Taiwan’s twenty-somethings were labelled the “Strawberry generation” by their elders. They said they were soft and couldn’t stand up to pressure. However, the new student movement that has emerged in the wake of Chen Yunlin’s visit to Taiwan is anything but soft and weak. Taiwan’s youth are standing up for themselves and speaking out against the government’s abuses of power.
The students’ protest began on 6 November outside the Executive Yuan in response to the abusive acts of police towards peaceful protestors. In response to events of the previous days the protesters issued a statement with three demands: (1) President Ma and Premier Liu must publicly apologise to all citizens. (2) National Police Agency Director-General Wang Cho-chiun and National Security Bureau Director Tsai Chao-ming must step down. (3) The Legislative Yuan must revise the Parade and Assembly Law, which currently restricts the rights of the people.
On the evening of 7 November police forcefully removed the protesters from the front of the Executive Yuan. Police did this under the powers of the Assembly Law that the students were protesting against. The students then reconvened at Freedom Square (自由廣場) where the protest now continues.
Hsu Zen-shou (許仁碩), a law student at NTU and a spokesperson for the student protest in Taipei explained the protests were unaffilliated with political parties because the issue is about the people not parties. He said, “KMT and DPP are all the same. When I was a freshman I got hit by the DPP government and now I’m getting hit by the KMT government.”
Since Saturday morning the weather in Taipei has been cold and rainy. The students initially found it difficult to hire tents because it was an illegal protest. However, they have continued their protests in spite of the weather and this is symbolic of the students’ determination. “We always feel tired and wet and uncomfortable. But even if it rains cats and dogs we are still here,” Hsu said.
Students are simultaneously protesting in Tainan, Kaohsiung, Hsinchu and Taichung. Hsu said, “We keep in touch with them via the internet. When something happens they can know immediately. Nobody has done this kind of thing before.”
When asked how long the protest would go on for Hsu responded, “Whether we go back home or not is according to the decision of the people at the protest. We have no leader or leader group and any big decision is made by consensus at a group meeting.”
The students have now adopted the moniker “Wild Strawberry” Student Movement (野草莓學運). The name echoes the Wild Lily Movement (野百合學運) of 1990, a student led protest that led to Taiwan having direct elections. Hsu Zen-shou also said, “wild strawberries are small and grow close to the ground. They are very strong and never give up.” Taiwan is going to hear a lot more from these students in the future.
*The movement now has an English-language blog, TAIWAN’s Wild Berries Movement, to complement the Chinese-language blog. There are live broadcasts of the protests on Yahoo Live (check the blogs for links). There is flickr group for photos of the Wild Strawberry movement and loads of videos on Youtube. Other Taiwan bloggers writing about the protests include Fili, Michael, Bala Daily, Taiwan Echo and I-fan at Global Voices.