We are the student organizers that have taken over Taiwan’s Legislature for the past two weeks. The occupation is ongoing. On Sunday, almost half a million people came out to the streets in support of us (video).

We are upset that the government attempted to ram a huge services trade agreement with China through a legislative session without due process, in an authoritarian and undemocratic manner.

The trade pact will bind our economy and society irrevocably closer to China, which wants to take away our freedoms and our democracy. As students, we are concerned over our country's future.

Joining us at this AMA will be (all of us are currently in the Legislative chambers PROOF):

(1) Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷) – co-organizer of the student movement

(2) Oliver Chen (陳瑞光)

(3) Lin Yu-hsuan (林郁璇)

(4) Sean Su (蘇襄) - host of the English UStream feed

EDIT:

For more information:

Media:

  1. New York Times

  2. Bloomberg

  3. The Diplomat Part I

  4. The Diplomat Part II

  5. Vice - pointed out by /u/adooryeh

EDIT2:

That's it everyone! Thank you for the AMA session, it was really, really great listening to all your questions. It's 4am right now, so most of us are going to bed.

We'll continue to answer questions in the morning, so keep them coming!

EDIT3:

Annnndddd we're back. Revolution is serious business.

FINAL EDIT:

Thanks for the AMA everyone. We really appreciated the chance to talk with you about our movement (now reaching 400 hours in the Legislature). We hope that you can continue to support us by writing to your local representatives or the media. Please also follow us on Facebook, UStream, or an English text feed here, we will do our best to continue providing updates in English. Thank you!

Comments: 799 • Responses: 51  • Date: 

Taipei101186 karma

My dad is in Taipei right now. Twice a week, he gets up every morning, buys 300 or so croissants, throws them in shipping crates and hands out a hot bun to anyone in the protest that would want one. Older guy in a burgundy jacket, blue jeans, faints of grey hair, crates of bread....that would be him.

A token of our support and appreciation. Be safe, stand strong.

TWSunflowerRev103 karma

Oliver: Please say thank you to your dad for us. People like him make this revolution possible.

R_M_Y118 karma

I've seen two different interpretations of the Taiwanese sunflower movement on social media, most recently the Facebook page Taiwan Voice, which I would describe like this:

  1. The protest is, in it's core, about the self-determination of the Taiwanese nation. The black box deal is a threat to this because it's undemocratic and the increasing Chinese control of Taiwan's market and intergration through immigration from China (as put in place in Hong Kong) would harm Taiwan's self-determination.

  2. The protest must be seen in a bigger picture of class conflict, and is an example of the struggle against neoliberalism/capitalism that is occuring worldwide. Not the black box deal deal per se or the way it came to be is the issue, but rather the accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few, made possible my such free trade deals.

Which if any of the two descriptions do you believe to be accurate? A follow op question is: do the interpretations of what this protest really is vary among protesters, or do they generally agree?

TWSunflowerRev142 karma

Oliver here: I think that it is difficult to frame the protest in one description or the other because this is a new phenomenon for Taiwan.

We don't interpret this in any particular way. What we agree on is that this agreement is unconstitutional, goes against public opinion and is detrimental to our democracy.

While there is quite a lot of different voices in the protest, for example, student groups and human right groups are mainly against the authoritarian manner of the government, labor groups against the impact on jobs, etc, we do not really think that it is about any ideology in particular.

czar559 karma

I am a Hong Kong person who now live in US, and it was a big surprised to see you guys on the reddit! =) First, salute to all of you! You guys have started and maintained a truly impressive movement, and I hope your demands would be answered by the Taiwan government eventually.
So here are my questions:
I have been following the protest since the first day and noticed that one of the slogans was "Today HK, Tomorrow Taiwan." While, as a HK person, I truly agree with that, I am curious how you guys think about that.
* 1. In your eyes, how does Hong Kong look like now? What is the worst thing you see in Hong Kong now that could happen in Taiwan in the future?
* 2. It seems to me that, this is the first time Hong Kong people actively support such a movement in Taiwan. Do you think this kind of interaction would increase and go both directions?
* 3. Some ppl suggested that the organization of the current Sunflower movement was partially influenced by the protest against the Moral and National Education in HK, which was led by Joshua Wong and his group, Scholarism in 2012. What do you think about that?

Thank you for doing this AmA, and GOOD LUCK!

Edit: grammar and formatting

TWSunflowerRev50 karma

Oliver: Thanks for your support. We've heard a lot of messages of support from the students of Hong Kong.

