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Sunflowers could unify dissenters

By Paul Lin 林保華
Since the beginning of the Sunflower movement, pro-unification media have linked it to the promotion of Taiwanese independence.
In an attempt to shift the focus, they said that the banners and flags hung outside the Legislative Yuan during the demonstrations by pro-independence organizations were put up there by the students.
By doing so, they tried to stir up the unification-independence issue in an attempt to cause a confrontation between the pan-blue and pan-green camps. The student leaders handled the issue with great caution and the media were unable to create any sensational headlines regarding their position on the issue.
Still, the Sunflower movement and pro-independence groups share opposition to the opaque cross-strait service trade agreement, which means that there should be room for cooperation.
In addition, the student-led movement cannot be completely isolated from the unification-independence dispute.
For example, in a speech on March 30, student leader Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆) demanded that Taiwan redefine its relationship with China and refuse unification. The service trade agreement is like a Trojan horse in that it is an attempt to bring about unification through economic means. Refusal to accept unification with China was a core view of the Sunflower movement.
As protesters occupied the legislative chamber during the student-led movement, some protesters who had gathered outside the Legislative Yuan made more radical comments, particularly after the legislative chamber had been cleared.
At a protest organized by the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan in front of the Legislative Yuan, one student declared on stage that he supported Taiwanese independence and the young listeners around him gave him a round of enthusiastic applause.
Why did something like this suddenly appear in Taiwan? Does President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) not think the so-called “cross-strait reconciliation” is his greatest political achievement?
Is it not true that some members of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) often suggest that the party should follow the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) China policy as a way of attracting votes?
The US praises the Ma administration’s China policy whenever it comments on the political situation in Taiwan. The Chinese government is overjoyed to have such a pro-Chinese man in power who is even willing to consider the same kind of “one country, two systems” policy in Taiwan that it has implemented in Hong Kong. Why is there such a huge gap between politicians’ ideas and public opinion?
Judging from the results of various opinion polls, the percentage of respondents identifying as “Taiwanese” has increased greatly under Ma’s rule.
The fact that they did not vote for the DPP does not mean that they identify with Ma’s pro-China policies, because they are young citizens who to a certain extent lack political awareness and they usually have no means to express their opinions.
However, as the Sunflower movement began, it sparked a national awareness. Taiwanese independence, which has always been ridiculed and opposed by China, is regaining its reputation thanks to Ma’s willful insistence on a pro-unification line and Beijing’s increasing pressure on the president, although this is something that he dares not admit to in public.
There is a difference between opposition to unification with China and support for Taiwanese independence.
Those who oppose unification include people who have an attachment to the Republic of China. Apart from independence advocates, those who oppose unification are equally important because they can further unite those who do not support independence, but refuse to be annexed by the Chinese Communist Party.
Opposition to unification can be seen as a somewhat pro-independence stance and it demonstrates the public’s national awareness.
This is something that independence advocates must accept with an open mind to expand and organize a wide support base. It is only once they achieve this that the US and other countries will be able to squarely face the nation’s independence and sovereignty.
The Sunflower movement and pro-independence groups should respect their mutual differences and retain their similarities.
It was the cooperation between the more moderate groups and the radical groups that was key to the movement’s success, and this is an experience that should be cherished.
They can certainly express their own ideals, but they should not criticize each other lest their opponent use that to destroy their unity.
Paul Lin is a political commentator.
Translated by Eddy Chang

Taipei Times
2014.5.11

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