While the unprecedented occupation of the Legislative Yuan has thrust students Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆) and Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷) into the media spotlight, the student-led protest succeeded in part due to the cooperation and division of labor among the other protesters. Among those who took charge is National Taipei University law student Lai Pin-yu (賴品妤).
Lai was chosen by student protesters to be one of the Sunflower movement’s spokespersons.
Although only a freshman, Lai has been able to speak eloquently to the media and when debating with lawmakers on political talk shows, conveying the protesters’ opposition to the government’s “black box,” or opaque administrative style and the state apparatus’ manipulation of the public.
The anti-service-trade-pact protest is not the first time Lai has been involved in social movements. She also took part in protests against the forced demolition of the Wang (王) family home in Taipei’s Shihlin District (士林) for an urban renewal project known as Wenlin Yuan (文林苑) as well as protests against media monopolization.
After attending the Black Island Youth Alliance last year, she said she began to pay attention to the issues concerning the cross-strait service trade pact, participated in public hearings, interviewed academics and became aware of how the pact could impact Taiwan’s economy and society.
Lai was one of the first group of 60 students who charged into the legislative chamber on the night of March 18, after Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chang Ching-chung (張慶忠) announced in the afternoon the trade pact had been approved by a joint legislative committee after just 30 seconds.
Chang’s announcement has been seen as the “flashpoint” for the Sunflower movement protests.
Taking part in protests such as the ones against the Wenlin Yuan urban renewal project had inspired her to care about social issue, Lai said.
She said she was shocked and horrified to see an excavator destroying the Wang’s home.
“How can the government do such a thing?” she said she thought.
Watching as police dragged student protesters away one-by-one at the Wenlin Yuan protests made her realize that Taiwan’s education system, which asks students to be polite and obedient to the law, led young people to become detached and uninterested in politics, thereby allowing the government to have its own way.
Lai said she had been able to convey the protesters’ appeals clearly because she has a strong faith, carefully prepared for her talks and had gained “reinforcement” from discussing the situation with many other students.
Lai said that over the past three weeks she had often heard words of comfort and support, such as: “You guys are doing good enough” or “Even if you fail, you should be proud.”
However, “the goal of the movement is looking further into the future — to first legislate a bill monitoring cross-strait agreements before reviewing the trade pact, to prevent such ‘black-box’ operations by the government from occurring again,” she said.