Interview: Sandy Liu

Sandy Liu recently finished her MA in philosophy of mind at National Yangming University. She is a member of New Bloom. The following interview was conducted on September 11th, 2017.


Brian Hioe:  The first thing I want to ask is, how did you begin participating in social movements? With regard to what causes?

Sandy Liu:  The first I participated in was the attempt to Occupy Taipei 101 in 2011.

Brian Hioe:  Occupy Taipei.

Occupy Taipei 101 in October 2011. Photo credit: Occupy Taipei 佔領台北/Facebook

Sandy Liu:  Terry said that he wanted to pay attention to these things, but that was the first time I participated in a social movement. And I didn’t have much feeling for it back then. It was only afterwards that I did.

I might have more enthusiastically participated in the anti-media monopoly movement. Or earlier, it was with regard to the Shilin Wang family.

Brian Hioe:  Why did you begin to participate? For example, you mentioned participating with Terry at Taipei 101.

Sandy Liu: The first time it was like that. I wasn’t part of this network when I was in college. When I was in college, I participated in student groups, such as the ballroom dance club.

Brian Hioe:  So you began participating when you were in graduate school.

Sandy Liu:  Yeah. So when I began with Occupy Taipei, it was with the Department of Philosophy of Mind at Yangming University. 

Brian Hioe:  What were you doing during 318? I remembered you charged then.

Sandy Liu:  It was more that I went when I had time. I was working as an office assistant then for most days.

Brian Hioe:  I remember you were inside in the beginning with Symin, but then you left because of work.

Sandy Liu:  That’s right. She was inside the entire time and I went when there was time. At that time, because our workplace also helped out, sometimes people would come find us. If supplies were needed. So sometimes people would find us, because supplies were needed, and I would go in for a bit. At other times, at night, I would go back after getting off of work.

Brian Hioe:  What kind of activities did you participate in during the movement?

Sandy Liu:  I was more distant. The beginning was on March 18th, on my birthday.

Brian Hioe:  That’s right! [Laughs]

Sandy Liu:  Terry was waiting at home with a cake, wondering why I hadn’t come back yet. I said I would come back later. It was already 9 o’clock then or close to it. I said it would be very quick, that I was attending this speech, and then I would go back in a bit. I didn’t realize that it was 12 AM quite quickly. It was like that. And because I had to work the next day, I left at 12 AM. Afterwards, with guarding the door, and other events, I wasn’t around for then.

Brian Hioe:  What about during the movement itself?

Sandy Liu:  I probably went in 2 or 3 times and the rest of the time was coming during work hours to help out. I was quite external.

Brian Hioe:  There was a lot of discussion then about the decisions made by the leadership inside the Legislative Yuan. Do you have any views regarding this?

Sandy Liu:  Near the end, I was surprised. Maybe it’s because I didn’t follow events too closely because I was outside. So I was surprised at how sudden it was when the decision was made to withdraw. It felt very sudden.

Sometimes I would help the 5-6 Movement host discussion and help out. I felt it was okay in the middle, I only felt it was a bit odd near the end. Because things happened too fast, like Jiang Yi-Hua came over one moment, then Ma Ying-Jeou.

Brian Hioe:  Or like 324.

Sandy Liu:  Yes, yes. Things kept happening. It was just on my own, thinking that because at that time, Ma Ying-Jeou hadn’t backed down from the CSSTA. So I didn’t have any views on what to do. I don’t know what the background was like, but at the time of the withdrawal, those outside the Legislative Yuan in the encampment were actually increasing in number. It wasn’t that there was fewer and fewer people and so the decision was made to withdraw.

Brian Hioe:  Then do you feel that your participation in the Sunflower Movement or other Taiwanese social movements had to do with your sense of Taiwanese identity?

Sandy Liu:  I think it was a very large influence. I already had this sense of identity, but many people had not thought about this before. For example, my older cousin’s children in Taiwan looked at Taiwan very much from the point of view of immigrated overseas Chinese.

Photo credit: Abby Chen/Flickr/CC

Brian Hioe:  My family is like that too.

Sandy Liu:  Yeah. But they already immigrated and left Taiwan quite long ago. For them, their sense of Taiwanese identity and my sense of Taiwanese identity is very different. For example, my cousin argued with my mother. Maybe I said it before. But my mother grew up in a military dependents’ village. So throughout her life, she has felt very grateful to the KMT, no matter what it did.

