Interview: Wei Yang
Wei Yang was the convenor of the Black Island Youth Front. During the Sunflower Movement, he was arrested in the course of the 324 attempted storming of the Executive Yuan and later visited America as part of a speaking tour about the occupation. The following interview was conducted on March 5th, 2019.
Brian Hioe: How did you start participating in social movements?
Wei Yang: The earliest was…probably in 2008. When I was in my freshman year of college at National Tsing Hua University. That was the Wild Strawberry Movement. That took place when it was my birthday. That was in the middle of November. I was twenty then. I must have felt…that it was a birthday present!
At Tsing Hua, there were some who also had a sit-in. Some of us from Tsing Hua went over to stay there. I went with classmates to take a look. They were also in the Humanities and Social Sciences Department. People studying in the humanities and social sciences would tend to be more interested in these sort of issues.
In any case, I felt that I should go up and take a look at what was going on in Taipei as well. So went up. At the time, I went alone, because I hadn’t participated in any student groups before and didn’t know anyone involved in social movements. To be blunt, it was like how many participants in the Sunflower Movement also previously had no experience in social movements. I went there and sat alone there for an entire day.
Photo credit: bryan sjs/Flickr/CC
The significant aim then was to demonstrate against violence by the government. There wasn’t any particular element related to national identification at that time. People saw that, felt angry about it, and went there. But later on, what was quite interesting is that, unlike people living in Taipei, who might stay at National Taiwan University or something like that, they could go back home the same day. For me, I could only stay for one or two days, then I would have to go back to Hsinchu.
Anyway, what left a deep impression when I was there was that during class, we would learn about things such as the nation, or rights, or these concepts. But this was the first time that I might see police lined up or things like that. The things you learned during class appeared before you in a concrete manner.
I guess you could also say I got used to some of the basics of organizing a social movement then. For example, there were different working groups, and they would make press releases or have people who served as spokesman to the media. Or there might be short speeches and music. And at night, there might be discussion and decision-making through direct democracy. It was my first time experiencing much of this.
After going back to school, I felt that our school didn’t have any club or group for discussing public issues. So I felt like I wanted to start something in the department. Originally, the idea was to start a publication.
Brian Hioe: Was it Radical Notes?
Wei Yang: We organized Radical Notes later on. Chen Wei-Ting later became a Tsing Hua student. I’m older than him by one grade. He also wanted to organize some publications, so I, him, and other classmates formed it together. It began from there. That’s how I gradually became part of the sphere of social movements. At that time, there were also many issues in Taiwanese social movements.
What left a deep impression on me was that in 2011 and 2012, there was the Anti-Kuokuang movement, so many groups would link up and go to Taipei together to protest. I would also meet organizers from other schools then. After that, Tung Hai De Gauche, from National Tung Hai University, organized a meeting for campus-based activist groups across all of Taiwan in Taichung.
There were quite a lot of people that met up then. That was the first time I met Lin Fei-fan or others like that. People that were well-known organizers during the Sunflower Movement. People who might be in political parties now or working in NGOs. That was what the period of time between 2008 and 2011 was like.
Brian Hioe: There were movements like the Anti-Media Monopoly movement and so forth.
Wei Yang: There were many issues then. It was a network. Facebook was becoming increasingly commonly used then as well. So there were some groups online for social activist groups to have exchanges. If something happened, we would all react to it.
It wasn’t just the Anti-Media Monopoly Movement, there was also Dapu, rising student tuition, corporatization of the university, American beef imports. Everyone would pay attention to these issues and work on them. Of course, the Anti-Media Monopoly Movement was a larger movement then. Looking back, I feel as though–maybe it was because of the China factor. The term China factor became a framework for social movement mobilizations then.
Before the Anti-Media Monopoly Movement, there wasn’t as systematic a framework for discussing relations between Taiwan and China. Everyone might have skepticism regarding China, but the China factor, as what was originally an academic concept, became a tool for mobilizing social movements. It was quite comprehensive, with regards to culture, economics, politics. Everything could be co-opted by the concept of the China factor.
