Interview: Chien Hui Ju
Chien Hui Ju is a journalist at the Liberty Times. The following interview was conducted on October 27th, 2017.
Brian Hioe: At the time of the Sunflower Movement, you were studying in Sweden?
Chien Hui Ju: Yes, as an exchange student for one year. That was in the latter half of the year.
At the time when 318 broke out, I kept looking at Facebook. That day, we had gotten out of class and we were eating. It was sometime at night over there. I saw my friend live streaming. Or somebody live streaming. I’m not sure where the live stream came from, but it was what was going on in the Legislative Yuan.
And other people hadn’t seen this yet, because they were eating. I kept looking and was like, “Oh God! Why am I not in Taiwan?” If I were in Taiwan, I would have definitely gone there with friends. I watched and watched and felt quite helpless. As though at this time, I couldn’t do anything, but I also felt quite angry.
Brian Hioe: Were there a lot of exchange students in Sweden?
Photo credit: Tinru/Flickr/CC
Chien Hui Ju: There are quite a lot of Taiwanese there. There probably were twenty students at school. Quite a lot. But other people later started watching with me and a few of my better friends started watching for me. But it’s an engineering school, so they might not participate in social movements or anything in Taiwan.
With a few of my better friends, we started discussing whether we could do anything in Sweden. Later on, we found everyone to discuss. Probably several dozen people came to discuss what we could do in Sweden to express our views. After we discussed, something else happened, that day when the police were beating students. We were also watching live streams then. Everyone had all met to make lemon tarts or something like that. We all felt that we couldn’t keep going on, so sat down to watch the live stream.
We decided to first organize the Taiwanese people in Sweden to see how many people were concerned with this issue. We started a Facebook group or Facebook page and pulled everyone in. And we thought that in Sweden, we could allow the international world to know what happened. We weren’t in a big city, so we thought that we should hold up signs and hand out flyers in a bigger city. Stuff like that.
Brian Hioe: How many people participated?
Chien Hui Ju: Probably ten or so people. Not a lot of people. But people from all over Sweden. We wrote a petition and went and gave it to the representative office there.
Brian Hioe: Did you connect with other students in other parts of Europe?
Chien Hui Ju: I don’t think so. We just did it ourselves. But we did twice. The first time was giving the petition to the representative office and handing out flyers. A lot of people came to ask us and we would give it to them. We translated it to Swedish on the petition, regarding what happened. Quite a lot of people came, so we explained it to them.
Later on, “Island’s Sunrise” came out, so we sang the song on the street and made a video. Of us signing it in all these different places. Because we later made a Facebook page, we asked everyone to pass along pictures and video.
Brian Hioe: I remember there were solidarity activities for 330 then across Europe.
Chien Hui Ju: I think there was. Plus singing songs together.
We also helped translate information about the movement. I asked a Swedish friend of mine to help us translate into Swedish. Wasn’t there something to translate information about the movement into different languages on a Facebook post?
Brian Hioe: Ah, I know who organized that.
Chien Hui Ju: Swedish friends of ours would become concerned with the topic and after seeing it on the news tell us about related reports they had seen.
It was quite moving, this sense that everyone had come together to help Taiwan. For some reason, many Swedish people seemed to know at that point. But it may have been because the Swedish friends we had already knew a greater deal about Asia. They already knew the relation between Taiwan and China and could talk about Chiang Kai-Shek or things like that, which was sort of surprising. But, in any case, this sense of being together was quite moving.
Brian Hioe: What kind of feelings did you have?
Chien Hui Ju: Later on, I felt it was quite hard to endure, as though I was unable to do anything outside of Taiwan, including not being able to go the occupation site together and to participate directly. Listening to the song, “Goodnight Taiwan!”, we would all cry. It was quite hard, it made me really want to go back to Taiwan. So I felt that although I was quite on the outside, was unable to express my views, and was unsure how I could help this movement, outside of Taiwan, I felt that my sense of Taiwanese identity became stronger.
Brian Hioe: Do you think that this strengthened?
Chien Hui Ju: Yes, I think so. I felt that this became stronger. For many friends, this was the first time that they had participated in a social movement protest, small or otherwise. From then on, everyone began to care more about Taiwan-related issues. Otherwise, they rarely discussed this.
Photo credit: Y.H. Kao/Flickr/CC
Brian Hioe: Were there any reactions from Swedish society then?
Chien Hui Ju: It was mostly when we were handing out flyers and they would come ask what was going on. Or they would take pictures with us and tell us, “Good luck!” It was quite moving.
Brian Hioe: Did you have any views on the decision making body in the Legislative Yuan?