But in the course of the Sunflower Movement. she did a lot of reflection. Because thought it was my individual problem that I participated in social movements before that, but after the Sunflower Movement, she found that this wasn’t just me, that a lot of young people thought this way. And this led to reflection on her part.

She wrote an essay after, stating that she would not support the KMT afterwards. But this is regarding political parties. Her Taiwanese identity was that, in the past when talking about Taiwanese people, despite the fact that she was born and raised in Taiwan, she didn’t view herself as a Taiwanese person.

In the past, when deciding on her choice of spouse, she decided not to marry anyone involved in business or anyone who was Taiwanese. And I would be like, “What? But aren’t you also a Taiwanese person?” For them, Taiwanese doesn’t just mean someone who grew up in Taiwan, but benshengren. But in the end, she got married to my father, who is benshengren.

And her friends were all people that also grew up in military dependents’ villages. She would argue about this point with people around her. This is a very large difference in how Taiwanese identify. People will have these kinds of contradictions. She has very good relations with this older cousin of mine in Canada, but in the process, my mother didn’t agree with them and came into conflict with them. Similar things happened in a lot of families then.

Brian Hioe:  I’ve heard a lot of such stories. So you think this happened with a lot of Taiwanese young people?

Sandy Liu:  This is because we have come to have a collective sense of identity regarding Taiwan. This was different from before.

Brian Hioe:  So how do you feel that the movement related to China and the KMT? Do you feel it was a movement opposed to China?

Sandy Liu:  I participated myself because of opposition to free trade, but this was very broad in nature. Because the beginning was that people opposed the improper processes that led to the passing of the bill, and many came to understand the CSSTA in the course of this. I participated myself because I opposed free trade, of course, but there were probably less people who were opposed to free trade.

Brian Hioe:  I think so myself. So do you think there were more participants were opposed to the KMT in that way? Or because this was an agreement signed with China?

Sandy Liu:  I still think there were more opposed to the thirty-second passage of the bill. I think it was a later and secondary effect that this was opposed to the KMT and China. I remember that on April 7th, before the end of the movement, Lin Fei-Fan and Chen Wei-Ting were talking about Cheng Nan-Rong. And people were like, “Look! Aren’t you Taiwanese independence advocates?”

It was to maintain a certain sense of distance from China. But it was actually only after a year, with more history being uncovered, that—I think it’s a delayed effect. And with regards to that, the Big Bowel Blossom Forums were quite important. That is, on the 7th, there was still this situation but on April 11th, when the Big Bowel Blossom Forums took place, a lot of people were commenting, “Taiwanese independence!” on the Internet. They supported Taiwanese independence.

Brian Hioe:  Openly. So you think this was the first time that people said that they supported Taiwanese independence so openly and publicly?

Photo credit: Abby Chen/Flickr/CC

Sandy Liu:  Maybe not the first time.

Brian Hioe:  But that it was noticed for the first time.

Sandy Liu:  That it was in a place where it was very easy to see this. Like a place the media were paying attention to. Otherwise, in the past, was like, “Taiwanese independence…Taiwanese independence, what’s that?” Like it was more marginalized as an issue. But now it was in a position where the media was paying attention. And it was all young people. And everyone who went on stage then in the end, said that they supported, Taiwanese independence. This was very influential. This led to an acquaintance and sense about the idea of Taiwanese independence, that people were like, “We get this.”

And after the Sunflower Movement…well, the history of the White Terror was on the Internet and searchable on the Internet. But it only became something that people searched out after the Sunflower Movement, posting it on PTT, and forwarding it to friends. And many people would post things on their Facebook walls comments like, “I had no idea that the KMT had done things like this in the past!” Everyone was very willing to think about it, and this only began after the Sunflower Movement. This will cause people to realize that this is very closely related to Taiwanese identity.

Brian Hioe:  I feel that social movements tend to be more left-wing or more progressive. What are your thoughts?

Sandy Liu:  Like who do you mean?

Brian Hioe:  Social movements participants. I feel that they have a progressive and leftward political orientation, whether this is opposition to the death penalty or support of same-sex marriage and such issues. That is to say, that social movements are left-leaning.