  1. To us, we see many of the freedoms (such as the freedom of expression or press freedoms) become increasingly eroded due to Chinese influences. But the worst is probably the lack of control that most Hong Kongnese have over their territory's future. That is the worst that could happen

  2. Of course. Many of us here are very supportive of what democracy activists are doing in Hong Kong.

  3. Sorry, we are not that familiar with this issue.

rocen59 karma

What are the pros and cons (for both China and Taiwan) of signing this trade agreement? What are the impacts this agreement will have on a global scale?

TWSunflowerRev135 karma

Oliver:

  1. Pros: From a purely economic standpoint, and a cost-benefit analysis, the government tells us that this will increase our GDP slightly (400 million USD or 0.11% (link in Chinese)). Of course, there are questions over this figure, and whether it takes into account the ability of predominately small and medium sized Taiwanese enterprises to compete with Chinese state-owned behemoths.

  2. Cons: The cost of this trade pact, simply put, will be our freedom and the future of our country. It sounds like an exaggeration, but it really isn't. On the economic front, our economy is already 38% reliant on China, with China only 2.5% for us. This is unbalanced. And you can probably imagine the impact of this on our democracy, our freedom of speech, etc, especially China's stated aims is to use its economic ties to impact our political system. This trade pact will increase this unequal dependency further in the future, maybe not in 1 or 2 years, but definitely in 10-20. And we fear that this will be a course we cannot reverse in the future.

American_Pig23 karma

0.11% doesn't sound like much. Does the government have other reasons for trying to push this through? Is there any evidence that they might be getting manipulated or pushed or bribed by forces in mainland China?

TWSunflowerRev44 karma

Chen Wei-ting: There is alot of pressure from China to quickly pass this agreement. In 2009, China and Taiwan agreed to the ECFA (Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement) framework. Under this agenda (in Chinese), the services trade pact is currently on stage 3 of the agenda. Next will be a goods and commodities agreement, but Ma only has 2 years left (the next elections are in November, presidential elections are in 2016).

This plays a part as to how President Ma would like to cement his legacy as well. With any economic achievement out of the picture, he needs cross-strait relations to help show that he actually did something in office.

disguise1174 karma

What happens if, in response to this, Beijing decides to give Taipei the finger and declare an embargo Taiwanese goods? Can the Taiwanese economy weather a sudden 38% drop?

TWSunflowerRev8 karma

Oliver: This is precisely what we are afraid of and highlights the dangers of an over-reliance on the Chinese market.

Skibum1730 karma

No question, I just wanted to say you all are incredible and I wish you the best of luck. I'm proud to be a part of our generation and look forward to a better world.

TWSunflowerRev15 karma

Oliver: Thanks!

SuperRedneck28 karma

You guys are so brave. I'm a student and I couldn't even imagine overtaking a Taco Bell.

TWSunflowerRev52 karma

Oliver: Ask most of us here a couple of months ago, and we would have probably said the same.

But one day you realize that if you aren't willing to stand up for your country now, there might never be another chance. That's a pretty sobering thought.

Bulba_Core26 karma

Is this merely about trade agreement with the The People's Republic of China or are there more internal issues that are motivating your actions?

TWSunflowerRev56 karma

Oliver: Both are very important issues.

  1. China is obviously an important consideration. And I think that it makes people very uncomfortable when you have a huge hegemonic neighbor that wants to annex you, by force if necessary. In the past few years, we have seen China 'step up their game'. They're in the media industry, the entertainment industry, etc. If the service trade agreement is passed, this process will accelerate.

  2. Internally there is also a lot of anger towards President Ma Ying-jeou. Basically, almost all of his major campaign promises (economic growth of 6%) have not been realized. The only thing that he seems to be doing quite well is running roughshod over Taiwanese public opinion to formulate closer ties with China. His approval rating in September last year reached a low of 9%.

wkawka80117 karma

Wow, that is seriously LOW :D

Probably the lowest approval rating of any president in office.

TWSunflowerRev31 karma

Oliver: Yeah, we call him the '9% President' in Taiwan.

majorscheiskopf25 karma

What do you see as an alternative to the trade deal? While binding your country closer to China is certainly not optimal, for the reasons you mentioned, I imagine that the deal would have a significant economic impact on your country. Do you have any plans to recreate that economic benefit while avoiding the trade deal with China, or do you simply believe the trade deal should be avoided at all costs?

rexxors45 karma

Hi, as a Taiwanese student this is my understanding. The government said the GDP will grow by a meager 0.025%. The trade deal will open sectors like publishing which will allow state-funded Chinese companies to open shop here. Since they are state-funded, it is only a matter of time before they buy out the industry, and by then books by Dalai Lama will probably be nowhere to seen.

Sectors like telecommunications and ISP will be opened up, which has serious national security implications. Also, please know that China has over 1,000 missiles pointing at us and is willing to take over the island by force if necessary.

