On March 18 of this year, student demonstrators stormed Taiwan’s parliament, and occupied it for almost a month. During this dramatic, unprecedented outpour of public sentiment against the ruling KMT party’s handling of a trade agreement with China, we have seen students organized, riot police beating protesters, and a half-million person march in front of the president’s office. After the students left the parliament peacefully, we suddenly realized that the deeper questions raised by the movement—governance, China, and globalized capitalism—are just beginning to be answered.

We talk to the two public faces of the movement—Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆) and Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷), in this exclusive interview. We ask them just how they have been pushing for their goals, even as the student activist coalition ended; we ask them whether they will run for office; and what they thought about Chinese students increasingly becoming active in Taiwan.

In short, all of us want to know: how do you go from protester to political leader? Click above to listen to the interview in Mandarin, or read the transcripts below.

 

Ketagalan Media (KM): First, what have you guys been doing since leaving the Legislative Yuan (the parliament)? What has been happening in terms of keeping the movement going?

Lin Fei-fan (LFF): One, we understand that the main goals of the movement has not been achieved yet. The citizens’ constitutional meetings, free trade zones, and cross-straits oversight legislation, are all still being worked on.

During the Sunflower Movement, there were actually many groups in the coalition, and each one of them has its own mission. For example, the constitutional issues are being worked on by the Democracy Protection Platform (守護民主平台); the Anti Black Box Democracy Coalition (反黑箱民主陣線) is working on arguments against free trade zones; many other groups are working on the cross-straits oversight law, such as us [Taiwan March (島國前進)], the Black Island Youth Alliance (黑色島國青年陣線)…so there are many groups each doing its own thing.

For us Taiwan March, we want to focus on the problems of representative democracy by having more ways for citizens to directly participate in political decision making. Therefore, right now we are trying to amend the Referendum Law, by holding a referendum on the Referendum Law. Sounds absurd, doesn’t it? We are against the law, yet we are using it to change itself. What we really want to achieve is to gather public support for the issue, and pressure our elected representatives to amend the law in parliament.

After taking over the parliament, what else can we do? Actually we have been working through other channels, such as lobbying our legislators—we have been doing that for many years, but the effect has not been great. We are thinking of ways to allow for more people to be involved, and to create real influence. For now, we are asking people to petition for a referendum—you need 100,000 signatures for the first phase, and then 1 million for the second phase, which if successful, can create substantial political pressure.

KM: The two of you have been involved in many of the big social issues in Taiwan, from the Wild Strawberry Movement, and then Anti Media Monopoly, to Dapu, jobless laborers, and the Huaguang Community. What connects all of them? What is your fundamental belief that drove you to be involved in all of these issues?

Chen Wei-ting (CWT): All of these issues have two common themes. First, there is the globalized, free market economy. Which is to say, we want governments to regulate global capital and corporate interests. More specifically, we are talking about the global trend to free trade. Free trade benefits mostly the large capital interests in the US, Europe, and Japan. Within Taiwan, we want the government to take up regulating these capital interests, like regulating how they can buy land, regulating how much media power they can have, regulating how they can treat employees, like that. That’s the first theme.

The second common theme, of course, is that while Taiwan is facing this world of globalized capitalism, it is even more dangerous facing the rise of China. Everyone in the world is dealing with this, but Taiwan is feeling it the most, because China claims sovereignty over us. The Wild Strawberry Movement in 2008 was a political backlash against [President] Ma Ying-jeou’s China policies, but also starting that time Ma began his economic integration with China. Then we have Chinese capital interests buying our media in 2012, and then the services trade agreement in 2014, the past 6 years we have seen how China has steadily taken over our economy.

We are against this trend of globalized free trade, because it benefits capitalists and hurts the disadvantaged people, and we are especially against China’s role in riding the wave of free trade to monopolize Taiwan’s economy and politics. 

KM: On the topic of representative and direct democracy, former DPP legislator Lin Cho-shui had said that Taiwan is solving its problems on the streets more than inside the parliament. Is this to say that Taiwan’s representative democracy is broken? Other than direct electoral mechanisms such as the Referendum Law and Election and Recall Law, what else should be done to fix the democratic system? In other words, like last year’s slogan says “Demolish the Government Tomorrow”, how do you propose to rebuild it?

LFF: We believe that the recall mechanism is very important. Currently in Taiwan, there has not been one successful precedent where a member of parliament was recalled. In other words, we have the power to elect legislators, yet we don’t have power to vote him out of office when we want to.