Before 2012, with regards to national identity issues, it was more that student groups on various campuses might work on transitional justice or focus on culture and history. Such the 02 Society at National Chen Kung University defacing Chiang Kai-shek statues with paint, the NTU student council announcing a monument to Chen Wen-cheng, or on Tsing Hua University, the commemoration of the arrest of Taiwan Independence Association members that had occurred on campus on 1991.
What I think is quite interesting is that, at least with regards to national identity issues, in the first few years, everyone was working more on local culture and history, or internal campus-based transitional justice advocacy. But in 2012, because of the Anti-Media Monopoly Movement, that caused everyone to have a concrete external enemy, that is, China. So there was this process of Other-ization.
Along with the appearance of this Other, there also appeared an analysis of the China factor, as a stimulus for mobilization. That connects to the issue of the CSSTA that appeared in 2013 and Sunflower Movement in 2014. This was a process that built up to mobilization. 2013 was also an important year, because there was a wave of labor activity as well, from the middle of the year was regards to the Hualon strike. Organization for that occurred across the country.
Then in 2012, another issue which occurred across the nation was opposing tuition raises. At the time, the organization was called the No High Tuition Alliance. That was formed in the first half of 2012. At the time, the American beef issue came up. The Shilin Wang family incident also began that year. These were the large mobilizations in the first half of the year.
So student activist groups began to become quite active and link up with each other regarding those issues. I think that regarding many issues, regarding national identification, or class, or land, this was quite a significant year in terms of mobilization, and not just with regards to the Anti-Media Monopoly Movement. For me, this continued 2011 the momentum that began from the Anti-Kuokuang Movement. A sort of network was gradually formed in 2011 and in 2012, this was a high point of mobilization.
Brian Hioe: When the Sunflower Movement broke out, what were you up to?
Wei Yang: In 2013, I started the Black Island Youth Front. Originally, it was just to help out with directing traffic, like in the front. After helping out, they said that they needed someone to act as MC with a microphone. So it ended up being me. And somehow I ended up being directing things.
With regards to demonstrations against the CSSTA, everyone started talking about how we needed an organization to keep track of this issue in the long-term. It was usually like that. Whenever a new topic appeared, the same group of people would start a new organization. So in the beginning, it was this group of people. It was often the same group of people from the Anti-Media Monopoly Movement. So we started this organization.
I was at the sociology department at Tsing Hua at that point in time. We talked about wanting a new organization so that the movement wasn’t always led by people in Taipei. After I agreed to this, in the middle of 2013, we started to hold events not just about the CSSTA, but about cross-strait trade agreements overall, economic self-determination, issues like that. With the Economic Democracy Union, and Lai Chung-chiang, the lawyer, we worked on this issue together.
That went up March 2014, when the CSSTA passed in under thirty seconds because of Chang Ching-Chung. So what was I doing then? It all blurs together. In 2013, it was forming an organization, taking charge of mobilizations. Because at the time, there were some organizations involved, such as the Democratic Front Against Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement. That was primarily scholars and other NGO workers. They didn’t have as much mobilization capacity. Mobilization capacity was more than Black Island Youth, connecting various local organizations.
Photo credit: Ray Swi-hymn/Flickr/CC
Brian Hioe: The Black Island Youth also provided a lot of the theoreticization about the CSSTA, as I recall.
Wei Yang: Well, I think a lot of it was taken from the professors, then changing it up a bit. [Laughs] For the movement, we had to do this kind of stuff. Concretely speaking, on 318, we went to have a meeting about what you had to do, planning out the occupation. I feel like a lot has been written on this.
Brian Hioe: I came over that day around 11 PM. I climbed over the wall to get in.
Wei Yang: Which area were you at?
Brian Hioe: I was by the parking lot.
Wei Yang: By Qingdao East Road?
Brian Hioe: Yeah, by there.
