On the eve of Nov. 26, when a consortium was to sign a contract to buy Next Media Group’s Taiwanese businesses, dozens of students gathered in front of the Executive Yuan despite the cold and heavy rain, urging the government to stop Chinese influence over Taiwanese media, to oppose media monopolies and to safeguard press freedom. The students waited for a day and a night, but the authorities refused to engage them in a dialogue.
Their failure was not very surprising. Still, seeing their mobilization, organization, publicity materials, division of labor and discourse, I was pleased to see the genesis of a new, mature, social movement. I would like to call this generation the “Wild Strawberry generation.”
Many of the protesters were part of the 2008 Wild Strawberry Movement. The movement was sparked in 2008 by controversy over the Parade and Assembly Act (集會遊行法), when the government clamped down on protests against a visit by China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林). These so-called “seventh-graders” — Taiwanese born between 1981 and 1990 — successfully reversed the negative image of the so-called “Strawberry generation” by fighting against the act, which violated the spirit of democracy and freedom.
The Wild Strawberry Movement is different from the 1990 Wild Lily Student Movement. The 1980s saw an increase in the number of dissident clubs at universities, facilitating the mobilization of students into the Wild Lily Movement and helping it achieve its goal of political reform. Those who later launched and participated in the Wild Strawberry Movement mostly stood out because of their “pure” sense of justice. When the government and society paid them scant attention, the movement eventually failed. Still, the 2008 movement planted the seeds for the birth of the Wild Strawberry generation this year.
Unlike the Wild Lily movement, the demise of the Wild Strawberry Movement led to the birth of the Wild Strawberry generation. After the young strawberries returned to campus from the streets, they have established dissident organizations, prepared publications and built a network across schools. Recently, they have even reached the relatively quiet National Dong Hwa University in Hualien County, where they are organizing study groups, holding activities inside and outside school, and learning from others to enrich themselves. They have walked into rural villages, factories and urban renewal project sites, and participated in farmers’, workers’, gay and student movements. They have raised their voices against the Kuokuang Petrochemical Technology Co expansion project, excessive water consumption at the Central Taiwan Science Park, the Urban Renewal Act (都市更新條例) and media monopoly.
As a teacher who protected the Wild Strawberry Movement in 2008, a partner who has closely observed and cared about the wild strawberry generation over the past four years and a mother of a young strawberry, I am glad to say that the birth of the Wild Strawberry generation is the nation’s new hope. The Wild Strawberry Movement in 2008 was haunted by the confrontation between the pan-blue and pan-green camps, as well as the unification-independence issue.
Today, such controversy can no longer confine them. They are pursuing the universal values of justice and freedom, and fighting all kinds of hegemony. Be it the People’s Republic of China (PRC), President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration, or the collusive media structure of the Want Want China Times Group, they do not duck any challenges. Whoever the “monsters” may be, the wild strawberries are going to confront them. In these confrontations, I can see the nation’s future.
In a statement of transformation issued by the wild strawberries in Greater Taichung in 2008, they used the thorny Taiwan raspberry as a metaphor for their rebirth, saying that they would transform into thorny berries, sticking each and every tiny thorn into every campus and community, and hoping to take root and grow even more wild berries. Four years later, these wild berries are proving that the statement was not an excuse for a retreat. Four years later, as the first cold front hit Taiwan last month, the wild berries were growing everywhere, and the wild strawberry generation was born.
Yang Tsui is an associate professor in the Department of Sinophone Literatures at National Dong Hwa University.
Translated by Eddy Chang