of studying from many universities and colleges in Taiwan at the scene to provide free lectures on civil right issues, principles of international trades, and cross-straight trading relationship between Taiwan and China to the protesters on-site. Such valuable lessons have become yet another unique and truly informative channel for activists to learn about the topic.
Self-Restrain and the Belief in Non-Violent Protest
Another usage of social media and electronic devices in the Sunflower Movement is rather interesting: crowd control device and maintaining peace at the scene among protesters.
The two main student activist groups, Black Island Nation Youth Front (黑色島國青年聯線) and Citizen 1985 (公民1985), have called for self-restrain and non-violence to all protesters and participants of the Sunflower Movement. The pursuing of non-violent protest among these Taiwanese young adults has demonstrated a very different style of civil movement comparing with other countries’ similar incidents.
Though, from time to time, protesters had to use human shield and clashed with the police on-site to prevent them from entering the building to arrest activists inside. There has not been any major confrontation with the police since the 2nd day of this movement. These young protesters seem to have determined to act as an example of how civil right agenda can be achieved through non-confrontational demonstration.
Photos of students leaving messages acknowledging the police’s dedication to maintain peace on-site on police patrol cars have surfaced online. There are even reports by local news media telling stories of the police and the protesters talking and telling each other to take care of themselves. It is as if both sides understand the dilemma they are facing and are willing to help each others to go through this prolonged demonstration.
When small riot broke out around Legislative Yuan building, protesters use electronic devices to notify their comrades near by to calm the crowd down and resolve whatever problem is talking place. Protesters have even arranged their own cleaning crews through out entire perimeter just so they can keep the environment clean and allow other protesters continue the sit-in. Portable bathrooms were donated and deployed by private contributors so people at the scene would have no problem with doing their business.
The philosophy of calling for non-violent protest at the scene has certainly created a sort of strange yet impressive order and a strong sense of serenity among all protesters. Such phenomenon of the Sunflower Movement, said by many at the protest, has created a brand new format of civil movement in Taiwan, a format that belongs to this younger generation.
Organized and Structured, the Sunflower blossoms
As they are heading into their 5th day of demonstration, many people at the scene are said to be tired and weary. They have been waiting for a proper response from their government yet nothing thus far. The only government official visited brought nothing but empty words and was shouted away by angry protesters.
Yet, hope remains in these young activists’ eyes. So they continue their way of keeping everything under order and maintain calm among themselves. They are not “misguided kids,” and definitely no “strawberries” described by their elders. Because only adults who understand the importance of keeping the balance between reason and passion could do what these people have done here.
They know there are bound to be misunderstandings and misjudgments for what they stand for. They know there will be consequences and sacrifices for their cause.
But they will stay.
For these young Taiwanese understand this is the moment for them to fight for their democracy, and to show just how unlike strawberries they truly are.
(Photo courtesy by Citizen 1985)