Student Groups And The Sunflower Movement

Student Groups And The Sunflower Movement

A number of student activist groups were formed during or after the Sunflower Movement

A number of student groups arose during or after the Sunflower Movement in order to carry on the mission of the movement. Democracy Tautin (民主鬥爭), Youth Against Oppression (臺左維新), and Democracy Kuroshio (民主黑潮) were groups formed during the movement. Democracy Tautin counted among its members individuals who were part of the translation group of the Sunflower Movement, the central decision-making body of the Sunflower Movement, and the security for the Legislative Yuan encampment.

The primarily southern Taiwan-based Democracy Kuroshio was originally formed during the occupation in order to coordinate recall campaigns against corrupt KMT legislators and organize different preexisting student groups across Taiwan, something later taken up by the Appendectomy Project, the name of the group coming from the way that the Kuroshio Current off the shore of Taiwan “flows back” in the way it was hoped that democracy would “flow back”. Youth Against Oppression took a leading role in incidents of police violence being used against peaceful demonstrators as a group spontaneously formed in the process of the occupation and, as a group with a large number of designers within it, designed and gave away clothing to protesters. Taiwan March (島國前進) was formed by the superstar leader figures of the Sunflower Movement after the movement, counting among its members Lin Fei-Fan (林飛帆) and Chen Wei-Ting (陳為廷), and received a large number of donations in the view that it would be the primary group coordinating student actions following the withdrawal from the Legislative Yuan. At its peak, Taiwan March had over 1,000 volunteers. Other groups which emerged including the Formoshock Society (福爾摩鯊會社), which included Yoshi Liu (劉敬文) and Wu Hsueh-Chan (吳學展) among its founders and had contested the leaders of the Sunflower Movement during the movement, and Beez (小蜜蜂), which had over 7,000 members. 

Lin Fei-Fan at a rally with other members of Taiwan March in February 2015. Photo credit: Taiwan March 島國前進/Facebook

The eventual political course of 2014 nine-in-one elections and 2016 presidential and legislative elections led to much energy being channeled from student activism into political parties, such as Third Force (第三勢力) parties as the New Power Party (時代力量), Social Democratic Party (社會民主黨), and Free Taiwan Party (自由台灣當) which also included among its members many of the important figures of the Sunflower Movement, and post-Sunflower Movement groups sometimes worked in collaboration with these political parties. Youth Against Oppression took to aiding members of Le Flanc Radical (基進側翼) in their campaigns, for example, although there is some sense in which Taiwan March faced difficulties in distinguishing itself from the New Power Party.

Some deliberation was made among student groups about whether to similarly become political parties, to try and expand nationwide, or to assist in educational initiatives for young people. Some years later, all of these groups have shrunk somewhat, with Democracy Tautin and Youth Against Oppression eventually merging into Democracy Restoration (民主維新), and there being much uncertainty about the direction of these groups. This may be a product of that no national alliance of student activist groups emerged after the Sunflower Movement.

Student groups had played a key role in the formation of youth activist subculture before the Sunflower Movement, with different student activist groups based on different college campuses across Taiwan. Some of these groups had long histories in student activism, such as the NTU Dalawasao Club (濁水溪社), which had a key role in preserving the thought of Su Beng, the Taiwanese leftist and the “grandfather of Taiwanese independence,” and the NTU Mainland Club (大陸社), originally formed during the authoritarian to study Chinese Marxist texts in order to criticize the CCP, but subsequently became radicalized towards leftist views itself in the study of Chinese Marxism. Other groups were formed after the Wild Strawberry Movement, including such groups as the Zero Two Society (零貳社會), Radical Notes (基進筆記), Meaningful Club (有意思社), Miaoli Youth (苗栗青年), and other groups, coming to comprise a network across Taiwan of student activist groups before the Sunflower Movement. Later on, after the end of the Sunflower Movement, many groups vowed that they would return to the local areas they were from to try and bring the work they had begun on college campuses or in urban areas back to their hometowns.


Members of Democracy Tautin. Photo credit: Democracy Tautin 民主鬥爭/Facebook