Saturday, April 5, 2014

Taiwan's Sunflower Student Movement: Photos

Taiwan's Sunflower Student Movement is still going strong as it nears the end of its third week of occupation of the country's Legislative Yuan (the national congress building). The takeover of the building in downtown Taipei by a group of student activists was sparked by a ruling-party attempt to ram through a far-reaching free-trade pact with China that most Taiwanese see as a threat to their young democracy (the Services Trade Agreement).

President Ma Ying-Jeou has so far refused the student demands, which include 1) establishment of a legislative oversight function for all agreements negotiated with Beijing, and 2) sending back the Services Trade Agreement until it can be subjected to such new oversight. China, just across the 110-mile strait from Taiwan, has long claimed the island as part of its territory.

Today I'll post photos I've taken since the protest began. Click on photos to enlarge.

Eric Mader
Taipei, Taiwan

Supporters of the Sunflower Student Movement occupy street space north of Taiwan's Legislative Yuan, Taipei. March 27, 2014.

"Against 'black box' trade agreement. Defend Taiwan's right to choose its own course. Support open democracy." Little hazy on that second line. 'Black box' refers to the Service Trade Agreement being passed without adequate public vetting--in a black box.

Protest signs along the north side of the Legislative Yuan.

Taiwan's President Ma Ying-Jeou. With his support among the general public running at less than 10% approval rating, he's attempting to force an unpopular trade agreement through the legislature.

Monks against the 1%.

Student and friend study German while maintaining presence outside the Legislative Yuan.

Yours truly, near the speakers' forum.

Student leaders Lin Fei-Fan and Chen Wei-Ting temporarily leave the Legislative Yuan to speak to the crowd. Lin calls for a rally on Sunday the 30th to pressure Ma government.

At the rally Sunday. Signs: "Send back the trade agreement so that I can go home and get some sleep." "Black box trade negotiation even blacker than me." (showing an angry Taiwan black bear).

Protesters, wearing black, fill the streets leading to the site of the rally. Best estimates suggest around 450,000 people attended, making it either the largest or second largest rally in the nation's history.

All ages attended the rally, many traveling to Taipei from the south to protest the trade.

Local TV pans over the crowd in front of the Presidential Office Building. I couldn't get near this area: the protesters were too densely packed.

April 3 near the Legislative Yuan. Protesters keep up their numbers on site to ensure police can't storm the building and break up the occupation.

Broadside: "Open to China: 4 Unequal Aspects of the Pact" The president's family name Ma (馬) means "horse", thus he is often depicted as such on posters, etc.

Broadside: "Service trade pack with China will open up: 1) Information industries: advertising, phone, Internet . . . leading to eventual Chinese control of Taiwan's media. 2) Military related services: ports and harbors, airports, bridge and road management . . . leading to Chinese control of logistics; our territory will be completely exposed to Chinese scrutiny, undermining security. 3) Chinese presence in our travel and hotel industry: Tons of Chinese capital flows into Taiwan's travel industry, suddenly Chinese tourists here are only spending money in hotels, etc., opened by Chinese, depleting Taiwan's tourism resources. 4) Medical and elderly care . . . leading to Taiwan's medical professionals fleeing for better-paid posts in China; moreover as elderly care facilities in China are now mandated as non-profit, Chinese investors will open for-profit elderly care facilities in Taiwan." NB: Though it seems weak as a point of argument, I'd say item 3 is on the mark. Most Chinese and Taiwanese travel in tour groups. Such tour companies from the Mainland will naturally cut bulk deals with companies opened by fellow Chinese; or, more likely, the tour company and hotels/restaurants they use will all be part of one Chinese-run conglomerate. Taiwan becomes an amusement park that can't even collect ticket money on its throngs of visitors.


Magazine foldout poster of Sunday's rally. Aerial view of crowd.

North entrance of the Legislative Yuan.

A man on strike in support of the student occupation: "Open up to Chinese investment and Taiwan is finished. Support students--together we go on strike."

Magazine cover showing police violence on the night of March 23 after protesters tried to occupy the Executive Yuan. Police used water canons and beat protesters with batons. Police ordered journalists and medics to leave the site. Over 150 people were injured.

The Little Prince, with sunflower, defends Taiwan.

Taiwan. I believe they are rose petals. The island is about 36,000 km sq / 14,000 miles sq.: about twice the size of the state of Maryland. Taipei is located at the northern tip.

Local celebrity 雞排姝, nickname "Fried Chicken Sister", keeps up a presence at the site, to the delight of guys with, uh, political convictions.

Reject Service Trade Agreement.

Protesters using their English.

Our three "free-trade fairies": President Ma, Chou-Yi, and the KMT legislator who tried to pass the trade pact in 30 seconds.

Ma Ying-Jeou

Poster mocking the Want Want Corporation. Beginning as a local company that made wedding cookies, Want Want has grown into a conglomerate with a huge stake in China. They now own one of Taiwan's major newspapers and a TV station. Their manic little mascot has been given fangs and a black blindfold. The text is a pun on the newspaper's name.

Does Godwin's law apply in Asia?

Student leader Lin Fei-Fan

The main speaker's forum north of the Legislative Yuan.

My other posts on the Sunflower Movement discuss the soft news blackout on Taiwan in American TV and cable media and offer a rough analysis of the interplay between economics and politics in this standoff.

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