After the protesters against the cross-strait service trade agreement vacated the legislative chamber on Thursday night, academics said that the Sunflower movement has enhanced Taiwan’s democracy and manifested a sense of Taiwanese national identity, proving that Taiwan has become a nation.
“This student movement has earned an important place in history. It is a representative episode for Taiwan’s second wave of democratic revolution,” political scientist Wu Rwei-ren (吳叡人) said.
“The first wave of democratic revolution came in the 1980s and 1990s, when Taiwan was transforming into a democratic society,” said Wu, an associate research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Taiwan History.
“However, reforms to the constitution and political system were not finalized. ‘Transitional justice’ was not implemented, and social welfare programs for the underprivileged were not formulated at the time,” he said.
“The Sunflower movement’s key issues focused on social justice, environmental issues and other themes. They also critically examined and reflected on Taiwan’s democracy declining,” he said.
Wu lauded the Sunflower movement for strengthening Taiwan’s democracy and putting down deep roots, while guarding against the return of the old power elite and shoring up against the decline of the democratic system.
“Taiwanese identity was clearly manifested in strong ways, which came to the forefront and brought people together, as it arose from the grassroots levels and reached up through society,” Wu said.
He said the students had definitively sounded out their identity values of “We are Taiwanese, and we don’t want to become Chinese,” and they did so naturally, without the melancholic sentiment of the previous generation.
Hsu Szu-chien (徐斯儉), associate research fellow at Academia Sinica’s Institute of Political Science, said in the short run, the Sunflower movement will prompt people to closely scrutinize the cross-strait service trade agreement and the oversight bill to monitor other cross-strait pacts.
“There are legislative deliberations on the ‘free economic pilot zone’ scheme and other contentious bills to the end of the year. It looks like the deliberation process will be very arduous,” Hsu said.
He said the Sunflower movement has piled much pressure on the Nationalist Chinese Party (KMT), which will be reflected in the seven-in-one elections in November.
“Our appraisal is that KMT would likely lose many seats,” Hsu said, adding that the movement may lead to the establishment of a new political force.