Outside of electoral politics, one can point to many events following the Sunflower Movement as marking other afterlives of the movement. Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement (雨傘運動), which was similarly concerned with the issue of Chinese encroachment on Hong Kong’s sovereignty in the years since the 1997 Handover, took inspiration in part from the Sunflower Movement as another occupation-style movement and one which faced many of the same challenges.
The 2014 Umbrella Movement. Photo credit: Pasu Au Yeung/WikiCommons/CC
In particular, leading figures of the Umbrella Movement such as Joshua Wong (黃之鋒) had known individuals as Lin Fei-Fan (林飛帆) and Chen Wei-Ting (陳為廷) for years preceding each movement. Structural similarities can also be observed in how both movements divided between a central leadership and a more politically radical splinter faction and there were internal debates regarding the roles of civic nationalism and ethno-nationalism. Political developments following both movements also proved similar, with post-Umbrella Movement activists seeking to enter Hong Kong electoral politics in a way reminiscent of Taiwanese activists after the Sunflower Movement, but they face the challenge of the threat of direct arrest by China, as eventually happened with Wong and other Umbrella Movement activists. A network of Asian social activist movement leaders, the Network of Young Democratic Asians, came into being in 2016, but it remains to be seen how this can be brought to bear on Asian politics.
Likewise, it remained that many of the issues up for contention during the Sunflower Movement, in fact, remained unresolved following the end of the movement, requiring further protest. As already mentioned, there was Lin Yi-Hsiung’s (林義雄) hunger strike against nuclear power in Taiwan several weeks after the withdrawal from the Legislative Yuan, something which also mobilized tens of thousands onto the streets of Taiwan.
Demonstrators gathered outside the Ministry of Education occupation encampment in August 2015. Photo credit: Brian Hioe
But more than one year after the withdrawal from the Legislative Yuan, Taiwan would see an occupation of the Ministry of Education against planned textbook reforms by the Ma administration which would teach Taiwanese history in a decidedly pro-China direction. In a manner reminiscent of the movement against “patriotic education” in Hong Kong originally spearheaded by Joshua Wong and his Scholarism (學民思潮) group of secondary school students, this was a movement largely led by high schoolers themselves, which grew in intensity throughout summer 2015.
But following the suicide of student leader Dai Lin (林冠華) stirring youth activists to action in apparent despair over the course of the movement, this led to high school students forcing their way past the gates and occupying the parking lot of the Ministry of Education for a week. The course of this movement was structurally similar to the Sunflower Movement not only in the structure of the occupation encampment itself, but with regard to how the occupation negotiated with government officials, reacted to police violence, and blamed the Ma administration for the suicide. The movement eventually ended after a week, with Sunflower Movement veterans, who were usually older, lending a hand in a background role.
Chen Wei-Ting and other demonstrators against the Ma-Xi meeting at Songshan Airport in November 2015. Photo credit: 王奕凱/Facebook
Spontaneous demonstrations against the meeting between Ma Ying-Jeou (馬英九) and Chinese president Xi Jinping (習近平) in November 2015 was also coordinated by participants in the Sunflower Movement, including the participation of members of groups such as Taiwan March and the Black Island Youth Front. Chen Wei-Ting (陳為廷) took a leading role in these, personally leading a desperate charge into Songshan Airport to try and prevent Ma’s plane from taking off.