Acting as a spokesman for the Sunflower movement has thrust 24-year-old Wu Cheng (吳崢) into the spotlight partly because of his resemblance to some good-looking Taiwanese celebrities, but mostly because of his unwavering determination to “fulfill the duty of a citizen” and stand up when his country needs him to.
Since he joined hundreds of students to occupy the legislative chamber on March 18, Wu has been having trouble strolling along the streets around the Legislative Yuan without being recognized and asked for an autograph.
In the first few days of the movement, Wu volunteered to take charge of maintaining security and “guarding” the chamber’s entrances.
Wu, a student of political science at National Taiwan University, was later put in charge of media relations after the movement evolved into a prolonged protest, spending several hours a day discussing strategies and countermeasures with his peers.
Wu has also been invited to specify the students’ stances and demands on political talk shows.
His eloquence, coupled with his good looks, has helped him garner quite a few fans.
The 24-year-old’s first protest experience was in August 2006, when hundreds of thousands of “red-shirt” protesters took to the streets of Taipei to demonstrate against then-president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) over a string of corruption scandals.
Some equate protests with political manipulation by politicians, as Wu’s parents did when they saw university students stage sit-ins and protests against police’s heavy-handed handling of people opposing a 2008 visit by the then-Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) — which were later called the “Wild Strawberry Movement.”
However, Wu thinks otherwise.
“When I told my parents that I agreed with the causes of the Wild Strawberry Movement, they warned me not to be manipulated by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP),” Wu said.
“Then I told them that right is right and wrong is wrong, and it has nothing to do with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) or the DPP,” Wu said.
With that belief in mind, Wu went on to participate in a number of social movements that he deemed “right,” including a series of rallies against media monopolies and the use of nuclear energy.
The Sunflower movement against the controversial cross-strait service trade agreement is by far the most radical social movement Wu has ever participated in, he said.
“I was infuriated after [KMT lawmaker] Chang Ching-chung (張慶忠) passed the service trade agreement through a legislative committee meeting in just 30 seconds. However, when I was told about the other students’ plan to break into the legislature on March 18, I still hesitated for a moment before joining them,” Wu said.
Wu said he ended up joining the occupation because he could not “resist the urge to do something about injustice.”
“If there ever comes a day when Taiwan is unified with China, I will have no regrets, because at least I have tried to put up a fight today,” he added.
Wu also dismissed opponents of the student movement’s criticism that “the duty of a student is to study, not rally.”
“For someone who is a student and also a citizen of this country like myself, paying attention to the developments of the nation is just as important as going to school,” Wu said.
“When it comes to politics, if you do not make decisions for yourself, someone else will make them for you. If you refuse to pay attention and understand what is happening now, you are essentially giving up your fundamental rights as a citizen,” he said.
Wu said that the anti-trade-pact movement, which is due to come to an end today, has been a bittersweet experience for him.
“The bitter part is not knowing how long the battle would last and whether we would accomplish anything along the way,” he said.
“Whereas the sweet part is seeing the many people supporting and fighting side-by-side with us for a country we call home,” Wu added.