Keep following the light
While growing up in Texas, I noticed sunflowers were everywhere; they stretched out for acres along ranches, grew next to fence lines and even flourished down by the sand dunes. What is interesting about this particular flower is that wherever it grows, it follows the light.
Demonstrating both power and grace, the sunflower, as well as the mountain lily, have been used a symbols to mark the resilience of the democratic movement in Taiwan.
For decades, Taiwanese have been prevented from freely expressing their views on the future direction of their country. From 1949 to 1987, people lived under restrictive laws, which imposed political silence and cultural repression. In 1987, these restrictions were finally lifted, due to pressure from grassroots organizations locally as well as help from supporters overseas. Since then, the people have consolidated their democracy and after recent advancements, have established a much more vibrant political environment with a more level playing field.
In 1990, the Wild Lily student movement helped generate momentum in the nation’s momentous transition to democracy, and set the stage for a similar movement that would take place almost 25 years later.
The Sunflower movement, beginning on March 18 last year, was the next major breakthrough that changed the political landscape. Thousands of students spoke out against the lack of political transparency, the absence of sound governance and the unpopular push for the service trade agreement with China. Only a few months later, in November last year, they took their activism to the polls to elect new local leaders who would better reflect the views of Taiwanese.
About 68 percent of the nation’s voters turned out. Statistics showed that more than 70 percent of individuals aged 20 to 29 cast their votes — one of the highest youth turnout rates in Taiwanese history. In this monumental election, more than 76 percent of the seats in local councils and committees went to independent or Democratic Progressive Party members.
The Wild Lily student movement, the Sunflower movement and the elections in November last year were all breakthroughs that changed the status quo in a more positive direction. However, for further advancements to occur, the US and other international powers must urge China to progressively remove its missiles and accept Taiwan as a friendly neighbor.
Though Chinese threats and intimidation still persist, it is essential that Taiwanese feel empowered to choose their own destiny. The next major opportunity to show the world what they really want is the upcoming presidential election in January next year. It is crucial that the members of the Sunflower movement continue their active participation in the political process and work hard for Taiwan to remain “on the right side of history.”
Much like the sunflower, which always follows the sunlight, so must the Taiwanese continue to pursue their free and democratic future.
Plutocracy into democracy
The rich appear to have the upper hand under the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration.
While GDP growth still maintains an annual rate on average of about 3 percent in the past 10 to 20 years, the real income of the citizens has been declining. By and large, the net economic growth has all gone to the rich, while the poor have suffered from the resulting high inflation.