The Rioter’s Dictionary: M to S

The Rioter’s Dictionary: M to S

"M" to "S" of the Rioter's Dictionary

A shared political vernacular and slang has developed among Taiwanese youth activists in recent years, serving as the basis for many of the Internet memes about politics which are circulated among young people on social media, and providing the visual language for much of artistic production which sprung up around the Legislative Yuan occupation during the Sunflower Movement.

The following is “M” to “S” in an alphabetical dictionary of some of the terms frequently used by activists, accompanied by artistic depictions from the Sunflower Movement or preceding movements, along with some of the protest chants or memes which sprung up during the movement itself. This is put together along with documentation of the artwork produced during the Sunflower Movement, seeing as it was deeply rooted in this activist vocabulary and not so easy to parse out from it. This name, “Rioter’s Dictionary”, comes from “baomin” (暴民) or “rioter”, a term that Taiwanese youth activists jokingly refer to themselves as.

Ma Ying-Jeou Artwork/Memes

Ma Ying-Jeou (馬英九) artwork constituted a genre into itself in memes and artwork regarding the Sunflower Movement. Artwork depicting Ma as a horse, given that his last name shares the same character as “Horse” in Chinese, was common, as well artwork depicting Ma as growing antlers out of his ears, riffing off of a past gaffe in which Ma referred to deer antlers as not horns, but hair which grew out of the ears of deer, a statement which led many to question whether Ma lacked even a basic education about animal biology.

Photo credit: Charlie Chang/Flickr/CC

Ma thus acquired the nickname of “horse-brain jellyfish” (馬腦水母). Ma was also sometimes referred to as “Ma Ying-Jeou Nine Percent,” because his approval rating was only 9% at the time of the Sunflower Movement, and the last character of his name continues the character for nine in Chinese (九).

Other times, in line with accusations that Ma was seeking to sell out Taiwan to China, Ma was depicted as literally selling Taiwan. In line with the view that Ma was a puppet of China, Ma was sometimes depicted as dressed in a panda suit. Perhaps in a case of Godwin’s law, attendant accusations that Ma was a dictator or acting in dictatorial fashion, it was also common for Ma to be depicted as Hitler.

Photo credit: Charlie Chang/Flickr/CC

As such, there were frequent references to Ma as “Dictator Ma,” but because of the perception that Ma Ying-Jeou was not necessarily al all-powerful dictator but instead a fool who had somehow ended up in the position of ROC president, Ma was also referred to as “Bumbler Ma” or “Ma the Bumbler,” a phrase originally drawn from a The Economist article on Ma in a manner indicative of the effects that international news media has on Taiwan. Perhaps the movement’s understanding of Ma ran between two extremes in this light, seeing Ma both as a menacing, all-controlling dictator and as a farcical, idiotic bumbler, seeing as although Ma was seen as an effective politician when he was elected president, following eight years as mayor of Taipei, Taiwan’s capital and largest city, and Ma continued to be seen as dangerous for his moves aimed at facilitating the political unification of Taiwan and China.

Still another genre consisted of sexualized depictions of Ma. With the slogan, “I don’t need sex, because my government fucks me everyday,” sometimes Ma would be depicted as literally being fucked by China and being all too happy to do so. Perhaps along such lines, maybe evincing a male-centered nationalism, Ma was sometimes depicted in homosexual trysts with close associates of his in government such as King Pu-Tsung (金溥聰) or Jiang Yi-Hua (江宜樺).

Photo credit: Abby Chen/Flickr/CC

After a series of incidents in which athletes or politicians seemed to do badly and some elderly or sick individuals died after shaking hands with Ma Ying-Jeou, Ma’s handshake also came to be referred to as a “handshake of death. As such, whenever Ma Ying-Jeou shakes hands with anyone, this is commented on in the media, something which also became an object of memes during the Sunflower Movement.

More generally, major KMT figures such as Ma, King, or Jiang were mocked in many memes throughout the movement.

Photo credit: othree/Flickr/CC


Movement Injuries

Movement injuries (運動傷害) is a term used among activist for burn-out after political participation, sometimes due to the emotional strain of participation, and sometimes directly as the result of physical injuries from being attacked by police during the movement. Particularly after incidents of police violence such as 324, many reported “movement injuries.” As a result of the possibility of “movement injuries,” participants in the Sunflower Movement noticeably attributed a great deal of importance to taking care of emotional labor costs during the movement, particularly with regard to those who had never participated before in social movements.

Photo credit: Toomore Chiang/Flickr/CC


Movie/Video Game Parodies

As young people were the majority of participants in the movement, it is not surprising that pop culture references generally abounded in the movement, including to recent movies or video games.