TWSunflowerRev32 karma

Yu-hsuan: Great answer! The GDP will apparently grow by 400 million USD, which is 0.11%. Still meager nonetheless! It's a huge tradeoff in terms of Taiwan's freedoms, and most of the benefits will most likely be concentrated among Taiwan's elites anyways!

thomasy724 karma

Hey! I've been following your live stream since the takeover on UStream I've got a couple of questions:

1) How do you see the involvement of "White Wolf"'s counter protests impacting on the Sunflower Movement?

2)Have any of you personally received threats?

I have the utmost respect for you and your cause!

TWSunflowerRev41 karma

Sean here (1st from left):

Thank you for following the stream.

  1. In regards to White Wolf, the triad leader, I was really worried at first. But after his threats to attack us, people came out of the woodwork; bodybuilders, big people, to guard us. Plus White Wolf's words spoken today to the media was so out of place (possibly from his long time in China) that he's painted himself as out-of-touch with Taiwanese society in general. Note that White Wolf is often seen flanked by KMT officials and it's quite horrible how that can happen in Taiwan and not end careers.

  2. Yes.

wkawka80121 karma

What made your governement sign such a pact? What's the state of Taiwanese economy?

TWSunflowerRev35 karma

Oliver: Good question. This goes back to the history of Taiwan as well. The KMT (the party currently in government) has always been more China-friendly than the opposition. As a result, they are very much for closer ties with China, even despite public concerns about the impact on our democracy, media freedoms, etc.

The Taiwanese economy has been very slow in the past couple of years. Salaries haven't increased in around 14 years. The president was elected on an economic platform, but despite closer ties with China, the economy hasn't improved much at all.

karmanaut18 karma

What would you do if the protest got violent, Ukraine-style? What if China stepped in, like Russia did?

TWSunflowerRev56 karma

Oliver again: Actually the riot police moved in on us when we attempted to occupy the Executive Yuan (the cabinet office) on March 24. More than one hundred people were hospitalized when we were forcibly evicted with police batons and water cannons.

It was especially troubling because they evicted members of the press before they moved in, so that they could not get an accurate picture of what really happened in there. It was pretty well documented.

I will have Chen Wei-ting respond to the second question shortly when he comes back!

bearwulf17 karma

What did you expect them to do? You took over a government building!

TWSunflowerRev35 karma

Sean here (1st from left): Actually the police didn't harm the people inside the Executive Yuan (note we are in the Legislative Yuan and have little to do with the protesters that branched off to take the Executive Yuan).

However the police did a crackdown on protesters and media within their rights outside of the Executive Yuan which was a separate group from those inside. The result has been condemnation from groups like Amnesty International and Taiwan journalists associations.

le_4chan_armyxD2 karma

I think the US has bases in Taiwan so that's incredibly unlikely. Cha Shan Air Base is one.

TWSunflowerRev9 karma

Oliver: That would have been nice :(. Unfortunately they withdrew them a long time ago when they broke their relations with Taiwan in favor of China.

le_4chan_armyxD1 karma

According to Wikipedia Cha Shan Air Base was only opened in 2011.

TWSunflowerRev10 karma

Sean here (1st from left): Most Americans I see in subtropical Taiwan are usually wearing polos or hawaiian shirts, as opposed to military camo. That said if there is a conspiracy or something of a secret base, it's not known to the general public.

mt_sheffield15 karma

How do you plan to do (more) to ensure that the public doesnt equate the sunflower movement to another politically motivated stunt initiated by the DPP?

TWSunflowerRev51 karma

Oliver (Right 1 in the picture) This is a great question!

  1. We do not accept any money or support from the DPP or any related political organizations.

  2. We are a completely student led organization. This means that all our decisions are made entirely by students and civic NGOs. No politicians are allowed to participate.

  3. When DPP politicians join us, we welcome them, but we don't hand them the stage or the microphone so that they cannot make political speeches.

  4. Our demands are against all legislators, not just the KMT (although they are a bit more problematic as they are the main supporters of the trade pact!)

kdoblev12 karma

I was proud to take part in the Sunflower rally in Times Square this past Sunday. I think you guys are doing a great job of persevering and getting the message out and encourage you to continue.

Do you have a lot of legal help? Is it possible that part of this can be found unconstitutional? I believe the trade pact with New Zealand was much more transparent. How is the KMT justifying the difference between the two?

Best of luck and stay safe. Jia you!

TWSunflowerRev17 karma

Sean here:

Do you have a lot of legal help? Is it possible that part of this can be found unconstitutional? I believe the trade pact with New Zealand was much more transparent.

We have over 300 volunteer lawyers. At least a couple are here with us at the Legislative chambers round the clock.

