It is not always to pin down any concrete definition of what the Sunflower Movement was. But broadly speaking, the Sunflower Movement refers to the social movement which broke out in Taiwan with the storming of the Taiwanese legislature, the Legislative Yuan, on March 18th, 2014. This was the first time in history that the Taiwanese legislature had become occupied and the subsequent occupation of the Legislative Yuan would last 23 days. The movement involved a number of civic groups and regular members of society but was largely youth-led. As a result, the movement is frequently remembered as a student movement.
During the time of the Legislative Yuan occupation, an occupation encampment sprung up in the area surrounding the Legislative Yuan, an area of Taipei in which a number of government buildings are located. Several days after the initial Legislative Yuan occupation, an attempt was also made to occupy the Executive Yuan, on the night of March 23rd. Eventually the movement grew to become political crisis all-encompassing of Taiwanese society.
What the student occupiers of the Legislative Yuan and other participants in the movement had occupied the Legislative Yuan in protest of was the Cross-Strait Services Trade Agreement (CSSTA), a free trade agreement with China which was feared to be damaging of Taiwan’s ability to preserve its de facto independence from China. China claims Taiwan as part of its integral territory, despite the fact that Taiwan has its own independent, democratic government. However, at the time of the 2014 Sunflower Movement, the ruling party in Taiwan was the pro-China KMT, which sought to facilitate the eventual unification of Taiwan and China through economic means, as led by the presidential administration of Ma Ying-Jeou (馬英九).
As returning to the complexities of Taiwanese history over the past one hundred years, the KMT calls for the unification of Taiwan and China on the basis of a claimed cultural link between Taiwan and China which should not be broken, in spite of that this could be damaging of Taiwan’s democratic freedoms. But the KMT’s actions led to the building up of public anger over a period of time. This finally exploded in the form of the Legislative Yuan occupation, although the movement was in this sense the vehicle for a large set of issues not only regarding questions about Taiwanese identity, the relation of Taiwan and China, but also Taiwan’s geopolitical and socioeconomic position in the world. We might delve into these deeper layers of the Sunflower Movement, then.
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