Wei Yang: I see. On 318, I was outside on Qingdao East Road, as the MC for the stage there. We started at 9 PM then tried to get the crowd to climb over the walls. When it ended, I went inside for a brief period of time. There were still a lot of clashes outside and I had to help handle this. I went inside for a meeting and they said that they thought they would eventually get cleared out in the middle of the night.
They needed people outside. They said that they needed more experienced people on the outside. Plus, there needed to be contact with some of the groups that were coming up from central and southern Taiwan, as well as some labor groups. They needed coordination between the inside and outside, to ensure that there would be people staying outside. So I went outside to be responsible for coordination on the outside.
Later on Qingdao East Road, at the time, Yoshi, or Zhang Ziling, and people like that were there. We let the people occupy the plaza there, they were originally just on the road. After that ended, I rested for a bit. I decided to stay on the outside because I felt that the outside was more chaotic. There was a lot of people out there. I also thought the air was bad inside. I disliked the feeling of being a stage. So I stayed outside.
There were a lot of student groups out there. There were groups overlapping from the Wild Strawberry Movement and Anti-Media Monopoly Movement. We started a command center out there. That later moved to the Department of Social Sciences. We began because we thought it was chaotic out there. The order-keeping on the outside was strange, with regards to the medical lane, and things like that. As such, we decided to try and organize the outside. That’s how the organization for the Department of Social Sciences began.
With 323 and 324, it was also continuous. We felt that the communication between the inside and the outside was very disconnected. Because of the separation between the two spaces. We felt that the people outside were very confused, they didn’t know what the next step was. Many people sat there, listening to talks or music, and they felt very impatient. Up until 319 or 320, this was a big issue.
We were all discussing how to deepen the movement. I remember there was even the proposal to the media that if there was no response, we would announce our next step. But after saying this, everyone would feel, “Wait a minute, we’re not clear on what our next step should be either. So why are we telling other people already that we’re going to do something?” There was the notion that we would call on people to charge different KMT party headquarters across Taiwan.
It was a pretty crazy idea. You had already told the public that you were going to declare something, but you weren’t very clear yourself on what to do, so you had to announce something for people. But that’s insufficient. So there was the view that we should take over the whole of the Legislative Yuan, not just have it half-occupied, to make it open between the inside and outside. The entire Legislative Yuan would become such that we could go inside and out.
But that was complicated. Some were already unhappy, seeing it as that on the first day, we had the opportunity to occupy the building as a whole. At the time, Huang Kuo-chang seemed to want people to sit down, not to keep occupying. During the meetings that day, I also advocated that, but other views would be that this would have some costs. That the costs would be too high. That we were already viewed a certain way by the public and so, if we do something risky like that, views of us might change.
Others advocated were that we should maintain the situation in which we might be cleared out at any given time. So people would want to come to prevent us from being driven out. We had no way to come to an agreement with some NGO workers or some of the people in the decision-making body.
Later on, everyone came to a consensus, that we would try to charge somewhere else. Like the Executive Yuan or the Presidential Office. At the time, when they were making this decision, I wasn’t in Taipei. I was in Hsinchu, attending the SDS end-of-the-year meeting.
The discussion was that we had to have an action, so when I returned to Hsinchu, the discussion was that–because Chen Wei-ting and Lin Fei-fan were there first–they agreed that they would ensure that the NGOs would agree to expand the occupation of the Legislative Yuan. My understanding was that, the next action would be to try and occupy the entirety of the Legislative Yuan building. But when I wasn’t there, suddenly everyone decided that the target would be the Executive Yuan instead.
When I came back from Hsinchu to Taipei on the bus, on the bus, I heard that the Executive Yuan had been occupied. I felt quite excited and ran over. [Laughs] It was like that. 323 and 324, the situation began that way. People weren’t able to arrive at any consensus about how to escalate. Then some gaps in communication led to the decision to occupy the Executive Yuan, and on the other side, they would say that our collaborators began this activity on their own. Later on, people knew. But we decided that initially.
Brian Hioe: What were you doing on the day of 324, in that case then?