How is the KMT justifying the difference between the two?

That's the problem, they're ignoring that very inquiry. It makes a lot of people uneasy.

mt_sheffield12 karma

It seems that the peaceful protest by the students (and the public) hasnt done much in terms of swaying the government to withdrawal the service trade pact (which i believe is the MOST important demand out of all 4). Have you guys thought of alternative strategies to pressure the government further, and can you rule out the use of more hard-handed approaches in your future protests/parades. (P.s. I really want to thank you all for standing up for the majority of taiwanese people)

TWSunflowerRev24 karma

Chen Wei-ting here (holding the sign): That is a fair point. Our next step is to start pressuring local legislators, one at a time, to support our demands. We have a huge billboard up here in the Legislature (you can maybe see it on the livefeed) that has a list of whether they support or do not support our demands. We will start filling in those boxes soon.

sleeepies10 karma

how are you going to pressure them? I know my friends are going to call their local offices, but is that enough or is there anything else that we can do?

TWSunflowerRev18 karma

Oliver: Yes! Please keep up the pressure by calling their offices. Based on the huge crowd that turned up on Sunday, I have no doubt that many of them are already under tremendous amounts of pressure.

fahr_side7 karma

Oliver, few people show the initiative you have done so far. That poster you have in back there, with the photos and party affiliations of all the legislators... add their phone numbers there. In speeches, you could ask people to call them and voice their opinions directly. The legislators are supposed to be representing the people in the LY, not just making laws.

TWSunflowerRev4 karma

Oliver: Thanks /u/fahr_side. This is something that we will consider!

limbodog12 karma

Hi! This question is for any of you:

What do you see as the likely outcome of your move?

TWSunflowerRev42 karma

Oliver (Right 1 in the picture): Well, we are very optimistic that President Ma and the rest of his cabinet will accept our demands. After all, close to 500,000 people came out on the streets of Taipei in support of us. That's got to count for something right? And plus, more than 60 percent of the public is on our side (according to a poll by TVBS - a very government friendly TV station).

Our main demands are that:

  1. Reject the trade pact
  2. Establish monitoring mechanism for cross-strait agreements
  3. Hold a Citizens' Constitutional Assembly

Asdyc12 karma

Is it a bad time to visit Taiwan right now and for those who are interested in visiting Taiwan. Is there any places you recommend they check out?

TWSunflowerRev61 karma

Sean here (1st from the left): I really think Taiwan is a beautiful place and our protests are equally different. Our protests are more like parades or happy gatherings or even music concerts. You can see this article and the corresponding photos here

People in Taiwan really love their democracy and likewise we have almost a dozen news channels for just 23 million people. Participation for elections is in the high 70-80% of the population. After rallies, people pick up after themselves and leave no garbage.

pho-sizzle10 karma

  1. As far as I understand, the real issue at hand is whether President Ma and KMT violated due process by invoking the Article 61 of the Legislative Yuan Functions Act to skip the 2nd review in the legislative Yuan. There is also a controversy regarding whether article 61 applies to trade agreements too. In a proper democracy this is where the judicial branch gets involved right? Shouldn't the DPP and the protesters be calling the Judicial yuan to determine whether whether what happened violates due process and whether article 61 applies here? Has the DPP and the protesters done anything in that regard, and if not, why?

  2. Reading the comments here and reactions of people on TV and people around me, the message I am getting is that they've had enough of President Ma and KMT's failures to respect the law/govern properly, and that's what prompted the student movement Can you explain to me in detail what they've done exactly to warrant such reputation? I think it's safe to say almost every politician in every country uses some sort of underhanded tactics to fulfill their agendas(i.e the 2000 US election, the justification for invading iraq under Bush). so what is it that the KMT and Ma did that is unequivocally worse than other mature democracies?

  3. Let's say the trade pact did indeed go back to legislative Yuan for a proper review. At that point would you still be demanding the trade pact to be withdrawn altogether? If you do, on what basis would you call what you do pro-democracy, since the law at that point would be passed by majority who were democratically elected, and they did not break any procedure passing the law?

TWSunflowerRev7 karma

Oliver: These questions have been asked many times over the past few weeks, and we have answered them on our Facebook page and in our statements to the media. They are good questions by /u/pho-sizzle, however, and warrant a further response here.

