But though he may want to come forward, Wen’s boyfriend declined to reveal his name or that of his band, the reason being that his band is headed to China soon for a tour. If he speaks out, he risks being blacklisted and losing a vital source of income. Wen also declined to give her Mandarin name, fearing reprisal should the trade agreement give way to a de facto Chinese takeover of Taiwan by way of economic string pulling — an outcome feared by some economists. The couple attends the protests bravely but anonymously, as do so many others involved in the arts who watch the proceedings with an eye toward an uncertain future.
“I’m worried about the freedom of media and people doing arts and writing,” says Wen, who admits to being brought to tears upon watching the news coverage of police manhandling protesters outside the Executive Yuan on Monday.
“China can secretly control the regime after they control the economy.” Wen compares Taiwan to Hong Kong, which has witnessed a marked decrease in political and press freedom. “Hong Kong is already in the grave, and we are going in.”
One person who does not have to live with the threat of being banned from China is Chthonic vocalist Freddy Lim (林昶佐), who has been blacklisted for several years already. Active with many social causes, including the Taiwan chapter of Amnesty International, and a vocal proponent of Taiwan independence, Lim has never been shy about voicing his opinion, nor has he stayed away from the front lines in this ongoing conflict. Lim, along with some of his band mates, were amongst the first to attempt to occupy the Executive Yuan, and he has remained a visible and vocal presence at the protest throughout, doing everything from giving speeches to providing first aid to injured protesters.
Lim is opposed to free trade agreements in general, saying they only serve to widen the gap between rich and poor countries. He also worries about the future of Taiwan should it sign such a deal with China, a country that has made no secret of its wish for nothing less than unification with Taiwan.
“If a country signs a free trade agreement with an authoritarian country like China, it will give rise to a series of more complex consequences,” Lim says.
MORE OVERSIGHT NEEDED
Not all musicians have been so quick to rally around the Sunflower Movement (太陽花學運), however. Aboriginal singer Ayal Komod issued a statement in which he said that he would not take part, citing a lack of support from Taiwanese in matters of Aboriginal rights in the past. Pop rock stars Mayday (五月天) also seems to have backtracked on an initial show of support for the movement after a backlash from their large Chinese fan base.
Then there are those in the music community who have taken something of a middle road. Bixx, who prefers to go by a singular stage name due to the sensitivity of the issue at hand, is the vocalist for rock band Formosa Romance. He has also been at the protests every day since they began, sometimes just for an hour or two, sometimes staying all night. He attends the protests to espouse the simple wish that the service trade agreement go through the proper democratic channels before it is passed or defeated. He is not there to say whether it is right or wrong, but simply to say that those politicians charged with the safekeeping of Taiwan’s hard-won democratic freedoms have not done their due diligence.