Fri, Apr 11, 2014 - Page 1 News List

Student representatives defend protests

DEMOCRACY:Two students told a US press conference that the occupation of the Legislative Yuan has succeeded in raising political awareness among the public

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in Washington

Dennis Wei, left, and Huang Yu-fen, graduate students at National Tsing Hua University, talk about the Sunflower movement at a press conference held in offices used by the US National Democratic Party in Washington yesterday.

Photo: CNA

The first Sunflower movement students to visit the US following the takeover of the Legislative Yuan are telling Washington officials that they acted to defend Taiwan’s core values of democracy, sovereignty and justice.

The Legislative Yuan had been acting on trade agreements with no transparency and with low citizen participation, said Dennis Wei (魏揚), a sociology graduate student at National Tsing Hua University.

“The functioning of the Legislative Yuan had become totally useless,” he said.

“Legislators were not reflecting the will of the people, just the will of their party,” said Huang Yu-fen (黃郁芬), another sociology graduate student at the university.

The two students — both directly involved in the Sunflower movement — were invited to Washington by the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) and were speaking at a press conference held in offices used by the National Democratic Party.

However, party officials stressed that they were not involved in the conference.

Wei and Huang are meeting with members of the US Congress, think tank officials and members of the US-Taiwan community.

Wei said that students occupied the legislature to ensure that Taiwan’s democracy was not sacrificed to facilitate the signing of free-trade agreements with other countries.

“We worry that if we sign this cross-strait service trade areement, it will affect our freedom of speech and security issues in our country,” Wei said.

“Taiwan needs to be more careful and more in touch with the people,” he said. “We cannot let the people feel that safety is taking second place.”

Huang said the movement had achieved its initial goals, which were not only to take over the Legislative Yuan, but to make large numbers of people more politically aware.

“We were able to write a new page in Taiwan’s democratic history,” she said.

Huang said that before this latest action, many people thought the younger generation did not care about politics and had become disillusioned by fighting between “the blue and the green” camps.

She said that when the Sunflower movement students first entered the Legislative Yuan, they did not believe they would actually be able to take over the chamber.

“We never felt that it would go so smoothly,” she said.

“Taiwan was disappointed with politics, the Legislative Yuan was malfunctioning,” she said. “But taking over the Legislative Yuan was never the most important goal, it was just the place we expressed our determination.”

Although the students were leaving the Legislative Yuan yesterday, the Sunflower movement would continue to flourish, she said.

“The time for our generation has come,” she said. “It is going to be tougher in the future, but now we know what we want to say and what we want to do.”

Asked how they would respond to US academics who say that an important part of democracy is abiding by the law, Wei said the occupation of the Legislative Yuan had probably been illegal, but that it was not counter to democratic values.

“If the government is against the will of the people, the people can rebel,” Wei said.

He acknowledged that many people were saying that the movement’s actions were irrational and illegal, but he said that efforts to resist and work within the system had failed.

“We will take legal responsibility for our actions; we will not avoid legal responsibility,” he said.

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