An Official Comment on Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement

The following letter was written by Katharine Siao Yue Chang, Representative, Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Australia, in response to Mark Harrison’s article ‘The Sunflower Movement in Taiwan‘, published in The China Story Journal on 18 April. 


Dear Editor,

I am writing in response to the article ‘The Sunflower Movement in Taiwan’ by Dr Mark Harrison, dated April 18.

For the first time in history, Taiwan’s democracy was, step by step, introduced, developed and recognized as ‘a Beacon of Democracy’, together with its ‘Economic Miracle’ under the government of the Republic of China (Taiwan) since 1949. The lift of the martial law in 1987, regardless of the persistent threat from mainland China, came on due course as the necessary step to the realization of Dr Sun Yet-sen’s ‘Three Principles of the People’ to practice democracy and take good care of people’s livelihood and identity. Therefore, the story of Taiwan shouldn’t be simply or unfairly interpreted as the Taiwanese struggle against authoritarianism and for democracy, but the planned and consistent movement to prosperity and its unique, multi-opinion and vibrant democracy. Its identity has never been neglected but enriched in the vibrant process until today, thanks to the diversities of Taiwan’s society.

The Cross-straits Services Trade Agreement (TiSA) aims to continue the momentum to the everlasting prosperity, peace and democracy of the Republic of China (Taiwan) while preserving and valuing its already-enriched identity. Its spirits have been incorporated into the negotiation and interaction between the Cross-straits without questions. Since President Ma Ying-jeou of the Republic of China (Taiwan) took office in 2008, he starts the rapprochement with mainland China. From the start, the ’92 Consensus’ was a critical anchoring point for both sides to find common ground on the otherwise intractable issue of ‘one China.’ It establishes a common understanding of ‘one China with respective interpretations’. From Taiwan’s part, it is called the Republic of China (R.O.C). This formulation sets clear parameters for how both parties can work to move the relationship forward in a positive direction without misunderstandings or hidden agendas, so as to build mutual trust and achieve mutual benefit for the people on either side of the Taiwan Strait in a way of ‘mutual non-recognition of sovereignty, mutual non-denial of governing authority’. This healthy development is not only applauded by international community, but also welcomed by the Taiwanese people.

However, as Dr Harrison pointed out, in the Sunflower movement, the radical connectivity of the Internet platforms and services provides anarchy-like platforms for people to quickly disseminate messages and images, including false and unverified information, and easily mobilize people with passion. As a result, it overwhelmingly exaggerated the well-designed negative images of the TiSA, the police and the government to serve the specific goals of the organizers or agitators. At the same time, it made the government look awkward even though the positions of the government are very much well grounded in terms of economic rationale, governmental procedure, national security and the identity. Unfortunately, the positions of the government were greatly missed by the media in the movement. That’s the same challenge of other governments of the world in the realm of public policy and governance.

Taiwan is never afraid of pressure and is keen to handle diversified opinions. The government will continue to listen to the voices of people and prudently steer towards prosperity and peace in the interests of all Taiwanese people.

Katharine Chang
Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Australia