Interview: Anonymous III
Anonymous was one of the occupiers within the Legislative Yuan and one of the first individuals that charged on 318. The following interview was conducted on October 4th, 2017.
Brian Hioe: So let’s start. The first thing I want to ask is, how did you begin participating in social movements? Why did you begin participating and for what reasons?
Anonymous: I began by going to Cafe Philo. Cafe Philo was originally by National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU), it wasn’t by Shandao Temple like it is now. In 2011, I remember I was just interested in that kind of salon. The first time I went was after the Fukushima incident, and it was discussing this incident. Before that, I’m not sure where, but I saw the live cast of their event, and it was discussing the Arab Spring. Chang Tie-zhi was engaged in dialogue with someone.
I thought it sounded interesting, so I went. And after going, gradually I found that many of the topics had to do with Taiwanese social issues or international social issues. I went quite often, to see where one could begin talking about these kinds of issues, and there were people who could discuss them there.
The first protest I attended may have been the Tiananmen Square memorial event in 2011. That time, some Taiwanese groups were organizing it already, so I got to know some social movement groups, including that the was the first time I got to know Zhang Ziling and Lin Fei-Fan. Do you know Zhang Ziling? She was also part of the 02 Society. But I didn’t know them well at that time. Just said hello. I was at National Chenggong University then. I thought it seemed interesting, so I began participating in the 02 Society. In the beginning, it was like that.
Brian Hioe: What kind of issues did you participate in?
Anonymous: Later on, there wasn’t a very clear target. It was more observing social issues. I was interested in discussing them, but wasn’t deeply involved, and I wasn’t sure what my views were. But I got to know some people that way. Like Chen Ting-Hao. I got to know more people afterwards as well.
More things happened after that. Like discussing youth or transitional justice, issues which had more to do with Taiwanese independence. But I think it had to do with 02 Society. And in 2012, there was the anti-media monopoly movement.
Photo credit: othree/Flickr/CC
Brian Hioe: What were doing at the time of 318? I remember seeing photos that you took, of the Legislative Yuan while it was dark.
Anonymous: In the beginning, I didn’t know that there was an action planned for that day. But at the time, Lai Zhongqiang and them had already organized the rally at night. I only planned to go look around.
When I arrived, it was 8 PM or so. I ran into two people, and they told me that there was a meeting somewhere, and I should go. So I just went. And then at the meeting, I was shocked to discover that they were something they were planning on doing right away.
So I went inside. I was with the first wave that went in, at Qingdao East Road. After going inside, I found that because we had to write a statement write away, I was pulled into writing that statement.
Brian Hioe: What else did you do in the movement? I think I saw in newspaper reports that you participated in Democracy Kuroshio?
Anonymous: I didn’t actually participate in Democracy Kuroshio. In the movement, I was in the media group, and I was spokesman for over a week. What I did was face media and tell them things we had decided. A lot of times, things hadn’t been decided or discussed yet, but the Presidential Office or outside, they had a lot of questions, so it was dealing with the media. During the movement, there was a period that I participated in what eventually became Democracy Kuroshio, going to offices of legislators.
Brian Hioe: I saw some reports about that with your name in it.
Anonymous: But I didn’t count as a member.
Brian Hioe: Why did you feel that you had to participate in the movement? Or what the aims of the movement were?
Anonymous: I felt that at the time, it was quite clear that China’s policies directed at Taiwan were aimed at using the economy and linking up capitalists, in order to influence Taiwanese elections. The CSSTA was a large issue to begin with, affecting many industries, it was impossible for us to understand all of it.
But you can see that the government then really wanted to force this through. And that a lot of KMT legislators wanted to push this through. You could find that the CSSTA had China’s economic policies behind it. I think that was the most important reason I participated in it. At the time, what was more direct was Chang Ching-Chung passing the bill in 30 seconds, so you would feel that this situation was out of control.
Brian Hioe: The most amount of people seemed to oppose the black box and the least amount of people opposed free trade. And in between were the levels of opposing China and the KMT. Would you say that it was like that?
Anonymous: That doesn’t need to be asked! [Laughs] I think both were present. The black box was quite evident, since the public hearings were held quite quickly. It’s always the executive branch negotiating FTAs and after the executive branch is done discussing them, its passed by the legislature.
So it’s not just a black box when it has to do with China. We’ve never raised this issue in the past. You can say that free trade in Taiwan, with regards to any country, is a black box. You can’t see its regulations.
And its regulations are set by a process in which you have no way to participate. Of course, Chang Ching-Chung passing the CSSTA in thirty seconds makes that even clearer. The other side of things is that I think that free trade has two aspect. One aspect is that Taiwan’s free trade, such as from when we joined the WTO, the majority of Taiwanese society supports free trade. Whether Taiwanese society, social movement circles, or progressive elements of academia, there isn’t a good way to discuss free trade agendas not set by the western world. Except for China. We may not have enough tools or framework to analyze non-western foreign capital and their relevance to free trade at the time.
So whether the left wing of social movement circles or progressive circles, what is discussed more is America or the WTO and the GATT. With the anti-globalization movement with demonstrations in Seattle, the free trade issues they discuss has nothing to do with China. I think that part of the reason why discussion in social movement circles is so chaotic because this is quite hard to discuss. It is easier to discuss China simply infringing on Taiwanese sovereignty.