  1. Article 61 stipulates that executive orders which fail to complete a committee review within 3 months shall be deemed passed and effective immediately. However, the bill is NOT an executive order, as it is a component of the 2009 ECFA (Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement) with China (please see page 1 of the official text) which was deemed by the government to be a legislative bill. Considering this to be an executive order is a cop-out by the KMT Legislator Chiang Ching-chung and the government in order to not have to review the bill clause-by-clause when it would otherwise be a requirement. As far as we are concerned, this is both a legislative matter, a judicial matter, and quite possibly a constitutional issue as well. We are exploring our legal venues, and this is something that we will likely initiate in the near future. However, judicial inquires take time. In the meantime, we are determined to block the government from using its underhanded and illegal tactics to force through the bill without public oversight or accountability. The best manner in which we have determined to do this an act of civil disobedience by occupying the Legislature. And please note that we cannot speak on behalf of the opposition DPP, and what they might (or might not) do.

  2. You mention every politician in every country using underhanded tactics like its something we should be okay with here in Taiwan. It's not. It's up to the citizens of other countries to take responsibility for their own politicians.

  3. This is a hypothetical scenario at this point, because without a monitoring mechanism in place by the legislature first, there can be no 'proper review' of the bill and no guarantees that similar trade pacts will be properly reviewed in the future (other than relying on the government's good faith, which is a tough sell at this point). Which is why we continue to call on the government and the legislature to pass this mechanism first and for the bill to be resubmitted by the Executive Yuan (cabinet) to the Legislature. Keep in mind that this bill was from the start, drafted, negotiated, and signed in complete secrecy and behind closed doors. There was no public input at all. It is, according to the majority of Taiwanese, a flawed bill that should be renegotiated with China. This highlights why a 'proper review' is so important. Furthermore, to many, our representative system is no longer representative of our democracy. The president also acts as the chair of the ruling KMT which uses threats of party discipline to push his own personal agenda, even against broad public opposition. So there is also the question of how much their actions are reflective of democracy.

Hope that this answers your questions!

EDIT: Added links.

Fulker0110 karma

This seems to parallel the struggle in Ukraine where the largest question is one of national identity. How do you view Taiwan as it is now and what do you hope for it's future?

TWSunflowerRev33 karma

Yu-hsuan (second from right): We've been noticing the similarities :). Both of us seem to have a younger generation wanting to move forward and connect more with the rest of the world. Unfortunately a decreasing but vocal group in the older generation continues to want to hold us back in favor of Russia/China (in this case).

For example, in Hong Kong we see that they lost the freedom, including press, speech, that they used to have. Many students from Hong Kong also tell us about the growing income inequalities due to economic ties with China that benefit mostly the rich. We don't want to see this in Taiwan.

I view Taiwan as my home. So I am saddened when people tell me that my country doesn't exist, or only exists as part of China. We are optimistic that this will change in the future :).

bitbybitbybitcoin10 karma

Just dropping in to show my support :).

TWSunflowerRev9 karma

Oliver: Thanks!

440_Hz9 karma

Thank you for doing this AMA. I am disappointed in how little this event is being publicized or talked about in the US, though I have myself been following the story closely.

  1. What would be your ideal outcome of the protests, in regards to the trade agreement, 馬英九, or anything else?

  2. Headlines usually say the protests are composed of students. Do you have the support of the older generation as well?

TWSunflowerRev8 karma

Oliver: Thanks for the questions! I hope you can continue to share our story with the media in the US.

  1. As we mentioned earlier, the ideal outcome is that the government accept our demands.

  2. Yes. Over the weekend we saw hundreds of thousands of people of all ages join us. Even in the chamber itself, we have teams of doctors and lawyers standing by.

ctsai9 karma

Taiwanese-American here. I've been watching the news and monitoring the situation from your ustream since the beginning. I really admire and appreciate how thoughtful, organized, and peaceful your protest has been.

1) Have students faced censure or were prevented from participating in the protest from their universities?

2) It's frustrating to read international media negatively portray the student protests, whether explicitly or implicitly with their wording. Which international media presence do you have at the protest and how have you tried to clear up misconceptions/mistakes?

3) It seems like the situation is at a stalemate right now given that President Ma is unwilling to offer any concessions. Are you concerned that a long stalemate might turn public opinion against you? As a follow up, how do you plan on mobilizing the public support you have now to really pressure the politicians to properly negotiate?

TWSunflowerRev13 karma

Sean here:

  1. We've gotten incredible support from universities. Many of the top universities have taken a strike out in support of the students. Some professors have literally moved their class outside of the Legislative offices to teach students there.

  2. We've been contacted by everyone from the Wall Street Journal to Al Jazeera to the BBC and so on.

  3. Currently public support has been building more and more, we've just had one of the largest protests in recent Taiwan history. If the Ma administration does not respond, he risks critical failure to his party in the upcoming November elections and in 2016.

Mooshie229 karma

Hey guys! This is the first I've heard of this issue. How is the overall morale of the movement? Do you feel that you are building momentum? Also what can I do to help? (I'm just a random guy in California, but I'll do anything I can to support you guys)

TWSunflowerRev4 karma

Yu-hsuan: As /u/adooryeh mentioned earlier, the Vice article is a good place to get started. We would love it if you could continue to spread the word, both to your friends and the international media.

