As with the Dapu, Miaoli incident, the Wang family struggle, and the Losheng Sanatorium struggle, many of the prominent causes that Sunflower Movement demonstrators rallied around was evictions of disprivileged individuals, victims of Taiwanese history, who continue to be victimized by the present Taiwanese government. This was also the case evictions of military villages such as the Shaoxing Community (紹興社區) and Huaguang Community (華光社區), which were primarily populated by elderly military veterans who had come to Taiwan with the KMT and lived in poverty for decades afterwards sometimes working odd jobs as construction workers, street vendors, and other occupations.
Huaguang Community. Photo credit: Jimmy Yen/Flickr/CC
Although their communities oftentimes consisted of poor housing, sometimes also involving squatting, with the demolition of their communities, former veterans would be driven out of homes they had lived in for decades and raised families in. Oftentimes this was for the sake of commercial development. The demolition of Huaguang Community was for the sake of developing nightclubs, bars, and restaurants in order to make the area resemble something like Tokyo’s Roppongi nightclub district, for example.
At times this came through collusion between the government and commercial developers, sometimes because of corrupt local politicians being bought off by commercial development companies, and other times this was because the commercial or infrastructure development plans of the central government called for the demolition of poor communities. Other times development companies were willing to use members of organized crime to try and intimidate residents off their land, as was also seen in the Wang family struggle and Dapu, Miaoli incident. At other times, trickery was used. Residents of the Shaoxing Community were told that it was National Taiwan University (國立臺灣大學 or NTU) which had ordered the demolition of their homes, with the claim that their community was built on NTU land, before this was later discovered to be a false claim. Demolition plans were announced in 2000, but the struggle of Huaguang residents to reside on their land had gone on for decades, with much bloodshed and even deaths.
Activists at Huaguang Community. Photo credit: bangdoll/Flickr/CC
In particular, the Huaguang Community struggle involved a number of later leaders of the Sunflower Movement, such as Lin Fei-Fan (林飛帆) and Chen Wei-Ting (陳為廷). Lin reports being hit by police during the movement and Chen notably bonded with many of Huaguang Community’s Hakka residents given that he himself is Hakka. Later members of the Untouchables’ Liberation Area were also participants.
Actions taken by students in the course of the struggle involved not only protest, but forms of direct action, in this way serving as a precursor to the Sunflower Movement. Before the demolition of the Huaguang Community, for example, students attempted to block demolition by laying their bodies within buildings slated to be demolished in March and April 2013. Numerous demonstrations, sometimes involving artistic theatrics and oftentimes preceding the later artistic aesthetic of the Untouchables’ Liberation Area, were held outside the Ministry of Justice in May and July 2013. With the final demolition of Huaguang Community, student demonstrators held a funeral for the community. In this way, young people came to the attention of media through their actions.
Photo credit: bangdoll/Flickr/CC
As with other movements, oftentimes pressure was put on the central government to act. What was particularly enraging for many young people was that the Ministry of Justice and police were willing to drive out people who had historically served in similar roles to themselves. Ma Ying-Jeou (馬英九) and Jiang Yi-Hua (江宜樺) came to be particularly hated for their actions and apparent lack of remorse. In particular, many residents of military veteran communities identified as Chinese and were loyal to the pan-Blue camp, owing to their backgrounds. But the pan-Blue and highly pro-China Ma administration has no compunction with driving them out for the sake of commercial development nonetheless.
While the government sometimes unwillingly reimbursed residents or provided them with offers of public housing, this was only done unwillingly. Residents would still have to rent their new homes, for between 12,500 and 14,500 NT per month in some offers, which sometimes they could not afford, and there were limits set on how long they could stay in public housing, with the limit placed as three years.
Photo credit: Jimmy Yen/Flickr/CC
Notably, in struggles against forced evictions, demonstrators were wholly willing to act on behalf of and even take great risks for individuals with a highly different sense of cultural and political identification than they, demonstrating that the participants of the later Sunflower Movement were far from motivated by ethno-nationalism in their actions. In part, students were probably also motivated to action by a sense of valuable Taiwanese history being lost with the demolitions of these communities and how the residents of these communities were witness to many of the crucial events of Taiwanese history in the past history—including its many tragedies.
Out of demonstrations against evictions and demolitions of military veterans’ residences, Huaguang struggle in particular largely took place in the same timeframe as the Dapu, Miaoli incident and involved many of the same actors; in this way, it was another formative incident in the development of Taiwanese civil society before the Sunflower Movement.
Photo credit: bangdoll/Flickr/CC
Other cases exist of urban evictions which were controversial, such as planned evictions for an underground extension of Tainan’s (台南) railway system, which would necessitate the eviction of residents, Toad Mountain (蟾蜍山) in Gongguan (公館), police dormitories in Yongchun (永春), the Taoyuan Aerotropolis (桃園航空城), the Miramar Resort (美麗華百樂園) in Taichung (台中), and many untold others. Consequently, a network of organizations at the local level to defend against forced evictions has come to exist all over Taiwan.