Professor Ho agrees.
“There is the rich and powerful on one side and a group of people who are socially disadvantaged on the other side. And students are there to support and give voice to the deprived,” Ho says.
For many young activists, the experiences on the street bring both political awakening and personal growth.
Chou Ya-wei (周雅薇), a graduate student at NTU, says her participation in the protests has enabled her to think outside the struggle between competing political parties, whether the greens of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), or the blues of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).
“Democratic values are deemed important by people on both sides. We must find and expand this common ground so that people will stop fighting over trivialities,” says Chou, who has taken part in social activities including the Losheng movement and protests against the forced demolition of houses in the Wenlin Yuan urban renewal project.
To 23-year-old Liu, joining the protests has changed her perspective of the world, an experience, she says, that is shared by many student protesters like herself who were born and grew up in a democratic Taiwan, and often blissfully unaware of the country’s turbulent past.
“It’s like you suddenly come out of a fairy-tale and step into the real world where things are not as wonderful as you thought,” Liu says. “I realize that if I don’t learn to think independently and try to change the system for the better, I will remain oppressed.”