To be honest, we are all really tired. It's been like a never-ending camping trip, except we're in a fluorescent lighted building in the middle of the city. But we keep ourselves busy and organized. There's singing, exercises, classes, etc.

We're definitely building momentum though. Almost half a million protestors came out on the streets of Taipei on Sunday in support of our demands.

GuyFawkes998 karma

What is the legal status of the trade pact? Is it law? Does it need to go through any other approvals? If so how likely is it to become law?

TWSunflowerRev16 karma

This is Yu-hsuan (second from right): Well the bill approving the pact was rammed through a committee in under 30 seconds. This was done without any public input or substantive review. So right now, its awaiting the second reading at the Legislature. It will need to pass the third reading before it becomes law.

I would say that at this point, the bill in its current form is unlikely to become law. At least we hope! We're compiling a list of legislators that support/oppose the bill to give them some added pressure.

jimmywtseng6 karma

First of all, this pact or agreement if you will, is currently at an ambiguous status. This is neither a law nor an executive order. This pact, like any other Free Trade Agreements (FTA), should be reviewed and debriefed by legislators in legislature. And also, under the framework of the Constitution of Republic of China (Taiwan), the Legislature has the right and duty to review any agreement that the administration is signing.

But unfortunately, we don't have any law telling legislator how to review any agreements or pacts like this.

Like any other FTA, US-South Korea, US-Canada, they all went through years of thorough researches, evaluations and negotiations, and were all reviewed by congress-level officials. But sadly, we haven't gone through any serious researches and negotiations. And our Executive Yuan (Cabinet) officials tried to sneak this pact in Legislature on March 18th, this action is against and jeopardizing our constitution.

Technically, this cross-strait freetrade pact can't be passed unless Ma administration has done thorough and detailed research and industry impact evaluation, and to be reviewed by Legislature.

TWSunflowerRev10 karma

Oliver: That's why we're on the streets! (And why we want a cross-strait review mechanism in place!)

Sandorra8 karma

Two questions:

  • Some of my friends who are currently in Taiwan as exchange students have been hearing rumours of foreigners who support the protests being sent out of the country by the government (and as such are worried that could happen to them as well). Have you heard anything similar, or even better, is there proof of this?

  • Probably a question for Wei-ting specifically: what goes into organising a movement like this - basically, what do you do throughout the day as co-organiser?

Thanks for this AMA and good luck!

TWSunflowerRev15 karma

Sean here (1st from left):

  1. Yes some individuals have been deported but so far most people just observing have been safe.

  2. Wei-Ting is taking a break for now, but he's usually in front participating in lots of democratic deliberations with student circles (you can see this in the live feed) tasked with figuring out our next moves will be and the ramifications. Some civic, labor and human rights groups have stepped out in support of the movement and frequently work with Wei-ting as well. Of course Wei-Ting also takes a lot of interviews each day. Wei-Ting is sort of a hero to youth in Taiwan because he's like the advocacy batman, he's always trying to help different groups that are suffering from social injustice in Taiwan, despite party affiliation or ideology. All this besides repeated statements from him that he wishes people will regard him as just a normal advocate.

bobthebobd7 karma

There is only one story about this thing in world-section of CNN.com (American website, I don't know if they are different in another country). Have you tried sending videos and ad-hock reports to CNN or other major media? (BBC? etc) Perhaps offering them exclusives into something for a chance to get picked up on world scale news organizations.

I would imagine you would want world support ... do you?

TWSunflowerRev22 karma

Sean here (1st from left): My understanding is that we've gotten a lot more support from CNN International but very little coverage from CNN America. Perhaps if we had a more robust Twitter account, Wolf Blitzer might do a story on us.

That said, BBC, Al Jazeera, and other news outlets have given us comprehensive coverage.

belled104686 karma

Well, apparently you've written a new page on the Taiwanese history. However, this issue doesn't only represent the current government's attitude but also shows the fallen of the Taiwanese democracy.

If we could not solve the root problem, then this kind of events will only be repeated again and again.

Therefore, I'm wondering do you want to catch this opportunity to do something more? Or that's all?

TWSunflowerRev5 karma

Oliver: Thanks! The problem at its root is the lack of a monitoring mechanism for cross-strait agreements. This allows the government to draft, negotiate and sign bills without any input from the legislature or the public.

As a result, we will not stop until our demands have been met. As to what that might entail, we'll leave that up to the government's imagination. :)

bobthebobd6 karma

What are the roles of Lin Yu-hsuan and Oliver Cheng (how come they are in AMA)?