Photo credit: Charlie Chang/Flickr/CC



Music played an important role in the Sunflower Movement insofar as there are many activist bands in Taiwan and many performed on-site in support of the movement. Likewise, Fire EX’s “Island’s Sunrise” became the theme of the movement. But it was also popular to autotune statements by politicians into songs mocking them and this has been a feature of Taiwanese kuso culture for some time. This occurred during the statement regarding statements by KMT politicians, as well as Wang Shi-Jian’s (王世堅) “Over my dead body!” quote.

Photo credit: othree/Flickr/CC


Natural Independence

“Natural independence” (天然獨立) is a term used to refer to the fact that the current generation of Taiwanese young people were born after any so-called “reunification” of Taiwan and China at the hands of the KMT had long since become impossible, have no direct experience of China, and have generally only known democratic politics in Taiwan, having no direct experience of KMT authoritarianism. As such, Taiwanese young people are “naturally independent,” and naturally do not see Taiwan as part of China, even if a China-centric education system continues to exist among many Taiwanese schools. This may not translate into overtly wishing for Taiwanese independence or seeing a need to break from the ROC framework, but either way, Taiwanese people by and large simply do not see Taiwan as part of China. 

Photo credit: Charlie Chang/Flickr/CC


Never Give Up

“Never give up” became a protest slogan during the movement since, because the situation looked hopeless for Taiwan, demonstrators saw themselves as struggling against adverse odds.

Photo credit: Max Lin/Flickr/CC


Over My Dead Body!

Taipei district councilor Wang Shi-Jian (王世堅) of the DPP shouted in a mixture of Chinese and English during “White Wolf” Chang An-Lo’s visit to the Legislative Yuan that he would allow Chang into the Legislative Yuan “Over my dead body!” (要進入立法院必需踏過我們屍體). Apart from that adulation flowed in for Wang, this was also made into numerous Internet memes. The phrase later became a signature catchphrase for Wang in his political career.

Photo credit: kent Chuang/Flickr/CC



Given the young age of many participants of the Sunflower Movement, appeals were directed towards parents explaining why they were participating in the movement.

Photo credit: Charlie Chang/Flickr/CC


Passing Through

“Passing through” was another meme which resulted from “White Wolf” Chang An-Lo’s (張安樂) visit to the Legislative Yuan. Chang was not apprehended by police for holding a demonstration without a permit because he claimed to only be “passing through”. Likewise, police turned a blind eye to the actions of his followers, including several physical attacks on students, probably because KMT member Hau Lung-Bin (郝龍斌) was then mayor of Taipei. As a result, activists took to using the term “passing through” as a term for demonstrations without a permit, particularly when demonstrators surrounded Zhongzheng First Police Precinct (台北市政府警察局中正第一分局) and demanded the resignation of Zhongzheng First Police Precinct Chief Fang Yang-ning (方仰寧) on the night of April 11th for the use of force in driving out occupiers who refused to leave after the withdrawal from the Legislative Yuan on April 10th.

Photo credit: Charlie Chang/Flickr/CC


People Are The Masters Of The Country

With the view that government officials, including elected officials, were deying the will of the people when government should act to serve the people, it became a popular call among social movement activists that “The people are the masters of the country” (人民是國家的主人). This was to be a reminder to recalcitrant politicians or other political leaders that the true leaders of the country were the people and that they should serve the people, rather than the other way around.

Photo credit: othree/Flickr/CC


Performance Art

Performance art took place in the Legislative Yuan encampment many times. Anti-nuclear protests before the Sunflower Movement also featured performance art, focusing on the potential destruction caused by a nuclear disaster in Taiwan, and including performances by high-profile Taiwanese performance artists such as “Black Wolf” Yingfan Psalmanazar (黑狼姚映凡). The Untouchables’ Liberation Area did many performances, particularly targeting free trade and capitalism, sometimes also drawing from traditional Chinese iconography regarding the burning of “ghost money” (金紙) and the like.

Photo credit: Eddy Huang/Flickr/CC



Given the discourse in the movement about the role of police in Taiwan, particularly after 324, a poster featuring the words “Under the uniform, we are all Taiwanese” and showing a policeman taking off his uniform to reveal Taiwan printed on his shirt underneath was widely circulated. Apart from suggesting that police should stand on the sides of their fellow Taiwanese, that is to say, protestors, this also suggested that demonstrators should have sympathy for police as fellow Taiwanese.

Photo credit: Charlie Chang/Flickr/CC


Pray For Taiwan

Pray for Taiwan was a protest slogan calling on support from the people for Taiwan in its hour of need.

Photo credit: Charlie Chang/Flickr/CC


QR Codes

QR codes were placed on signs in order to convey information about the movement that paper signs could not possibly fit.

Photo credit: 中岑 范姜/Flickr/CC


Razor Wire Fences

The razor wire fences set up in the occupation space by police became decorated over the movement by occupiers.

Photo credit:



Although youth activists have sometimes been referred to disparagingly by media as “rioters” (暴民), activists have sometimes also embraced this label. Sometimes this is in a joking or facetious manner, or to stress that they are willing to undertake radical actions, at the risk of harm coming to themselves, for the sake of what they feel to be right. This term is particularly used in PTT Internet culture or on Facebook and other forms of social media.