Wei Yang: On 324, I was arrested. [Laughs] At the time, I felt quite hurt. Because communications were all over the place. On-site, I felt quite conflicted as to why our collaborators would try to disavow ties with us, and why the coordination system broke down in such a chaotic manner. Some people disappeared.
And it seemed like something that hadn’t been planned. For example, it’s pretty strange for someone like me, who walked into it, to end up in the center. People would wonder, why did this event take place, and why were there disavowals between the different sides? Between when I was arrested and when I was released, I felt quite conflicted about this. I felt as though the organizers were irresponsible towards the participants.
Later, I knew more details. But at the time, I felt this way. At the time, someone on the inside of the Legislative Yuan might call me up and say, “Don’t listen to so-and-so, they want to trick you.” And they would tell you to quickly go back into the Legislative Yuan. And someone else would say to me…You could feel that different people had different stories or different versions of stories, and they were trying to convince of their version.
You would feel that, “Who should I believe?” Then the police were looking for those responsible after, so I decided I should try to keep a low-profile. I went back to Hsinchu.
Photo credit: Abby Chen/Flickr/CC
Before 324, I felt somewhat conflicted about how the movement had become. That it had become too showy. With the media in the Legislative Yuan 24/7. And it became that we were very concerned with reports by the media. I think that many demands became comparatively moderate.
I also feel that the form the movement took, in being so centered on the inside of the Legislative Yuan, also made it difficult for many members of the public to participate. It made me feel that this was a bit different from us saying that we would liberate the Legislative Yuan, since it just became that there was a different group of people in the Legislative Yuan. It was still a place beyond the reach of ordinary people.
Brian Hioe: Some people even say it was another black box.
Wei Yang: That’s right. You’ll feel it’s a bit strange. But at the time, I wasn’t able to articulate any criticisms. But after 323 and 324, I returned to Hsinchu. Then they said that they needed people to go to America. To give speeches. At the time, Ma Ying-jeou claimed that if we didn’t pass the CSSTA, there would be no way for us to sign the TPP. So we hoped to get American politicians, such as legislators, to state that they supported this movement and this wouldn’t affect trade ties with America. I went with Meredith Huang to America to give talks.
That was what I did after 318 primarily.
Brian Hioe: To change directions, would you say that your participation in Taiwanese social movements has to do with your sense of Taiwanese identification? Or would you attribute it more to concern with social issues or pursuing left-wing ideals?
Wei Yang: I think a lot is bound up together. There is Taiwanese identification. Personally, I support Taiwanese independence. I’ve done so since I was small, because of my family. My own observation, at least among people I know, or participants of 318 I knew, they all supported Taiwanese independence. Regarding identity, I think it’s quite visible because the ruling party at the time was the KMT.
Many groups I’m closer to began participating in social movements after 2008. Some people, like me, or Chen Wei-ting, or Lin Fei-fan, began participating right then and, after going back, we began clubs on our campuses. The Wild Strawberry Movement wasn’t directly focused on issues of national identity, but that event occurred because Chen Yunlin came to Taiwan.
What’s interesting though, is that national identity wasn’t the main focus of participation by young people. If you asked NTU students, they would also tell you that before 2008, the campus was fairly cold to independence-related issues. There were more issues related to class or land then, such as the Losheng Sanatorium, or other issues.
The Wild Strawberry Movement might not directly have to do with China, but those who participated were those who were concerned about Chen Yunlin coming to Taiwan. That’s why they would participate in this movement to protest violence by the nation-state. Many people directly, from the Wild Strawberry Movement, began to become active. The Taiwan Association of University Professors became very active about training what they referred to as “pro-independence youth” as a result of ECFA, organizing what they called the Taiwanese Independence Youth Front (獨立台灣青年陣線). That includes people such as the Dalawasao Club at NTU, the 02 Society at Chen Kung University. They were all part of this organization then.