TWSunflowerRev22 karma

Sean here (1st from left): Lin Yu-hsuan is our student spokesperson in domestic media and has appeared on some local programs. She doesn't sleep.

Oliver Cheng is from National Taiwan University (Taiwan's best university as well) and his English is amazing so he's been helping out translate stuff and to speak with the international media. He doesn't sleep either.

cogentorange6 karma

Amongst your chief grievances is the "undemocratic and authoritarian" manner in which an elected leader and govt is pursuing policy. How do you reconcile your own undemocratic behavior (occupying buildings of a democratic government) as a response to perceived authoritarianism? Put another way, what gives your group the right to use undemocratic tactics while decrying such behavior from your opposition?

TWSunflowerRev20 karma

Sean here: Being part of the academic community, we often have study America's history. Here is the answer he gave to this very question.

We could also cite the the Founding Fathers of America as they often practiced civil disobedience as well.

dabien835 karma

How can overseas Taiwanese donate (money or materials) to the Sunflower Movement? I have heard of a NGO (non-governmental organization) collecting donations? What efforts can overseas Taiwanese (ex. writing LY members) do that will most effectively help the Sunflower Movement?

TWSunflowerRev8 karma

Sean here (1st from left): If you're abroad, you can contact your representative and have him/her join Senator Sherrod Brown or Congressman Ed Royce or many others in support of Taiwan. At least for the USA, since the TransPacific Partnership is often cited by Taiwan's President Ma as something that can only happen if this services pact with China passes (although there isn't any proof of this), that could further point out the credibility problem that Ma has.

malucci4 karma

Why wouldn't you see this as a chance to modify and liberalize the Chinese state? Surely the more contact there is between Taiwan and China the more the ordinary Chinese will envy you and your "freedoms". The Chinese state is not particularly stable and Taiwan could play a big part in its transformation.

GuyFawkes996 karma

Are you kidding? Taiwan is tiny! It would just get annexed into China.

TWSunflowerRev8 karma

Sean here (1st from left): This. Also the same has been said about Hong Kong and Macau, that they would liberalize the Chinese state, and we all saw how well that worked out.

R_M_Y4 karma

How would you respond to people saying opposition to the border loosening policies that are a part of the black box motivated by anti-Chinese prejudice and that the view that immigration from China is a means of assimilating Taiwan, like is done in Hong Kong, is a conspiracy theory demonizing people who just want to build up a better life?

TWSunflowerRev4 karma

Sean here: That's quite loaded, and it isn't really in reference at all to our movement. Our focus, again, is on having the same legal process and protections over trade pacts much like the ones that other countries such as South Korea, Japan, the USA, and most of Europe has.

wkawka8014 karma

Are you in contact with political activists in the China? How active are they?

TWSunflowerRev12 karma

Sean here (1st from left): Actually some Chinese political activists, mostly from Hong Kong though, have flown over and given us their support.

That said it's significantly riskier for Mainland Chinese activists to lend their support openly as China is still an authoritarian state and many still have families there. But, we do have refugees from China and they have come to visit the Legislative grounds and spoken out in support of us.

wkawka8012 karma

Do you feel that there is any wind of change in mainland China? Surely the students there can't be too pleased about the state of their democracy...

TWSunflowerRev12 karma

Sean here (1st from left): No. Most of state Chinese media have been depicting us as an unruly mob somehow causing hundreds of millions of dollars of damage. This was quickly debunked as we allowed media in to the Legislative Yuan and they're camped out here with us. The tours they've made shows that was not the case..

taiwanismyhome3 karma

Why are the occupation and protests called the Sunflower Movement? What do the sunflowers symbolize?

TWSunflowerRev2 karma

Yu-hsuan: Good question! This was a name given to the movement by the media after several students and protestors started bringing sunflowers into the area. We did not start this name. Sunflowers symbolize our wish to shine a light into the darkness and the ‘black box’ process (referring to a closed-door, non-transparent process) that the government has used to negotiate the deal with China.

And plus, giving revolutions flower names seems really popular for some reason. :/

bigdongmagee3 karma

How would society become closer to that of the mainland?

TWSunflowerRev7 karma

Sean here: Personally I think as this pact allows major Chinese state owned companies to purchase Taiwan ones, it's more like how Taiwan's society may become more authoritarian like China. Imagine how willing a Chinese book publisher might print something from human rights groups or the Dalai Lama.

threeohthree2 karma

My own worry in regards to the movement at present is in regards to attrition and its broader long term considerations--that is, even should passage of the CSSTA be revoked in the present situation and the Sunflower movement succeed in its current aims, it is not impossible that a similar bill will be pushed through later down the line, using measures that conceal it from the public eye. What can you say as to the long term strategies of the Sunflower movement for halting not only the current CSSTA, but similar bills in the future? And what can you say as to strategies for making the world more aware of this as an issue?

