Perhaps much of the Sunflower Movement’s deeper, structural causes go back to the incomplete democratic transition in Taiwan. Namely, the KMT was allowed to keep existing as a political party, with the claim that the former party-state was dismantled. In order to achieve a peaceful democratic transition, many political actors guilty of crimes during the authoritarian period were allowed to get off free and even to continue participating in politics.
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Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), for example, actually was an individual who reportedly opposed allowing for open, democratic elections for electoral positions to the general public during the authoritarian period. Ma was also an ROC government official at that point in time being groomed for political office as a future KMT leader, hailing from a powerful KMT family.
There are numerous, far more culpable examples. “White Wolf” Chang An-Lo (張安樂) is another example in which someone literally responsible for killing political dissidents being allowed to run for political office. Chang is close associate of Ma’s sister Ma Yi-Nan (馬以南). James Soong (宋楚瑜), the leader of the pan-Blue People First Party was head of the Government Information Office, proves a third example, seeing as in his position as such, Soong was responsible for the suppression of political dissidents.
KMT power networks, particularly those of powerful families within the party such as Ma’s family, remain unbroken in post-authoritarian Taiwan. Having only given up on power reluctantly, it is not surprising that the KMT would continue to cling to power and continue to aspire towards their long held ideological goal of uniting Taiwan with China. Powerful political families within the KMT whose lives are far removed from everyday Taiwanese society would see little effect on their lives from such unification and so they would not mind inflicting the loss of Taiwan’s democratic freedoms on the rest of society.
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With a growing sense of political powerless at the hands of the KMT, it is not surprising that Taiwanese civil society would turn to a mass movement to try and fight back against the KMT, as well. Mass movements, particularly student movements such as the Wild Lily Movement (野百合運動), had proven the most viable means of realizing political change in Taiwan. One can see, in fact, past pan-Blue mass movements such as the Red Shirt (紅衣) movement against Chen Shui-Bian (陳水扁) as in similar vein. It may be that Taiwan’s democracy movement has broadly enshrined the mass movement as the most viable model for political change in Taiwan.