Photo credit: Felix the Bear
Brian Hioe: Did you have any thoughts regarding the decisions made by the decision making group within the Legislative Yuan? Such as regarding the decision to withdraw from the Legislative Yuan or 324?
Anonymous: I think I’m okay with what took place. Because looking back, some discussions I didn’t participate in. Such as 324, I only participated in a bit. Or with regards to the decision to withdraw. In 324, this was more shocking to me, because of the violence from the police.
When the decision to withdraw took place, it had already been a long period of time. So I felt it was okay. I felt that the Executive Yuan incident was shocking and I felt dissatisfied originally, but looking back on it more rationally afterwards, I could understand the decisions made.
Brian Hioe: Do you think your participating in the movement had to do with your sense of Taiwanese identity? Whether yourself or the people around you.
Anonymous: I think it was related. Like what I said before. China’s influence was unavoidable when it came to issues of sovereignty regarding Taiwan. And I didn’t want to become a Chinese person or to live under a political system like in China.
Brian Hioe: Do you think that there is any political orientation to Taiwan’s social movement circles? Because many people discuss being more left-wing, or leaning towards the left. And people stand for progressive stances on many issues such as opposition to the death penalty or support of same-sex marriage.
Anonymous: This is an interesting question. It’s quite difficult to respond to. But I suppose that because Taiwan is a party with a two-party system, nobody would think that the DPP or KMT are left-wing political parties, nor would the two of them identify themselves as a left-wing political party.
Under these circumstances, as a participant in social movements, if you oppose their policies or political views, it’s very easy to say that you are left-wing. On the other hand, I think that in the past few years, a lot of issues are caught in issues of policies supportive of the wealthy or the non-wealthy. Such as land exploitation or developmentalism.
Brian Hioe: Three years later, how do you think this movement has affected Taiwanese politics? Or Taiwanese identity. Many people raise that Ko Wen-Je or Tsai Ing-Wen were elected, for example. But what else?
Anonymous: China’s policies towards Taiwan have become more evident. China is very afraid of interchanges between Taiwan and Hong Kong. Or that the movement has had impact on the Taiwanese government’s China policy. For example, although many will criticize Tsai Ing-Wen regarding her China policy, such as with regards to the Lee Ming-Che case, she still wants to find a way out.
Such as discussion of the New Southwards Policy. Because in 2012, Ma Ying-Jeou depended upon the 1992 Consensus a great deal to be elected. But Tsai Ing-Wen didn’t do this. Including raising new things. And young people have become a social topic. Young people in politics or young people themselves. As seen in the emergence of the Third Force. I think it’s like that.
Brian Hioe: How do you think that China looks at Taiwan’s current political circumstances? Do you think that they have shifted strategies? Or will they still depend on the same strategies as before
Anonymous: I think there’s been a shift. Because they were originally did things to limit Taiwan’s international space. But now it’s added more layers.
In 2014, through different capitalists such as Lei Jun and Jack Ma, they said that they wanted to give young Taiwanese an opportunity to work in China. This was also done to prepare for the political shift to the DPP. Including the Sing! China concert. That’s something that hadn’t happened before in the past.
Brian Hioe: What do you think that social movement participants are doing now, three years later? Because a lot of people have gone abroad to study. Or they may have entered the political system.
Anonymous: It’s basically what you said. [Laughs]
Brian Hioe: So you think people are doing other things now?
Anonymous: I’m not totally sure. Because if you count, I’m not very sure. There still are people. But most NGO workers are still around.
Photo credit: Abby Chen/Flickr/CC
Brian Hioe: You can see that people have become fewer in number at events.
Anonymous: You can see that there are less people now. But what I mean is that organizers haven’t changed very much. Maybe some people have entered the legislature or are legislators, this is a trend. I think a lot of people are still in their organizations. Both phenomenon are present.
There are two ways of looking at this. The first is that students are to begin in a temporary state. Students might do other things later on, to begin with. The other side is that NGO workers have stayed behind, but a portion of them have entered the government. The reason may be because of the change in government and a growth in opportunities. But I don’ t think it’s zero sum.
Brian Hioe: Do you think that there could be another movement such as the Sunflower Movement in Taiwan?
Anonymous: I think there could be one.
Brian Hioe: Why?
Anonymous: If we look at the reasons as to why the Sunflower Movement would appear, you’ll find that there were some organizations working with long-term aims. So as long as these organizations still exist, there’s a possibility for this to happen again. And that these long-term issues facing Taiwan, whether regarding independence/unification, or other issues, haven’t been resolved and have no way to be resolved in the short-term.
Brian Hioe: Lastly, how do you think that the Sunflower Movement could influence the international world?
Anonymous: The situation is clearer concerning Hong Kong and Japan. Because Hong Kong and Taiwanese social movements have been watching each other for a long time. A lot of Hong Kong social movements will be very concerned with what takes place in Taiwan, and wonder if they can learn something from Taiwan. It’s the same with Taiwan, concerning what Taiwan can learn from Hong Kong. In Japan,
I know that Aki and other members of SEALDs in Japan have raised that Taiwan and Hong Kong influenced them greatly. I think it’s quite clear. Internationally, the Sunflower Movement is not very well known. When we are discussing occupation movements in the past few years, for the most part, fundamentally we are still discussing Europe and America.