Photo credit: Tinru/Flickr/CC


ROC Flag Turned Upside Down

At several points during the occupation of the Legislative Yuan, the ROC flag was turned upside down in the Legislative Yuan, and the ROC flag positioned outside the Legislative Yuan was also turned upside down. In part of this representing how students largely did not identify with the ROC, the institutions of the KMT, or any form of Chinese identity, and representing how students were inverting these forms of identity, we can also take this as reflective of how the Legislative Yuan occupation and encampment surrounding the Legislative Yuan became something resembling Bahkhtin’s carnivalesque, or the temporary autonomous zone, in which the rules of society were temporarily suspended or turned upside down entirely.

Photo credit: Eddy Huang/Flickr/CC

Indeed, as a free zone in which food, water, and clothing were distributed freely, in many ways, the Legislative Yuan was a space temporarily at a remove from the capitalistic society which surrounded it. And as an occupation in which, to countervene a blocked democratic process, students took to forcibly occupying the Legislative Yuan in the cause of realizing democracy, this bespeaks the numerous symbolic inversions present in the act of occupy legislature to retake democracy. This was the symbolic power of the occupation, perhaps, as simultaneously an act of political theater and a very real act of seizing political power.


Save Your Own Country

“Save your own country” (自己的國家自己救) was a slogan that became popular in the movement, frequently seen on t-shirts and the like. The notion would be that young people were taking the destiny of their own country in their hands through the Sunflower Movement occupation of the Legislative Yuan and that there was no one else who would save Taiwan besides its future inheritors, today’s young people.

Photo credit: Charlie Chang/Flickr/CC



Signs in the Legislative Yuan occupation were made from all manners of material, sometimes consisting simple signs made with marker on cardboard to computer-generated out displayed on printouts, and sometimes ink prints. Notably, approximately after the Sunflower Movement, a section of the occupation encampment in the weeklong occupation of the Ministry of Education consisted of a workshop for making prints.

Photo credit: Felix the Bear/Flickr/CC


Small Things

“Small things” or “small pleasures” (小確幸) is a phrase taken from the title of the Haruki Murakami short story, is a popular way to refer to small pleasures that young people have. However, it is an issue for many that all they have seems to “small pleasures” and “small things” and nothing more.

Photo credit: Charlie Chang/Flickr/CC


Strawberry Tribe

Compared to their parents, young people are derided as a soft and weak “strawberry tribe” (草莓族), as well as a bone-sucking tribe (啃老族) that leeches off of their parents, and a generation of losers (魯蛇).


Many stickers were produced during the occupation regarding the movement.

Photo credit: Duke Lin/Flickr/CC


Sticky Notes On Media Vans

As a means of protest about news coverage of the movement, sticky notes covered with messages critical of the media were posted on news vans at the occupation site.



Sun cakes (太陽餅) became an in-joke of the Sunflower Movement following the attempted Executive Yuan occupation. Executive Yuan Deputy Secretary-General Hsiao Chia-chi (蕭家淇) subsequently complained that students who had gotten into his office ate his sun cakes. While there were many individuals in Taiwanese society that saw the attempted Executive Yuan occupation as an incident in which the movement had gotten out of hand and saw some of the student participants of the attempted occupation’s actions as out of control, Hsiao was mocked for his wrong sense of priorities if he cared more about his suncakes than the danger to Taiwanese democracy from the CSSTA.

Photo credit: Charlie Chang/Flickr/CC

This led to a Facebook event on March 24th entitled “I Return Your Dessert, You Return My Rights” (甜點還給你 權力還給我) in which netizens ordered and shipped over 150 boxes of sun cakes to Hsiao and sun cake imagery was frequently seen in the occupation encampment thereafter.

Photo credit: 中岑 范姜/Flickr/CC



Given the name of the movement, Sunflowers featured prominently in artwork.

Photo credit: Charlie Chang/Flickr/CC


Sun Yat-Sen

Depictions of Sun Yat-sen (孫中山) in artwork at the Legislative Yuan reflected conflicting views on identity in the movement, seeing as Sun, a symbol of the ROC, was sometimes depicted as sad about the state of his nation. Seeing as Taiwanese independence advocates usually back away from ROC iconography and view the ROC and its emblems with distaste as the emblems of a colonial regime, this indicates how the Sunflower Movement was not a uniformly pro-Taiwanese independence movement and how some participants did, in fact, identify with the ROC. Sometimes Sun is used as a way to express identification with the ROC while disassociating one’s self from the actions of Chiang Kai-Shek (蔣介石) during the authoritarian period.

Photo credit: Charlie Chang/Flickr/CC

The Rioter’s Dictionary:


Photo credit: billy1125/Flickr/CC