The Rioter’s Dictionary: T to Z

The Rioter’s Dictionary: T to Z

"T" to "Z" 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 “T” to “Z” 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.


As a movement concerned with the future of Taiwan, it is not entirely surprising that much artwork featured Taiwan.

Photo credit: Charlie Chang/Flickr/CC


Taiwan Is Not For Sale

Taiwan Is Not For Sale was a frequently seen protest slogan, in light of the view that Ma Ying-Jeou (馬英九) and the KMT were aiming to sell out Taiwan.

Photo credit: Charlie Chang/Flickr/CC


The Crowd

Unsurprisingly for an occupation-style mass movement, depictions of crowds featured heavily in Sunflower Movement artwork.

Photo credit: Charlie Chang/Flickr/CC


Thirty Years of Democracy, Gone Up In 30 Seconds

“Thirty years of democracy, gone up in 30 seconds”was a slogan which raised the fact that the passing of the CSSTA in under thirty seconds was an undemocratic act by the KMT, in line with past KMT authoritarianism, and which seemed to hit the reset button on the progress made by Taiwanese democracy to date. While this is perhaps a hyperbole, this statement comes as a reaction to the broader sense that political freedoms in Taiwan had decreased since the KMT’s return to power under the Ma administration, of which the passage of the CSSTA was a particularly dramatic act.

Photo credit: Charlie Chang/Flickr/CC



As with many countries with a small geographic area, Taiwan is a nation dominated by its capital city, with resources flowing from the rest of the country to Taipei. Conditions of uneven development and uneven resource distribution between Taipei and the rest of the country are worsened by the fact that as Taiwan’s wealthiest city and a waishengren (外省人) stronghold, Taipei has a disproportionate say in the governance of Taiwan overall, but it does not reflect the rest of the country. The majority population outside of Taipei is benshengren (本省人), for example, and Taiwanese is hardly spoken at all in Taipei.

As such, Taipei is sometimes perceived as a city of political elites, of self-proclaimed “high class waishengren”(高級外省人) who continue to constitute a political and economic elite which rules over the rest of Taiwan. It is joked sometimes that residents of Taipei fly more often to other countries than they travel to other parts of Taiwan. No surprise, then, that such individuals who have no opposition towards the political unification of Taiwan and China, since as global elites, they would hardly be affected. Or why such individuals would have a grossly distorted perception of the rest of Taiwan.

Photo credit: tenz1225/Flickr/CC

Consequently, Taipei is sometimes referred to as tianlongguo (天龍國) and its residents as (天龍人), meaning “Celestial Dragon Country” and “Celestial Dragon People.” The term originates from the Japanese manga/anime One Piece, in which the Celestial Dragons are a class of nobles who live in “Celestial Dragon Country” and see themselves as so above the rest of humanity that that they wear space suits when they travel outside of their country in order to avoid breathing the same air as the unwashed, common masses.


Today Taiwan, Tomorrow Hong Kong/Please Step On Hong Kong’s Corpse To Advance Forward, Taiwan

“Today Taiwan, tomorrow Hong Kong” (今日台灣,明日香港) and its reverse slogan, “Today’s Hong Kong, tomorrow’s Taiwan” (今日香港,明日台灣) were sometimes seen during the course of the Sunflower Movement suggesting the shared fate of Taiwan and Hong Kong due to threats to their sovereignty from China. Either the suggestion was that today Taiwan was worse off than Hong Kong, meaning that Hong Kong may tomorrow face Taiwan’s fate, or that vice-versa, Taiwan might face Hong Kong’s more dire fate sometime in the near future.

Photo credit:  A/Flickr/CC

Along the lines of such sentiments, in a much-discussed incident during the movement, a man from Hong Kong was spotted at the occupation encampment holding a sign saying “I am a Hong Konger. Please step on Hong Kong’s corpse to advance forward, Taiwan” (我是香港人,請台灣踏在我們的屍體上,想你們的路) indicating a personal sense of hopelessness but suggesting that Taiwan should give up on Hong Kong and proceed forward itself. After the end of the Sunflower Movement, of course, the Umbrella Movement took place. 

Photo credit: PTT


Traditional Taiwanese Culture

Aspects of traditional Taiwanese culture, particularly religion, were draw on in artwork in the Legislative Yuan encampment. This was likely a product of interest in identity by Taiwanese young people, but they often infused traditional depictions with modern aesthetics.

Photo credit: Charlie Chang/Flickr/CC


Want Want

Given demonstrations against the Want Want (旺旺)  group preceding the Sunflower Movement as part of the anti-media monopoly movement, anti-Want Want posters were also visible in the Legislative Yuan encampment.

Photo credit: Charlie Chang/Flickr/CC


We Die, You Live

The slogan “We die, you live” was sometimes used to emphasize the life-or-death nature of the protest movement, given that Ma and members of the KMT did not care if the members of Taiwanese society lived or died or not in their willingness to sell them out to China.

Photo credit: Kent Chuang/Flickr/CC



Sometimes translated as “hipster,” wenqing (文青) is a phrase often used to refer to young people who live an aesthetically oriented lifestyle. Sometimes the accusation is made that participants in social movements are all wenqing and simply there to show off for the sake of appearances, as part of aesthetic shallowness, as part of a lifestyle which may involve spending long periods of time in coffee shops or in which one might even open a coffee shop themselves. But still others protest that living an aesthetically-oriented life is one way to distract from one’s lack of material belongings, given the low salaries paid to young people, and the lack of any business opportunity which leads many to open coffee shops as the only viable form of entrepreneurship. The flipside of this would be the view of young people as fenqing, or “angry youth” (憤青) or “enlightened youth” (覺青) that had been enlightened into concern with social issues, a change in public image for young people after the Sunflower Movement. 

