Leaders of Taiwan’s Sunflower movement, who are on a two-week tour of North America, have been urging the US government to drop its “one China” policy.
The delegation, mostly students, have met with members of the US Congress, US Department of State officials, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), think tanks and Taiwanese-American groups.
They are claiming that, as a result of the movement, there has been a significant change in cross-strait relations and that they intend to be a powerful force in the nation’s political future.
Movement leaders are stressing that they are independent from, and are not backed by, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆), a political science student at National Taiwan University, told a Washington press conference on Thursday that the movement could not accept the US’ “one China” policy and that if President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) were to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), the Sunflower movement “would not hesitate” to take some form of political protest action.
He said the movement was totally independent of both the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the DPP, and that it wanted to find a common ground in the US to express its concerns about growing Chinese influence within Taiwan.
Academia Sinica associate research professor Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) said there had been an awakening of civil society within Taiwan and that a third political force was emerging.
He said that the KMT had damaged the constitutional system and that a third party might change Taiwan’s political landscape and deepen its democracy.
Lin said that the Sunflower movement had grown out of deep disappointment with Taiwan’s two major political parties and that the delegation had told US officials to carefully watch for an emerging force from the nation’s civil society.
Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷), a sociology student at National Tsing Hua University, said that a third force was needed in Taiwanese politics because the KMT was moving into China’s arms, while the DPP was losing ground, and getting too close to the rich and upper classes.
Lin said that in conversations with members of the US Congress and at the Department of State it became clear that officials “understood” why the movement had taken over the Legislative Yuan in March this year.
He said the delegation had repeatedly emphasized its concerns about the US’ “one China” policy.
The policy, which results in the US recognizing only one China and refusing to open diplomatic relations with Taiwan, had not led to a cross-strait balance, but had rather caused Taiwan to tilt toward China, members of the delegation said.
Lin said polls showed that “almost no one” in Taiwan would choose to unify with China and the “one China” policy increased the chances of unrest within Taiwanese society, which would run counter to other US policies promoting peace and stability.
He refused to reveal more about the reaction of US officials, saying that the officials had told the delegation they were in discussion about the issues raised.
Chen accused AIT officials of playing games. On one hand, he said, they supported the Sunflower movement’s agenda, but on the other they said the movement was backed by the DPP.
“The Sunflower movement has nothing to do with the DPP,” Huang said. “US officials have a biased view from the media that the movement is maneuvered by the DPP.”
“The movement defends the democracy of Taiwan and will not accept harmful legislation. We are trying to make US officials understand that the core value of the Sunflower movement is to safeguard Taiwan’s democracy,” Huang said.
“I am an old fashioned guy and I believe in democratic values. I have challenged US officials on who should decide the future of Taiwan. When they talk about self-determination, is it only symbolic, or do they truly believe it? To what extent are they willing to sacrifice their core values for economic benefits? The one China policy has not stopped Chinese aggression,” he added.
Before the delegation arrived in the US, the North American Taiwanese Professors’ Association, the Taiwanese American Science and Technology Association and the Taiwanese American Senior Society invited Huang to address a symposium on Taiwan’s democracy.
The address was to be made at the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO) Culture Center in Washington. However, shortly before Huang arrived in the US, the office refused to rent their space.
“We were appalled by the decision of TECRO and strongly condemn the suppression of freedom of speech,” the three organizations said in a statement on Thursday.
“Dr Huang is neither a member of the KMT nor the DPP and he would not be speaking for any political party, but was to use his professional expertise to analyze and to probe this subject matter. It is sad and unfortunate to witness this attempt to hinder the development of Taiwan’s hard-earned democracy,” the statement added.
TECRO also issued a statement on Thursday saying that Huang was one of the leaders of the Sunflower movement who had illegally occupied the Legislative Yuan in Taipei for 24 days.
The statement said the application to use the Cultural Center was denied by an overwhelming majority vote of advisors and commissioners for the Taiwanese community.
They cited three reasons: “The organizers announced the speech venue as a fait accompli before obtaining permission. If approved, it would have set an unacceptable precedent. The organizers announced plans to convene a press conference if the application was denied. This coercive behavior should not be encouraged. The Cultural Center is not an appropriate place to hold events that may arouse political controversy.”
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