They worked on training young people then, with a focus on people from the Wild Strawberry Movement. For those who came later, who may not have directly participated in the Wild Strawberry Movement, they may have organized groups on their campuses. These may not have directly been about issues regarding national identification, but they may have been issues indirectly related to Taiwanese identity. A big reason for this was because the ruling party was the KMT and the values they represented were opposed to Taiwanese identity. So for those young organizers that stood up against the KMT at that point in time, a high proportion might also identify with Taiwan.
Regarding national identification, it’s not always so a large piece. Sometimes it might be more focused on native or local identity.
Such as Dapu. It’s connected to the land. You see the land being hurt. Farmland. You see old people being harmed. Or the farmers by the Kuo-Kuang Petrochemical plant. That creates the image of that the political regime of the KMT is harming the people on this piece of land, Taiwan. Hurting not only the people on the land but the land itself.
With regards to individual issues, it might be concern with local issues. It’s tied up with the land. But these things became more and more mixed. In looking back, I feel that the difference between positions regarding left-wing values or independence didn’t seem so different before the Sunflower Movement. Standing up to oppose the KMT was standing on the side of this land, Taiwan. So this was also concerned with local issues and Taiwan as a whole. Helping the underprivileged.
For us, it didn’t seem like there was such a big conflict between being left-wing and pro-independence at that point in time. It’s also being concerned with the oppressed, with workers, with those being evicted. Most of us hadn’t experienced the DPP’s period in power between 2000 and 2008.
We would hear that the DPP had been an oppressor, too, from issues such as the Losheng Sanatorium. Yet at the time, the main enemy for us was the KMT, with regards to forced evictions, or labor, or these kinds of issues.
However, whether with regards to people who focused on national identity or left-wing versus right-wing issues, everyone would stand up for the same thing. It’s not like now, when the differences in people are becoming more and more clear.
Brian Hioe: It’s interesting to me because activists are more progressive generally. But later on, there would be these discussions of whether one should be first pro-independence than left-wing or first left-wing than pro-independence. You can also link this to the question of whether people were opposed to the CSSTA, the KMT, China, or free trade as a whole.
Wei Yang: In 2013, those of us young people who were opposing the CSSTA, hoped very much to discuss issues regarding free trade. That this was a free trade agreement, so the China factor was obviously very important. But at the same time, we would feel that you had to discuss the issue of free trade as a whole. So we organized some workshops. For example, in August 2013, we organized a workshop called “An Unfree Age of Free Trade” (不自由的自由年代).
We invited many professors, NGOs, and etc., to discuss why opposing the CSSTA was also to oppose free trade. Sun Qiong-li was then at Coolloud and he’d written some articles about this. That way of discussing things was that the CSSTA was a free trade agreement. A free trade agreement has certain characteristics, such as that it commodifies labor, and allows for transnational flows of capital. And we would discuss what kind of effects it would have on Taiwan. Such as that domestic industries would be unable to compete, or that our domestic industries would relocate in order to preserve competitiveness, etc.
We would also look at the process of so-called deregulation. In Taiwan, after we joined the WTO, this had already begun. Taiwan’s economic liberalization is already very high and it’s very deregulated. But our salaries remain low, and our salaries remain at the level of ten years ago or fifteen years ago. We’d use this sort of theoreticization to express to the public that any wealth brought in by free trade would not end up in the hands of regular people or workers, or that the trickle-down effect was untrue.
Photo credit: Abby Chen/Flickr/CC
With regards to China, we would point to that, first, it’s a country that is hostile towards us. There might be some national security issues. Second, because of some similarities in culture, it’d be much easier for China to replace us. That is, China could more easily replace domestic industries. Chinese workers can replace Taiwanese workers more easily. This China factor is related to opposing free trade.
At the time, some labor groups would also feel that we didn’t need to emphasize the China factor as much. They would feel that capital is all the same everywhere. And neoliberalism is universal. Of course, we would point to what China’s agenda is. But from 2013 to 2014, there weren’t any real conflicts between these two views. Opposing the CSSTA was opposing free trade. It was an anti-globalization movement.