Another element is our current electoral system, which currently favors the two major parties. For example, for any party to win a seat in the parliament, it must have at least 5% of the total votes, which has been almost impossible for smaller parties to achieve right now.

KM: Some people say that the presidential system in Taiwan is where the 51% candidate takes 100% of the power, and given Taiwan’s experience [in the 2000 presidential elections when the vote was split three ways, and the 39% candidate won], the presidential system naturally favors two major parties. Has anyone asked what you think?

CWT: As for constitutional reform, Mr. Lin Cho-shui cares a lot about constitutional separation of powers in addition to direct democracy. We agree that it’s an important issue, and this is why we ended up making it one of our demands during the Sunflower Movement. We saw that the president can reach into the legislature as the chairman of his party, and directly control the majority of the legislature. There are no checks and balances.

So we are still discussing how to redesign the constitutional system, and there is no final solution yet. The Democracy Protection Platform will also propose a constitutional amendment plan in 2015. As for presidential or parliamentary system, I don’t think there is a right answer. It’s not as if we change to a parliamentary system we can make all of our problems go away. Even in parliamentary countries like the UK or Germany, we see two major parties monopolize the political process. There has to be other electoral system reforms as well. I don’t believe we will beat the KMT’s hold on politics overnight.

Actually, we know that the DPP supported a presidential system in the early days of democratization because it is easier to upset the status quo and for an opposition party to take power. Does it make the government more accountable to the citizens now, to switch over to a parliamentary system? It’s an idea, but might not be the answer. We want to talk about how to put in checks and balances mechanisms first.

KM: A lot of people are curious whether either of you will run for office this year or in 2016, or if you will form a new political party. My question is, if that does happen, wouldn’t that party be even more radically pro-independence than the DPP, or more left-wing? Wouldn’t that take away votes from the DPP, and end up benefiting the KMT? How do you respond to that?

CWT: Right now, our organization Taiwan March has no plans to form a political party, and neither of us is planning to run for office. We still have to serve our conscription, and graduate. So there are no plans in 2016.

However, there is an organization now called Taiwan Citizens Union (公民組合) that is planning to form a party. They were already planning on it before the March 18th demonstrations. We will be involved in those discussions, and will support them if necessary.

The other question about whether we will take away votes from the DPP. First of all, us civic groups are already better at bringing in new voters than the DPP. The DPP is already an old party that can’t convince new voters. After the Sunflower Movement, the KMT’s support went down, but the DPP’s support didn’t go up. All the new young people who care about politics are closer to civic groups. If there is a new party that continues the platform of the movement, it won’t necessarily eat into the DPP’s support. Furthermore, even if it does eat into the DPP’s support, I think we should think in terms of new political parties to hold both the DPP and the KMT accountable.

The DPP also has policies that I worry about. Politically, although they claim to be pro-independence, we see that they were thinking about abolishing their independence party platform, and accepting the 1992 Consensus [that both Taiwan and China agree there is only one China and Taiwan is part of China, with different definitions of “China”]. That problem is over for now, but it could come up again anytime. On the economic side, the DPP wavers between left and right. The DPP flip-flops on free trade policies. Before March, DPP Chairwoman Tsai Ing-wen has not had a clear position on free trade, and it was only after we acted that she came out against it. DPP county and city mayors are still vague on their position. Behind all this, we need to have a clearer, more pro-independence stance.

Of course, we are still operating under what the DPP already said: that Taiwan is already an independent, sovereign country, and any changes to our borders or sovereignty must be decided by the Taiwanese people as a whole. Even when the DPP is giving up on this principle, we want to protect it, and economically we need to be more on the left to balance them. I think that is a healthy and necessary process. I think if we give up on holding the DPP accountable, we are doing them a disfavor.

KM: Finally, we want to ask about the issue of Tamkang University’s student president election [where PRC exchange students are running]. We know that Wei-ting has come out in support, but what about Fei-fan?

LFF: My attitude is to support this as well, there’s nothing much else. To be honest, The rights of Chinese students in Taiwan has always been under some form of threat by pro-independence supporters. There are already many issues with Chinese students, such as whether they should be part of our national healthcare system, or whether they can be TAs or RAs, or apply for scholarship. When I was president of National Taiwan University’s (NTU) graduate students, my position was clear: we need to treat Chinese students the same as any other foreign student. If all foreign students can work as TAs and RAs, why not Chinese students? Why should we have a special treatment for them?

