Although lawyers were an integral part of coordination in the Sunflower Movement, it probably is also true that movement participants sometimes had a flexible view of the law, whether domestic or international. Demonstrators sometimes disavowed actions that they disagreed with as illegal and their own actions to be justified even when they themselves also broke the law. That much may be a characteristic of any social movement. This perhaps flexible view of law can also perhaps be seen in numerous lawsuits filed against the government for wrongdoing after the movement, with accusations including attempted murder against Jiang Yi-Hua (江宜樺), seen by many as responsible for the police violence which occurred upon 324, or even the continual justification of storming the Legislative Yuan with the claim that this was “returning” the legislature to the people, as it should be. This may have been the worldview that, in any and all cases, law should reflect the people’s justice and so if the law went against this, the law must be wrong, not the people. Or this could be seen as the attempt to make the law fit the shared life of Taiwanese.
Photo credit: Charlie Chang/Flickr/CC
Nevertheless, it is also true that Sunflower Movement activists were in fact later successfully in getting the legal institutions of the government to bend to public pressure through their actions. While key figures of the Sunflower Movement including Lin Fei-Fan (林飛帆), Chen Wei-Ting (陳為廷), Huang Kuo-Chang (黃國昌), Tsay Ting-Kuei (蔡丁貴), Wei Yang (魏揚), and 118 others faced charges for public disturbance, agitating the public, and attacking police, they were eventually acquitted in 2017 with the view that their actions were justified civil disobedience.
Photo credit: Toomore Chiang/Flickr/CC
It may be, in fact, that the Taiwanese justice system is one which is highly permeable and vulnerable to backing down in the face of public pressure, something which Sunflower Movement activists have themselves criticized in regards to cases of executions which seemed like they were meant to satisfy public outrage. This occurs even as sometimes the rich and wealthy get off of from crimes of which they are clearly guilty. Nevertheless, as pointed out by jurist Carl Schmitt, there is no such thing as truly objective, value free and impartial “rule of law” and law is inherently situational and subject to change. We see this perhaps quite clearly in the workings of the Taiwanese legal system.