Time for the tough to get going


By Joe Hhung

With his patience all but lost due to the more than two-week occupation of the Legislative Yuan by Sunflower movement student activists, President Ma Ying-jeou finally realized that when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Well, he is hitting back hard by threatening to prosecute the occupiers. His premier, Jiang Yi-huah, fired a broadside at the activists for occupying the debating chamber of the parliament. His Kuomintang secretary-general Tseng Yung-chuan said they are self-aggrandizing much too much and their hijacking of the parliament in the name of democracy was even criticized in the Washington-based Nelson Report as authoritarian. They both urged Legislative Yuan Speaker Wang Jin-pying to clear the debating chamber of all the students. Rumor is rife, too, that the riot police are ready to storm the parliament chamber to evict them by force.

The students got tough, too. They held what they call a citizen’s assembly last Saturday to deliberate two draft statutes governing oversight of the conclusion of cross-strait agreements, one by the Mainland Affairs Council (M.A.C.) and the other by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). The activists launched their Sunflower movement by occupying the parliament on March 18 to demand that the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement be retracted. One latest demand is to review the trade agreement clause by clause after the oversight statute is signed into law. However, their movement peaked when the Blackshirts demonstrated in front of the Presidential Mansion on March 30 and has since been losing steam.

A citizens’ assembly is a body formed from the citizens of a modern state to deliberate on an issue or issues of national importance. Its members are randomly selected, the purpose being to employ a cross-section of the public to propose answers to questions. But the Sunflower citizens’ assembly has the activists and their professors as its members, though they wished Kuomintang lawmakers would join. They invited M.A.C. officials to participate, but their invitation was turned down. Lawmaker Yu Mei-nu, who had hastily proposed the statute, took part in the citizens’ assembly, which had three very brief sessions, two hours each in the morning and the afternoon and three hours after nightfall in one day. They held a citizens’ constitutional grassroots forum for four hours yesterday to boot. The citizens’ assembly would submit a memorandum to the Legislative Yuan and the Executive Yuan “to listen to the voice of the citizens in deliberation.” It’s totally unnecessary, of course. The farce was more than well covered by the media.

It may be a swan song of the Sunflower movement, however.

Its well organized and lavishly funded publicity campaign caught the attention of international media and world public opinion was initially favor of the student movement. Overseas Chinese students in the United States, the UK, and Japan took to the streets in support of the movement. Students in the U.S. bought a large ad for the movement in the New York Times.