03/19/2015, 00.00
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Taiwan celebrates the first anniversary of "Sunflowers", seeds of democracy

by Xin Yage
The government has deployed security forces in hot spots of the protest, which a year ago forced the government to review a disputed trade agreement with mainland China. Today the leaders of the movement call for "purity" and remember the futility of using violence in the political struggle.

Taipei (AsiaNews) - The government of Taiwan has "celebrated" the first anniversary of the Sunflower Movement with a massive deployment of security forces to guard the rally outside the Parliament convened last night to celebrate the event . Despite the tense atmosphere, a large number of people have attended. In the afternoon, representatives of various opposition groups had marched around the parliament building, now shielded by the police.

The Sunflower Student Movement - (太陽花 學運) broke out when a huge number of students decided to occupy Parliament for 23 days starting from March 18 (the movement is in fact also called 3-18) . The protest was against a free trade agreement with China that put at risk the economic development of the island. After the protests, the government had to revise the text.

What has remained of the movement? The new mayor of Taipei Ke Wen-je (柯文哲), elected last November 29, expressed particular praise for the students and their struggle for freedom of expression. The mayor's opinion is of particular importance right now in Taiwan: his direct, honest and unbiased way of talking in front of cameras, reveals that he is not in awe of the big industries and private companies that dominate the economy.

He is earning particular sympathy among people across the political spectrum because he puts the interests of citizens before those of big business. Ke has stressed the demand for transparency that is sought by the younger generation: "Those elected to government must respond to citizens before banks and company directors."

One of the student leaders, Chen Wei-ting (陳 為 廷), has recalled how the Sunflowers Movement created "something fresh and unexpected." He also emphasized that the original purity of the movement's purpose must be safeguarded and not allowed slip into violence, referring to the clashes on the night of March 23 when some tried to occupy the government palace, an attempt foiled by the intervention of police special forces.

What is certain is that the "Sunflowers" have born abundant fruit, that has yet to be fully realized. The recent municipal elections, in late November, expressed an almost unanimous rejection of the government and the Kuomintang (國民黨) line and were a very strong blow to a substantially secret style in drawing up economic and trade agreements with the mainland. Moreover, many are of the opinion that Hong Kong's umbrellas movement was inspired and encouraged by Taipei's Sunflowers.


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