Student factions and some activist groups into their 17th day of protest outside the legislature have formed a breakaway group called the “Jianmin Liberation Zone” (賤民解放區), as ideological differences and dissenting voices emerged against the core leadership within the Sunflower movement.
Although some view it as a major rift within the movement, others see the development as the movement’s vibrant and healthy outgrowth, to encompass a wide diversity of people, ideas and aspirations.
The breakaway group on Wednesday set up its own assembly space for crowd-gathering, speeches and group discussions southwest of the legislature on Jinan Road, in front of the National Taiwan University Alumni Building.
The group was initially composed of 23 students who said their voices were not being heard, as they also advocated fighting against free trade and globalization, in addition to opposing the cross-strait service trade pact.
Since then, they have been joined by some activist groups and labor organizations, including the Taiwan International Workers Association (台灣國際勞工協會), the National Alliance for Workers of Closed Factories (全國關廠工人連線) and the Taiwan Alliance for Victims of Urban Renewal (台灣都市更新受害者聯盟).
Calling their own forum the “Jianmin Liberation Zone,” they say they mean to represent the “deprived,” the “unheard voices” at the bottom of society.
The term jianmin (賤民) usually refers to India’s lowest caste, the “Dalits” (known as “the Untouchables” in the past); but it has also been used to denote the highly discriminated against, lowest social classes of China, Japan and the Koreas.
Their “manifesto” says that they are against the elitist approach, saying that the movement should not be led by a few “elite” leaders, and that nobody can purport to speak for a whole group of people.
It is a direct challenge to and criticism of Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆) and Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷), the two “media stars,” as the two most prominent leaders of the Sunflower movement.
The manifesto also says: “This is not just a student movement. Many protest participants come from all sectors of society, from all occupations. There are laborers, farmers, office employees and many others who have not been able to take part in the decisionmaking process.”
Responding to the development, Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆) and Chen Wei-ting turned up at the breakaway group’s assembly late on Wednesday, as the two student leaders listened to criticisms and different viewpoints.
According to news reports, Lin gave an embarrassed grin when some people called out to Lin to say he was being “deified” and being turned into a “hero celebrity” by the media.
In a conciliatory gesture, Lin took instructions from speakers and joined the audience to show that he was together with the “Jianmin” group.
In an interview afterward, Lin said: “The student movement does not belong to any one person, and does not belong to one certain group. We do not see this as a split in the movement. I was there to hear the different voices. This is important for taking reflections during the process of a social movement.”
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