Sandy Liu:  What do you mean by left-leaning? I think that most people might not have a clear sense of what is meant by that, although everyone claims to be left-wing. Like, are they really? [Laughs]

Brian Hioe:  That’s what I’m trying to ask! [Laughs]

Sandy Liu:  I’m not very sure. I think that in Taiwan, there’s a kind of sense of having ideas if you talk about being left-wing. Since people’s thoughts are not firmly established, I’m not sure…A lot of people say that I’m very left-wing, to be sure, which maybe means that I talk a lot. But I’m not sure that people truly understand.

Brian Hioe:  So why do you think people say that they are left-wing?

Sandy Liu:  I don’t know. Why? …I’m not sure. [Laughs] I feel myself that for many, it’s a way to oppose a lot of what currently exists in Taiwanese politics, without being very sure of one’s politics as being left-wing. With regards to an issue like same-sex marriage, I think it’s primarily a generational difference. Whether you are a participant in social movements or aren’t a participant in social movements.

But the younger generation in Taiwan, even people born in the 70s, can accept same-sex marriage. It’s still a minority opposed to an issue like capital punishment. Maybe you have noticed as well, it does seem like that its after the Sunflower Movement that there are more people opposed to capital punishment.

I think that people’s civic participation generally increased after the Sunflower Movement.

So regarding different issues, they maybe began to discuss these issues more.

Brian Hioe:  I see. Three years later, do you think that the movement has influenced Taiwanese politics? Like regarding Taiwanese identification or electoral politics

Sandy Liu:  Three years later… Well, it’s something that has influenced Taiwan greatly, like what I said before. It caused us to reflect on history more. And the movement had a large influence on student moving afterwards, including Ko Wen-Je’s election and Tsai Ing-Wen’s election. Although I’m not very happy with Tsai Ing-Wen.

Brian Hioe:  What about Taiwanese identification? If civic participation has increased, do you think that has come to affect Taiwanese identification?

Sandy Liu:  Yes. I think young people originally had a lot of Taiwanese local consciousness, but the movement was a way to confirm and firmly establish this.

Brian Hioe:  Three years later, what do you think social movement participants are doing now?

Sandy Liu:  For example, some people might have just graduated after studying for six years! [Laughs] But because Tsai Ing-Wen won the presidency…

Brian Hioe:  I’ve noticed, for instance, that there is less mobilization right now since Tsai Ing-Wen got elected regarding social movements.

The Yangming Meaningful Club on 330. Photo credit: 陽明大學有意思社/Facebook

Sandy Liu:  Yes, because it’s accumulated to the point of reaching the level of electoral politics. And there are also some people who have entered into electoral politics. It could be that people feel that the KMT hopes for the DPP to become obstructed and so don’t mobilize as much. But much of what the DPP is currently doing makes one wonder what it is accomplished concretely, rather than causing issues to become matters of controversy. It doesn’t feel like anything has been concretely accomplished.

Or maybe people are busy working on New Bloom! [Laughs]

Brian Hioe:  Do you think that there could be another event like the Sunflower Movement in Taiwan? And how do you think China will react to events such as the Sunflower Movement leading up to present political circumstances in Taiwan?

Sandy Liu:  It may be that every movement has a different aim. For a movement as large as the Sunflower Movement, with regards to Taiwanese identity, there might not be another one. In the immediate present, I think its rather unlikely. Maybe it’s better to say that it allowed civic movements to stand up. Because during the Hung Chung-chiu Incident, as was demonstrated by Citizen 1985, there was already a strengthening of social movements.

The Sunflower Movement was the expression of the gathering of prior social movements. And whether this is a big event or a small event, such as regarding food safety scandals regarding milk, this has led more people to pay attention to political events after the Sunflower Movement. From nothing to something already requires a large transition to take place, realizing that there were so many things that people did not know about. So it’s achieved this, and there might not be power like this again in the future.

But as for China, if they can control something, they will keep trying. What it wants to do is like in Hong Kong.

Brian Hioe:  Lastly, do you think the Sunflower Movement can influence international social movements?

Sandy Liu:  You mean, like the Umbrella Movement?

Brian Hioe:  Or outside of the Umbrella Movement, too.

Sandy Liu:  I don’t know, I might not know the most about the topic. But I feel the Umbrella Movement showed signs of influence. The rest I don’t know.