Chien Hui Ju: We were quite far removed, so less so. Outside of Taiwan, it was just watching their actions and seeing what had happened. We didn’t have much views towards their actions.
Brian Hioe: What were the sources of information you had then?
Chien Hui Ju: I read them all of what was available to me. The Apple Daily, Liberty Times, United Daily. But at that point, I remember some information came from Taiwanese Facebook groups for students in Europe.
Chien Hui Ju: I think it was definitely opposed to the KMT, but the source of that was that it came from not wanting Taiwan to be sold off. What we were concerned with is not wanting unification, for the sake of Taiwan as a whole. But this it would be caught up with opposition to the KMT, because the KMT leans towards China.
Brian Hioe: What was discussed more in Sweden?
Chien Hui Ju: It was mostly opposition to the black box. Opposition to how the KMT could do this.
Brian Hioe: Do you think that there was any political leanings to the movement? Because it seems to me that many social movement participants claim to be left-leaning. And social movement participants tend to be left-leaning on a number of issues.
Chien Hui Ju: Social movements are probably more left-leaning. Because if it were right-leaning as a movement, they would probably say that the CSSTA was good for Taiwan’s economy or going along with international trends. But what the left-wing cares about is more the lives of Taiwanese people. Even there may be a question mark regarding what they say about the economy. But the left-wing cares more about our national identification and our way of life, not making decisions primarily founded on the economy.
Brian Hioe: Three years later, how do you think that this movement has influenced Taiwanese politics?
Chien Hui Ju: I think that it’s had a big influence. To take example of Yilan, for example, Yilan later had the youngest city councillor in Taiwan take power. This was definitely because of the influence of the Sunflower Movement giving her a political opportunity, otherwise it’s quite difficult. Because she had no political party and was an independent. It would be easier to join the DPP and gain their support in Yilan, but at that time, she ran on the basis of appearing from the Sunflower Movement, as a new political force. And she won quite easily.
Three years have passed. Next year when she runs, people will probably discuss whether the influence of the Sunflower Movement has thinned, because time has passed. Should she consider whether to join a political party? Everyone is watching to see what she will do.
Brian Hioe: What do you think people from social movements are doing now? You yourself later became part of the Liberty Times. Such as your friends from Sweden.
Chien Hui Ju: They’ve been awakened in some sense. Should I say, in the direction of pro-Taiwan views or Taiwanese independence? I’m not sure, can I say that? But that Taiwan is not a part of China. Similar views have become deeper among my friends. Originally, they didn’t like to discuss political issues.
After I came back, people would tell me things such as when they organized an activity at school and people would sing songs, a Chinese student who was normally friendly with everyone became extremely angry after hearing everyone sing “Island’s Sunrise.” He left and later wrote some angry comments on Facebook, such as “Why do you have to bring political views into this activity?” And it was very clear what his views were. My friends would feel that this isn’t very good.
So we’d discuss these kind of issues or have awareness of these kinds of issues. Not related to the CSSTA, what is most significant may be awareness of Taiwanese independence. [Laughs] Although most of them might not say that they are pro-Taiwanese independence, they would have the view that we’re not the same as China, and that we’re not the same country.
Photo credit: Toomore Chiang/Flickr/CC
Brian Hioe: How do you think China looks at the current political circumstance in Taiwan?
Chien Hui Ju: I think they still want to control us? But I think they may be “Looking at us fight from atop the mountain,” to use the Taiwanese idiom. They might not be able to directly influence us, but through the media, such as through the China Times, it might through indirect means that they try to enter and influence Taiwan. But otherwise it’s watching pan-Blue fight with pan-Green and seeing how they may try and take advantage of that.
Brian Hioe: Do you think that there could be another social movement in Taiwan such as the Sunflower Movement?
Chien Hui Ju: It might be a long time. After the DPP has taken power, social movements have become weaker. Don’t you think so too? I think it’s very clear. But that strength before was opposition to the KMT combined with the sort of awareness of the need to protect Taiwan, which is why such a powerful force would appear. Now, because the ruling party has changed, people still don’t know what to do and are still watching. People are still accumulating their feelings, but for such a large movement to occur again is quite difficult.
Brian Hioe: Lastly, do you think that the Sunflower Movement could influence international social movements? Or the international world?
Chien Hui Ju: I think so. Of course. It’s connected students across many countries and Taiwanese people in many countries. And internationally, much media reported on it. It seems like people feel they have to be concerned with Taiwan and China and the future of this issue. More people know that Taiwan and China are not the same country. So I think it was international in that sense.