But after the Sunflower Movement, it became trickier. If you look at some of our old declarations, such as what we declared when we were trying to occupy the Legislative Yuan, you’ll find that our early declarations discussed opposing free trade as a whole.
Later on, there would be less discussion of free trade. Including what I said before, when we went to America. Hoping that America could say that opposing the CSSTA would not affect Taiwan’s chances to join the TPP. But in reality, for myself or for many others, we didn’t think that the TPP was a good thing either. The TPP was just another form of control. It’s like us opposing American beef or capital outflows. Just the other side wasn’t China.
What’s interesting is that you could talk about opposing the TPP back then. Or at least “reflecting” on the TPP, or globalization, or free trade. But as you can see now, it’s become that for confronting China or developing an economy that doesn’t rely on China, you have to cling to America or something like that. To join the TPP or something. It’s quite interesting because, at the time, people’s political orientations weren’t so separate. Now they are.
Brian Hioe: What kind of effects do you think this movement has had, five years later?
Wei Yang: It’s hard to point to something specific. I think that the largest influence is the KMT’s defeats in 2015 and 2016. But in looking back now, you wonder if that was such a large influence. There was an electoral defeat last year in 2018, for example. They won again.
It’s a pendulum. This question, I probably would have responded differently to two years ago. You would think two years ago that this movement had changed Taiwan’s political structure. You’d feel that the KMT would face struggles winning the support of young people in the future. That in the future, the DPP and the Third Force would be the focus.
But if you look now, you’ll see that we’re in a situation in which we seem to have an increasingly normal pendulum. We may be in the process of the pendulum effect. And in these circumstances, you’ll wonder what the Sunflower Movement represented exactly.
Maybe you shouldn’t look at just this movement individually. It may simply be one expression of a larger process. It’s very hard to concretely describe. I’m interested in researching this as well. It may have been a populist movement–not to mean that this was a bad thing. This may have been a populist expression of dissatisfaction or lack of faith in the system. And then there was the factor of social media, as a means for establishing connections. It can change momentum quite quickly.
Before 318, we would be amazed, seeing social media and seeing that it could gather so many people. That it could affect the KMT so much. But in the past year, if you look from the anti-gay marriage referendum, or the anti-nuclear referendum. Or the defeats in the referendum and the KMT’s victories. Maybe there are similar examples elsewhere.
It’s surprising. The Sunflower Movement may have some similar factors behind it to the rise of conservative forces in the past year. I don’t have an answer, but I think this is a possible view. But with regards to the relation between the state and society we saw in the past, we might have to readjust. In the past, we might have thought that society was opposed to the state. That we had to overcome the agenda set by the state.
Maybe the direction has changed. Who is the agenda setter now? Who is being led by who? And you can see that with the referendum this time, you see that political parties act depending on how the direction of society seems to be going. With the referendum, you’ll find that the results had a great deal to do with political parties. With regards to the anti-gay marriage referendum or the nuclear power referendum.
But what’s interesting is that this doesn’t represent that the KMT was able to organize and mobilize all of this, though it was able to organize later. Was is that there was the rise of a conservative force first and the KMT discovered that it decided to follow the direction of this force? That’s one explanation.
Compared to the Sunflower Movement five years ago, this may actually be what is worth looking into more so. This is what I want to research in the future.
Returning to the Sunflower Movement, the New Power Party’s (NPP) existence may be another sign of influence.
Sure, I think that evaluations will change over time. Our evaluations two years ago are different from our evaluations now. But in the past, many people would just say that the NPP replaced the Taiwan Solidarity Union, because in 2016, the Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) lost all its seats. And the NPP gained five seats. So some people said that it had just replaced the TSU. But with regards to its way of running a party or the issues it’s concerned with, there’s no way of comparing the NPP with the TSU at this point.
The future of the NPP is worth keeping an eye on. It may also be that the NPP is the largest legacy of the Sunflower Movement. As for the Social Democratic Party or other groups, it’s hard to say as to the future.
