Yesterday marked the first anniversary of the occupation of the Executive Yuan’s main building in Taipei, which took place from the night of March 23 to the early hours of March 24 last year. However, the Executive Yuan museum, inaugurated this year, fails to commemorate the event — the most well-known invasion of an administrative building in Taiwan’s history.
Days after protesters occupied the Legislative Yuan’s main chamber on March 18, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and then-premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) remained unwavering in their refusal to accept the protesters’ call for the retraction of a cross-strait service trade agreement.
Jiang met with the activists on March 22 last year, but gave no indication of a change in the government’s stance.
A group of protesters decided to occupy the Executive Yuan on March 23 in response.
Jiang, in turn, ordered the eviction of the protesters. The six waves of forced removals by riot police proved to be the most severe conflict seen during the Sunflower movement.
The Executive Yuan has insisted on suing the occupiers, even after Jiang’s resignation following the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) defeat in the nine-in-one elections in November last year.
The Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office last month indicted 93 people on charges tied to the siege of the Executive Yuan.
Still, the incident is not mentioned in the Executive Yuan museum, which purports to exhibit the history of the government body.
In a section relating to former premier Jiang’s Cabinet, only the policy plans of the proposed free economic pilot zones are on display — there is no material related to the Sunflower movement or the occupation of the Executive Yuan.
In the historical material section, Jiang is pictured visiting hospitalized victims of last year’s fatal gas pipeline explosions in Kaohsiung, but there are no images of him meeting protest leaders outside the Legislative Yuan or denouncing the incident at an international news conference.
Executive Yuan deputy secretary-general Sung Yu-hsieh (宋餘俠) said that the museum was constrained by a lack of available space, and that materials would probably be updated in the future.
As to whether the occupation had earned a place in the Executive Yuan’s history, Sung said that as every government body has a book recording its major events, “[The occupation] records certainly are there.”
National Chengchi University Graduate Institute of Taiwan History director Hsueh Hua-yuan (薛化元) said that the occupation of the Executive Yuan is a major event of historical significance, regardless of how one feels about it, and thereby should be duly recorded.
The Executive Yuan’s history should be centered on the body itself instead of the premiers, Hsueh added, and the occupation should be placed in the museum’s “Time Corridor” section.
Academia Sinica modern history researcher Chen Yi-shen (陳儀深) said that it is to be expected that the objects of the Sunflower movement’s protests would not hold positive views about the occupation, but history per se should reflect what actually happened.
The omission should be interpreted as a lack of confidence, Chen said.
Only when the Executive Yuan is willing to lay out the facts could it make the needed improvements, Chen added, who also suggested the Academia Historica work on a history of the nation’s student movements, that would encompass the Wild Lily student movement in 1990, the Wild Strawberry movement in 2008 and the Sunflower movement.
Academia Historica Edit and Compilation Section head Chang Shih-ying (張世瑛) said the institution had been collecting material during the Sunflower movement.
The institution has worked on post-war democratic activism, social and women’s rights and environmental movements, and an account of the student movement was under consideration, Chang said.
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