BRIAN CANAVE WRITES – It appears that Taiwanese students learned a thing or two from the movements of their American and French counterparts in the 1960s. Instead of simple protest demonstrations at Cal Berkley, students in Taiwan had a larger stage in mind: the Legislative Yuan and Executive Yuan of the Republic of China.
The movement, dubbed the Sunflower Student Movement or Occupy Taiwan Legislature, garnered heavy media attention worldwide. From Asian news sources such as The Straits Times and Taipei Times to the western Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, the month long occupation received a phenomenal amount of coverage. But, what exactly was their message?
Beginning in the early morning of March 19, students occupied the Legislative Yuan in protest of the Cross Straits Service Trade Agreement with China. This movement marked the first ever occupation of the Legislative Yuan since the retrocession of Taiwan in 1945.
Thanks to the advent of the internet and social media, the protest, which started with only 400 students, sparked a gathering of over 10,000 people. Even NGOs, such as Amnesty International, called for restraint by police through an immediate press release on March 19th. The student group cleverly used the web to garner support through Facebook and Twitter. In addition, their website, 4am.tw, kept an up-to-date timeline of events including photos, a collection of news coverage, and links to share the movement.
A lesson we can learn from this protest is that the power of the media, both old and new, can really help highlight the issue at hand.