Perhaps the best known splinter tendency of the Sunflower Movement was 賤民解放區, which can be translated as something like the “Untouchables’ Liberation Area”. Members of this group were typically farther left than the mainstream of the Legislative Yuan occupiers, in critiquing the CSSTA not because it was a free trade agreement signed with China, but on the basis of opposition towards policies of free trade as a whole. Members of the Untouchables’ Liberation had other radical demands, such as the complete abolition of the legislature.
Likewise, members of Untouchables’ Liberation Area were critical of the fact that the leadership of the Sunflower Movement was largely perceived as in the hands of two student leaders, Lin Fei-Fan (林飛帆) and Chen Wei-Ting (陳為廷). They were also critical of what they saw as elements of nationalism in the Sunflower Movement, the preoccupation of the mainstream of the movement with keeping order in the occupation encampment or maintaining a respectable appearance in front of the media, sometimes seeing this as an order having been imposed on the movement by the central leadership, and the lack of transparency they felt occurred during the attempted occupation of the Executive Yuan. These were often topics that came up during their soapbox discussions.
Gathering of the Untouchables’ Liberation Area. Photo credit: Untouchables’ Liberation Area/Facebook
Members of the Untouchables’ Liberation Area reacted against the attempt to make the movement respectable in order to avoid being labelled as deviant or anti-social elements in the media, given their interest in breaking from social norms. Similarly, members of the Untouchables’ Liberation Area came into conflict with Citizen 1985 regarding the lane in the occupation encampment kept open for medical emergencies, which members of the Untouchables’ Liberation Area, which actually included medical doctors among its members, felt to be overly restrictive of space. The Untouchables’ Liberation Area itself faced complaints from parents’ groups who brought children to sleep on-site, however, these complaints being that the Untouchables’ Liberation Area was too loud at night and that this was disruptive to others in the occupation encampment.
Members of the Untouchables’ Liberation Area were sometimes anarchists, Marxists, or leftists of varying stripe. Despite the claim to be “untouchables”, they had a mixed composition. Many were, for example, students of elite schools such as National Taiwan University (國立臺灣大學) and much of their writings evidence a high level of academic education. The label of “untouchable” was in some sense self-deprecating and a label they gave themselves, as those who felt “excluded” from the movement. It also has to be remembered that the borders between the Untouchables’ Liberation Area and the mainstream movement were not absolute, with some individuals participating in both the mainstream movement and the Untouchables’ Liberation Area.
Due to their criticisms of the movement writ large and their lack of opposing the CSSTA on the basis of it being a trade agreement with China, but moreso because it was a free trade agreement which would impoverish Taiwan’s working class, members of the Untouchables’ Liberation Area were sometimes labelled as members of the “pro-unification Left” (左統). This was a label that they sometimes reacted quite strongly against, seeing themselves as aligned against criticisms of the “Leftards” (左膠) in Hong Kong from activists calling for greater autonomy from Hong Kong.
Many members of the Untouchables’ Liberation Area were participants in labor organizations, anti-gentrification work, or the anti-nuclear movement. These included the Electronic Music Anti-Nuclear Front (電音反核陳線), National Alliance for Workers of Closed Factories (全國關廠工人連線), Huaguang Self-Help Organization (華光社區自求會), Shaoxing Self-Help Organization (紹興社區自救會), Medical Labor Working Group (醫勞小組), Losheng Youth Alliance (青年樂生聯盟), Taoyuan Industral Labor Union (桃園縣產業總工會), Taipei Industrial Labor Union (台北市產業總工會), Taiwan Alliance for Victims of Urban Renewal (都更受害者聯盟), Taiwan International Worker’s Association (台灣國際勞動協會). There were also many members of the “Untouchables’ Liberation Area” who were artists, and so the “Untouchables’ Liberation Area” featured a wealth of artistic production, as well as explorations of alternative lifestyles such as BDSM. Much inspiration was taken from PTT Internet culture, as well, and the Untouchables’ Liberation Area also had strong connection to coffee shops and other gathering spots which were part of Taiwan’s art scene or underground culture, such as Basement Cafe (樓下咖啡) or Halfway Coffee (半路咖啡).
The three major forces within the group were the Electronic Music Anti-Nuclear Front (電音反核陳線), National Alliance for Workers of Closed Factories (全國關廠工人連線), and various independent bands, however. The Electronic Music Anti-Nuclear Front had been active during the course of the post-Fukushima anti-nuclear movement in Taiwan, playing music during demonstrations in an effort to liven up protests. Some members had cooperated with the Green Citizen’s Action Alliance (綠色公民行動聯盟) previously in putting together a CD of electronic music demonstrating against nuclear energy. The National Alliance for Workers of Closed Factories’s was a collection of labor unions, primarily based out of Taoyuan, which had been active in demonstrating against worsening conditions for workers in Taiwan in recent years, inclusive of young people. Some of the members of the National Alliance for Workers of Closed Factories are among the leading labor organizers in Taiwan in recent years. Independent bands which had taken an active role in participating in social movements, such as Bazooka, The Deposers (罷黜者), and RNA, were also part of the Untouchables’ Liberation Area. Later on, after the Sunflower Movement, these bands would form the collective Trapped Citizen (愁城).
The Untouchables’ Liberation Area’s party celebrating the 410 withdrawal from the Legislative Yuan. Photo credit: Zanta Tsai/YouTube
The formation of the Untouchables’ Liberation Area as a site for free speech and soapbox speeches on April 1st with the coming together of the gathering on the stairs of the NTU Alumni Hall (臺大校友中心) and the discussion space in front of the public toilet set up at the occupation site. Earlier activities took place, however, including electronic music performances on March 20th. Later on, two years after the movement, the Untouchables’ Liberation Area would partner with the “324 Truth And Reconciliation Working Group” that launched an investigation into the events of 324 in order to reenact the events of 324 as a form of “environmental theater.”
Members of the Untouchables’ Liberation Area gathered in front of the public toilet set up in the Legislative Yuan occupation encampment, and on the stairs in front of the National Taiwan University Alumni Hall (臺大校友中心), which were next to each other in the occupation encampment. Among activities held there included speeches, screenings, and musical performances. A party was held on April 9th to commemorate the end of the movement. Events continued to be held for several months after the withdrawal. Because of the many artists who were members of the group, many of these activities were highly politically theatrical. Later on, members of the Untouchables’ Liberation Area published a book about their experiences in the movement.