For student activist groups, many people entered politics. Whether running for office themselves or entering political parties. That may not be so different from 2000 to 2008 when the DPP took power for the first time, in which it also recruited many NGO workers into its government system. You could say that this was co-optation, to be impolite about it.
This time the DPP taking power, it’s not as severe as the first time. Civil society groups preserve their strength in a manner greater than the first time when the DPP took power. But it’s had some influence. The NPP has had the effect of excluding other NGOs and groups from resource distribution.
Sure, the pie is larger. More and more people are concerned with social issues. However, the means by which they are concerned with social issues, or how they contribute resources, has primarily flowed to the NPP.
NGOs haven’t suffered so much. But you could say that competition is more intense. And for student activist groups, after the Sunflower Movement many faded. People graduated or entered political parties or went abroad to study. Many groups fell apart. Mobilizations became very weak.
Regarding national identification issues, this has also become something that social movement activists more easily argue about. It’s become that because the DPP may have encountered a sense of crisis, more and more people will say that we should support the DPP’s way of doing things, even if it’s wrong. Because it can lead us best in confronting China.
Photo credit: Chao-Wei Juan/Flickr/CC
In theory, nationality and class, or left and right, should not overlap. But Taiwan’s political circumstances have, on the other hand, led to these things becoming linked. Like the notion of first being independent, then being able to have left-wing ideals. That you need to first have a nation, before you can have resource redistribution.
You’ll have this kind of theoreticization appear. But before the Sunflower Movement, even if this appeared, it wasn’t common. I think that it’s easier for this kind of contradiction is easier to appear. And I don’t think this is a good thing either.
Like I said before, with regards to the pendulum effect, because the DPP did so badly this time, they’ll have a more acute response to criticisms now. They’ll say, “Why do you have to criticize us now? During this crisis?” There’s this notion that we shouldn’t criticize them. And so some positions become marginalized. The possibility for dialogue is less and less.
You might not say it’s an effect of the Sunflower Movement itself, perhaps. But this tendency has appeared from the Sunflower Movement up until now.
Brian Hioe: Lastly, do you think there’s any difference in how China looks at Taiwan? And do you think that the Sunflower Movement can have any effect on international social movements?
Wei Yang: It’s very hard to say as to direct influence. Yet I guess China has taken a harder line against Taiwan. I can’t be sure it’s because of the Sunflower Movement, but China’s policies have become more hardline. However, this could be more connected to shifts in the Asia-Pacific as a whole, such as America returning to the Asia Pacific. I can’t be completely sure either.
Looking at the influence of the Sunflower Movement, it no longer looks so large. The energy may have been spent. More and more people may have become elected or entered political parties. But I think that the political influence became limited. It became a symbol and an aspiration. Sometimes it’s hard to know how to discuss at this point.
Regarding international influence, you can see a large influence in overseas students. They’ll form organizations in America and the UK. In the UK, there’s a lecture series, which continues now. I remember there were some in America, as well. I’m not sure what happened to them later.
I also think you can see between Taiwan and Hong Kong. Because at the time, Hong Kong had the Umbrella Movement. But it’s also hard to say if they were influenced by Taiwan. There were interactions between Taiwan and Hong Kong activists, but it’s very hard to make a direct comparison, and Taiwan and Hong Kong confront similar issues with their social movements.
After the Sunflower Movement, there was more interaction between Taiwan and Hong Kong social movements after that. You could say that it’s because of China, so Hong Kong and Taiwan activists began to interact more regularly, and in terms of discourse, there can to be some shared elements.
After the Sunflower Movement, Taiwanese activists also had more interactions with the international world. Like me going to the US, then going to Europe. I think those interactions occur more often.
But I also have to emphasize, what is the aim of these interactions? For me, it allows some people with more political capital to absorb some experience. However, there were already some organizations working on exchanges with the international world, so for them, the Sunflower Movement may not have led to too many changes.
After the Sunflower Movement, many opportunities to conduct exchanges with the international world appeared. Yet the benefits may not have returned to Taiwanese civil society as a whole. This is also worth reflecting on.