Photo credit: Abby Chen/Flickr/CC


When Dictatorship Becomes A Fact, Revolution Is A Duty

With the agreement of the student occupiers, Shih Ming-Teh’s (施明德) daughter, Shih Mi-Na (施蜜娜) wrote the slogan “When dictatorship is a fact, revolution is a duty” in calligraphy on the side of the Legislative Yuan on 321. This phrase was subsequently adopted as a slogan of the movement, having originally been taken from the 1974 Carnation Revolution in Portugal

Photo credit: Duke Lin/Flickr/CC


White Dolphin

“White Dolphin” (白海豚) was a nickname for former vice-president and eventual KMT chair Wu Den-Yih (吳敦義) coined when, in response to criticisms that hotly protested construction of a landfill and naptha cracker by Guoguang Petrochemical Technology (國光石化) would endanger the habitat of the endangered Chinese white dolphin near Taichung Harbor, Wu claimed that the Chinese white dolphin has an “innate ability” to make U-turns, which would allow it avoid the landfill. The laughability of the pseudoscience of this claim aside, the phrase became an emblem for poor excuses made by the KMT to justify their actions and in this way, an emblem of KMT hypocrisy. A song was composed mocking Wu, the “Song of the White Dolphin” (白海豚之歌).

Photo credit: 小聖蚊的治國日記

Wu’s “White Dolphin” nickname has resurfaced several times, particularly when Wu has suddenly made U-turns on previous policy positions in order to jump onboard with public sentiment or avoid controversy, as with Wu’s suddenly reversal of position to support gay marriage in May 2017 after previous comments in which Wu claimed that gay marriage was unnatural and “gave [him] the creeps.”


V For Vendetta

Given the Sunflower Movement’s inspiration from the Occupy Wall Street movement, in which V for Vendetta iconography featured heavily, V for Vendetta imagery was also commonplace in the Sunflower Movement.

Photo credit: 432_P/Flickr/CC



Z>B ( 利大於弊)was a phrase seen in artworks on the Legislative Yuan occupation encampment parodying claims by the government that the advantages of the CSSTA were greater than the disadvantages, an idiomatic phrase in Chinese (利大於弊) which was rendered into English as the statement Z>B, a spin off how 利大於弊 would be phonetically rendered in English.

Photo credit: Harry Li/Flickr/CC


318 Student Movement VS The Sunflower Movement

After the Sunflower Movement, seeing as that young people had seized the political imagination of Taiwanese society, some became critical of using the term “Sunflower Movement” (太陽花學運) with the view that usage of the term had become commodified, or that “Sunflower” had become something like a brand name. As such, some began to prefer referring to the movement was the “318 Student Movement” (318 學運) referring to the day of the initial occupation of the Legislative Yuan, rather than as the “Sunflower Movement.”

Photo credit: Charlie Chang/Flickr/CC



The average salary for a university graduate in Taiwan is 22,000 NTD per month, which is far below what is needed to survive on one’s own. As such, young people are critical of the “22K lifestyles” forced upon them, well below subsistence salary and necessitating support from one’s parents in order to survive. Some of the older generation have proved unsympathetic, claiming disbelief, or suggesting that they survived on less back in the day, but, of course, that was because of inflation. 


Photo credit: Abby Chen/Flickr/CC



After the use of heavy police violence against students and other young people during the attempted occupation of the Executive Yuan on 324, the incident rapidly became the object of many internet memes. A picture of a man wearing a black jacket bleeding from his face was widely circulated, sometimes with accompanying text.

Photo credit: Eddy Huang/Flickr/CC



689 was a term originating from PTT slang used to refer to Ma Ying-Jeou (馬英九) and supporters of Ma Ying-Jeou, Ma having won the 2008 presidential election with 689. 689 would be one of the numerous examples of “number slang” used in PTT discourse. 689 is a term used to supporters of Ma Ying-Jeou in derogatory fashion by youth activists, although youth activists themselves might own up to having once been “689s” themselves in having voted for or supported Ma Ying-Jeou in 2008.

Strangely enough, Tsai Ing-Wen (蔡英文) would later also be elected in 2016 with 6.89 million votes, something activists not only found funny but wondered if this was a sign that Tsai would eventually go the way of Ma in moving towards conservative political policies despite the progressive political platform she ran on in order to attract the youth vote.

Photo credit: tinru/Flickr/CC

The term “689” also has a life of its own in Hong Kong, seeing as Chief Executive CY Leung (梁振英), the much-hated antagonist of the Umbrella Movement, won his position in 2012 with 689 votes from the 1,200 member election committee which decides who will be Hong Kong’s Chief Executive, the highest political position in Hong Kong. 689, then, was also used as a derogatory term for Leung. Seeing as Leung’s election victory in 2012 took place after Ma’s election victory in 2008, there is the possibility that the use of “689” as a term in Hong Kong is because of Taiwanese influence, or this could simply be a case of convergent discourse between Hong Kong and Taiwan, which both share a vibrant Internet culture as undergirding youth activism.

The Rioter’s Dictionary:


Photo credit: othree/Flickr/CC