I think the root of the problem is this gray area between Taiwan and China, where things are left to be ambiguous. Chinese nationals are governed by the Regulation for People Across the Taiwan Strait, a law that gives them a special category, which does not solve many of these problems. Basically, Chinese students in Taiwan should just be treated the same as any other foreign student. If students from Europe, America, Japan, Korea, or even Hong Kong can run for student president, we shouldn’t limit Chinese students.

Is there a possibility of China using this as an infiltration method? Sure. And we have had similar problems at NTU, at departmental elections. But I don’t think that is enough reason to ban them outright, but we should hold each candidate accountable by making them debate their positions and values.

 

Ketagalan Media (以下 KM): 離開立法院之後,你們都在做些什麼呢?學運的具體延伸,有什麼樣的工作呢?

林飛帆(以下「帆」):離開立法院之後,我們大家很清楚整個運動的大方向的訴求還沒達到,譬如說後來大家比較關注的公民憲政會議,跟自經區條例,還有兩岸協議立法。這幾件事情是到目前為止還沒有達成的目標。

其實318是有非常多不同團體,這些團體裡面大家有各自關注的焦點。譬如說公民憲政會議的推動可能是主要是守護民主平台。自經區條例的監督,就是說反對自經區條例通過的行動部分包含論述的準備,最主要還是以反黑箱民主陣線在負責。兩岸協議條例就是大家運動共同參與,主軸還是在反黑箱服貿民主陣線在做。反黑箱服貿民主陣線其實底下有很多團體,像剛剛講的守護民主平台也是反黑箱服貿民主陣線的一個次團體,我們【島國前進】也是,黑島青也是。基本上就是有這麼多團體各自在做各自的事情。

現在我們島國前進在做的事情是希望在 318 之後,因為認識到代議政治的不足,我們希望可以直接民主,從民權補正的方式去著手,所以我們選擇依公投法為目標做我們現在主要的工作。現在公投法的推動我們所選擇的方式是用公投法修公投法,就是用公投聯署的方式去補正公投法。這看起來當然在邏輯上面有的弔詭,就是你反對它,但又用這遊戲規則在推動這件事情。實際上背後的思考是對公投法施壓,就是施壓立法院,讓立法院可以去修公投法。

除了包圍立法院、佔領立法院之外,我們到底還有什麼手段?國會遊說,其實這幾年下來大家都不斷在做國會遊說。這些事情其實大家都做過,都能證明能造成的壓力是有限的。用最高戰力佔領立法院的形式,我們也都用過;我們在思考有沒有其他方式可以去一方面是讓大家可以參與,二方面是可以造成實質的壓力,所以我們選擇用公投法聯署的方式。兩階段的聯署,第一階段是10萬份,第二階段是100萬份,所以它會塑造出一股比較龐大的壓力。

KM: 你們從野草莓到反媒體壟斷,一直到大埔、關廠工人、華光社區等等這些大大小小這些議題你們都有去參與過,你們覺得這些問題之間有沒有什麼共通點?你們是基於什麼信念,為什麼想要去參與一些表面上看起來不相關的議題?或是其實裡面有個共通的地方你們想去挑戰,或是你們想要去處理的?

陳為廷(以下「廷」):工廠工人,土地徵收,野草莓反媒體壟斷,甚至服貿協議都有一個共通的特點,我覺得是兩大核心的問題,第一個是我們談到新自由主義的全球化,他的共通的特性就是說,要讓各國家的政府去管制有利於這些國際的強權,國際的資本進入這些各個地方,台灣當然也面臨這些問題。當然這問題在外顯國際之間就是更進一步的國際的自由貿易。可是那國際的自由貿易當然是有利於美國、歐洲、日本,這些強權的財團利益為主,反應在國內就是要去各局管制化,包括像是土地政策就土地政策去管制化,媒體就是媒體的去管制化,勞工就是要管制勞工條件,就是這樣的邏輯去展開的。這是第一個問題,新自由主義是第一個軸線。

第二個軸線是在台灣面對新自由主義全球化特殊的脈絡跟情境,更危險的因素就是面對中國的因素跟崛起。全世界都在面對這事情,台灣面對的更尖銳,因為台灣是唯一一個中國對外宣稱有主權的國家。 野草莓外顯主要是是政治上的議題,背後其實從 2008 年開始,從馬英九上台更進一步的經貿整合,也是從那做一個開端,後來到了媒體壟斷,看到的是中國的資本壟斷媒體,服貿協議當然更是,從2008年談判到2014年已經要面對更深入的經貿整合的問題,大概就是這兩個主軸。

