It may not come as a surprise that Wang Yun-hsiang (王雲祥), a bald-headed, solid young man whose father served as the director of former president Lee Teng-hui’s (李登輝) office, is put in charge of security for the Sunflower student movement.
While some may find him intimidating, Wang is an adamant supporter of peaceful demonstrations.
“I once saw two groups of protesters get into a physical brawl on Zhongshan South Road [in Taipei.] Shortly after the conflict began, a man squeezed his way out of the crowd. When he lifted his shirt, I saw a stab wound the thickness of a finger on his abdomen,” Wang said.
“That was when I realized the importance of maintaining peace during rallies,” he said.
Currently a junior at National Taiwan University of Arts’ drama department, Wang has accumulated vast experience in social activism.
He has taken part in the movements against media monopoly, the forced relocation of residents of Taipei’s Huaguang Community (華光) and a wind turbine construction project in Miaoli County’s Yuanli Township (苑裡).
Many have linked Wang’s social activism to his father’s political background, but the 23-year-old said he was independently “doing the right things.”
“My father scarcely talks about social issues at home. One thing he has taught me, though, is to always do the right thing, which is why I decided to become a social activist,” Wang said.
“I do not want to just stand by and watch someone else do the right thing, I want to be that someone,” he added.
Wang was not one of the hundreds of students who seized the legislature on March 18, but he arrived soon after.
Not only did he help set up communication equipment and a public address system in the legislative chamber to allow leaders of the occupation to convey their messages to the floor and to the outside world, he also volunteered to pacify over-excited protesters.
Asked whether he was put in charge of security because of his looks, Wang joked: “There was no particular reason for that, and it certainly had nothing to do with me ‘looking like the bad guy.’”
Wang’s primary job involves serving as a bridge of communication between the student leaders and the police, and handling any conflicts that occur inside and outside the legislature.
He also has to conduct routine inspections of the legislature to prevent hazardous items from being smuggled into the building and used against the student protesters.
“Since day one, we have found a variety of dangerous items hidden inside the building, from hammers, knives and baseball bats to bricks and even petrol bombs. We think people are trying to cause trouble,” Wang said.
“The last thing we want to see is people getting hurt,” he said.
Wang said the key to calming people who are aggressive or agitated is empathy.
“You must first stand side-by-side with them to try understand their emotions, before challenging their stance,” Wang said.
Citing as an example the students’ brief occupation of the Executive Yuan on March 23, which was met by the government’s forced evictions, Wang said the first thing he did after arriving was to restore peace by telling the students to sit down on the ground and hold each other’s hands.
“If it were the police who were agitated, I would still try to defuse their aggressive behavior by telling them I was sorry and would help control the situation,” he said.