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November 12, 2008 in The China Beat


Copyright November 12, 2008. Used by permission.


The past week has witnessed the appearance of the Wild Strawberries Student Movement (野草莓學運; see website), formed in the aftermath of state attempts to curtail peaceful expressions of free speech during the visit of ARATS Chairman Chen Yunlin 陳雲林. These actions prompted over 200 students to launch a sit-inoutside the Executive Yuan, and after being evicted from their original location the students transferred the sit-in to Liberty Plaza (自由廣場). They have received petitions of support from over 500 university professors, while other sit-ins have been staged throughout the island.

At this point in time, the movement’s goals include: 1) Apologies from President Ma Ying-jeou 馬英九 and Premier Liu Chao-shiuan 劉兆玄; 2) The resignations of National Police Agency Director-General Wang Cho-chiun 王卓鈞 and National Security Bureau Director-General Tsai Chao-ming 蔡朝明; 3) Amending the Parade and Assembly Law (集會遊行法) by removing an article that obliges rally organizers to apply for police approval prior to staging an event.

The students have had to cope with a wide range of “tests”, including bad weather, midterms, convincing politcal figures not to take part, and coping with the occasional oddball trying to take advantage of the sit-in to make her or his own statement. Whether this movement will be as successful as the Wild Lily Student Movement (野百合學運) of the 1990s remains to be seen. The number of participants has been relatively low, but both the ruling and opposition parties have responded positively to the possibility of amending the Parade and Assembly Law. However, there has as yet been no response to student insistence on apologies and resignations. Student protests have always been a thorn in side of Chinese governments, be they imperial dynasties, authoritarian states, or democracies; it will be interesting to see how things progress.