TWSunflowerRev4 karma

Yu-hsuan: Yes! In fact one of our main demands is the passage of a monitoring mechanism for cross-strait agreements in the future.

zhuzhu272 karma

You have begun quite a movement in Taiwan. Since you aren't affiliated with either party, and since both major parties and proving to be either underhanded or inept, have you thought about using the momentum and energy you have, and the support of 70% of the people, to start a new political party? As this movement gets bigger and bigger, are you (as intelligent, inspiring and passionate as you are...) students able to lead it into the future?

TWSunflowerRev1 karma

Sean here (1st from left): There's been a lot of talk about that outside the Legislative chambers and a lot of people have called us the new hope. That said we are currently focused on our demands first and depending how the government reacts, a new party might arise from this. This has happened before in Taiwan's history, and it may happen again.

chinan123-1 karma

Can the student organizers please remove the posters that have a Hitler mustache on President Ma's face? In the international community this is considered very inappropriate.

TWSunflowerRev7 karma

Sean here (1st from left): I know the single one you're talking about, it was put up outside of the LY by someone independent of our group. But quickly the artist was told that it could be offensive and he has taken it down voluntarily. Although we practice freedom of speech, we also have been sensitive towards things like that might affect our image negatively like that.

In Taiwan, both major parties have often compared each other as "like-Hitler". Since we're not party affiliated we also don't like that practice.

businesstakeitall-5 karma

I am not Taiwanese, but here are my questions about your movement:

  • Democracy and the rule of law come hand in hand. I am not sure why you guys are more violent than those russian soldiers in Crimea.

  • Do you really believe this is a student movement? Are you sure the so-called student leaders are not puppets of DPP?

  • The Taiwanese economy is the weakest compared to the Asian Four Tigers. Why is Taiwan complaining if Korea and Singapore are closely cooperating and integrating with the Chinese economy?

  • Lastly, 法治和民主一樣重要,西方民主運動也不見得這麼激進。如果台灣學生和社會太政治化,長遠會損害經濟, 損人不利己!

EDIT: Don't downvote if you disagree with me. Please. I work very hard to collect those karma. I just randomly saw this IAMA and asked this question. I am no political activist.

sleeepies3 karma

as to the 2nd question, many of us despise both political groups and we really don't like the fact that we only have two options. we're often in a situation to choose between the lesser of the two evils, not the "better", because they are both horrible options.

而且你說靜坐叫激進,我不知道怎麼才叫和平了.很想請教您對汽油彈的看法?

businesstakeitall-1 karma

How do you "despise both political groups" when you have DPP leaders supporting your movement?

Trust me. I study aboard. This is pretty radical by western standard. Also, please be reasonable and calm. I want a productive discussion. (Even though its 3 am)

sleeepies2 karma

I agree that did sound offensive, I apologize. There are also DPP leaders disapproving the movement as well actually, so it is not the students' fault when the leaders agree or disagree with what they do. They are trying very hard to raise awareness above the point of siding with blue or green, for the public to realize that our basic human right is being hurt. From what I understand, the students are staying as rational as they can. Can you describe more about the radical part?

businesstakeitall0 karma

how is your basic human rights being hurt? When you occupy the Legislative Yuan, you are effectively stopping those who support the bill to pass the bill. You are radical because you don't follow regular and legal channels to voice your opinion. In the West, I also don't see people occupying government building to "raise awareness". This is illegal and UNDEMOCRATIC.

TWSunflowerRev1 karma

Sean here: this is actually civil disobedience and symbolic more than anything. As you already know, the Taiwan legislature offices are many and they have many chambers. They can easily meet in any of the others and continue their business and have before.

There has been massive awareness that the trade pact was bad well before the protests began. The Ma administration has control of the executive and the legislative, and as chairman also, Ma has made it clear that KMT legislators will have no freedom to vote as their constituents desire otherwise they face total and immediate expulsion from the party. These undemocratic moves and the destruction of checks and balances is why the Sunflower movement has been overwhelmingly popular in Taiwan.

TWSunflowerRev1 karma

Sean here: Currently President Ma is also chairman of his own party, so he rules the legislature as well as the executive. But he has also threatened to immediately expel anyone in his party that does not vote alongside him in this issue, despite the unpopularity of the pact within his own party.

While KMT legislators have been reluctant to speak out, many popular KMT supporters have spoken out in support of us. That said, such a control doesn't exist for the DPP, so DPP legislators have freedom of speech rights to follow popular sentiment on this.