Sun, Aug 09, 2015 - Page 12 News List

Where have all the Sunflowers gone?

Sunflower leaders are offering online support for those protesting the controversial high-school curriculum guidelines, but are keeping away from the MOE

By Aaron Wytze Wilson  /  Contributing reporter

Chen Chien-hsun, a student at National Taichung First Senior High School, is a protest spokesperson.

Photo: Aaron Wytze Wilson

Sitting hunched over a green plastic stool, and sweating profusely as the sun beams down on him, Indie Daadee (音地大帝) is one of the few familiar faces at the protests by high-school students protesting against the Ministry of Education’s adjustments to high-school curriculum guidelines. Two young fans disrupt his mid-afternoon sweat bath to get their photo taken with the Internet satirist famous for his scathing critiques of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) during last year’s Sunflower movement.

A constant presence at the anti-curriculum protest, Indie Daadee, whose real name is Yao Chieh-hsiang (姚介祥), has played mostly a peripheral role at the site itself, only offering suggestions to students if asked, but not part of the decision-making process of the protest’s future direction.

“I’m more their on-the-spot stage host. I usually just come up to the front and say stuff to fill up time in between speeches or performances,” he said.

Indie Daadee and prominent Sunflower leaders like Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆) and Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷) were thrust into the public spotlight when they occupied the Legislative Yuan’s main chamber for 23 days in protest against the government’s handling of the cross-strait service trade agreement.

Well-connected, well-organized and media-savvy, the Sunflowers were successful in part because of their accumulated experience participating in previous social movements, including the 2012 anti-media monopoly protests and the Dapu home demolition protests the following year.

SUPPORT FROM AFAR

However, Lin, Chen and former Academia Sinica researcher Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) have been noticeably absent from the recent protests aimed at the new China-centric history curriculum.

“Lin Fei-fan has sent one message asking how the situation was going, but aside from that, they haven’t become part of our student movement,” said Liao Chung-lun (廖崇倫) another student leader of the movement, and a prominent presence at the protest site.

“We don’t know how it happened, but that’s just how it was, right from the beginning,” added Hsiao Chu-chun (蕭竹均), 17, a student spokesman of the Apple Tree Commune Club.

Although Lin and Chen have shared multiple posts about the protest on their Facebook feeds — with Lin stating approvingly that “there is no need for [him] to give [the students] any suggestions, because they’re already very mature” — there has been little face-to-face interaction between the Sunflower students and anti-curriculum protesters.

Huang, who recently announced his candidacy for a legislative seat for New Taipei City’s 12th constituency on the New Power Party ticket, was noticeably absent when the members of his party visited the students. Still, Huang has supported the students from afar, making numerous appearances on television talk shows, calling the new history curriculum changes “absurd.”

Chiang Cheng-yu (江承昱), a fourth year university student and an experienced member of last year’s occupation of the Legislative Yuan, says the decision of Chen, Lin and Huang to stay away from the protest site and contact to a minimum was a deliberate one.

“They would prefer the focus of the protests to remain the high school students and the issue of the new China-centric history curriculum,” Chiang said. “These students are like blank pieces of paper: we don’t want our own experiences and views to confine their development and decision making.”

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