我們當然反對這種新自由主義全球化的區管制化,因為他是有利於財團,不利於弱勢者。更反對就是中國在這管制當中,透過這樣的過程去壟斷台灣的政治跟經濟上的自主性,這是我們關注的訴求。

KM: 剛才飛帆講到代議民主跟直接民主的事情,之前有民進黨前立委林濁水有講過,我們國家這些大大小小的議題,在街頭上解決的比在議會解決的還多。也就是就像你講的代議民主的失靈。除了公投法、選舉罷免法這些比較直接性的改變之外,還有什麼你們覺得代議民主還可以加強的地方?去年大家講說明天拆政府,那後天怎麼重建這個政府? 

帆:基本上如果說代議民主本身有什麼需要改革的東西,選罷法是一個很重要的關鍵。過去台灣的選罷法,你要罷免一個立委,從頭到尾,從國會開始全面直選之後,在這之前沒有一個成功罷免的經驗。把這些人選出來之後,沒有一個成功罷免的範例。

現在也有人在推動選制的改革。我們現在的選制圖利兩大黨,一個小黨除非要拿超過 5% 的選票,才有辦法去取得一個席次,這完全是圖利兩大黨的一個設計。選制改革是很重要的一環,這也是我們在談台灣代議民主政治接下來如果要走的下一步,除了選罷法之外,選制改革也是一個很重要的關鍵。

KM: 之前有說台灣的總統制,一定是百分之五十一,一定是兩個人競選,當然就會是兩大黨。台灣有三組人馬競選的經驗,大家知道結果一定有個陣營是分裂的。因為總統只能選一個出來,有沒有人問你們有關總統制,內閣制相關的問題?

廷:剛剛講到說憲政的改革,林濁水現在很關心直接民主之外還要處理憲改這件事情,我們認為台灣下一步的憲改是很重要的一個問題。為什麼會提出憲改這樣的訴求,其實是在太陽花學運的過程當中看到很清楚的為什麼允許一個第一大黨的總統,掌握國會的多數,直接箝制國會投票的過程,所以這現在是很大的問題,就是無法制衡。

那無法制衡,要怎麼在憲政制度上設計,就還在討論,現在還沒有定案。台灣守護平主平台提出修憲的草案也會在2015年浮上檯面去討論。單就總統制、內閣制的問題,我覺得這不是一個定論的東西,內閣制、改革制就是可以讓總統制弊病消失,我覺得不盡然。總統制、內閣制只是一個殼子,就算是內閣制的國家,向英國德國這些地方,主要也是兩大黨在壟斷政治的過程。就算是改內閣制還是需要很多選制上的改革。我不覺得變成內閣制隔天就可以突破國民黨的壟斷。

事實上,我們都知道民進黨在早期民主化改革階段之所以堅持說要用總統制就是比內閣制有希望去獲得政權。現在這時候改內閣制有助於監督嗎?我覺得他可能是一個討論點,但不見得可以解決所有問題。如何在下一步在憲改當中去設置一些制衡的工具,這是還在討論的,我們還沒有定論。

KM: 現在可能很多人都有興趣問你們會在 2014, 2016 的選舉中參選嗎?也有人問,你們會組黨嗎?如果你們有組黨的話,是不是比民進黨更偏台獨或是更偏左,會不會有人覺得說你們就是分化綠營的票,又讓國民黨得利,有沒有這樣的一個說法,有的話怎麼回應?

廷:應該這樣講,先看現在綠營政治的情勢。現在島國前進這組織我們並沒有要組黨,我們兩個也沒有要下去選,我還要當兵,還要唸書。至少在2016年這場並沒有要去參選的打算。台灣確實現在有公民的組織有想要組黨,叫公民組合。在3月學運之前他們就已經在籌備組黨過程。我們會參與組黨過程的討論,然後必要的話會提供支持,這是第一點。

第二點就是會不會分化票源,我覺得有兩個點。第一個點就是這些聲援團體,事實上比民進黨更有拓展票源的能力。有些人會怕說我們會不會去吃到他們的票,其實民進黨早就是已經沒有拓展票源能力的傳統政黨,三月學運之後,國民黨的民調低了,民進黨的民調沒有提高,就是個很明顯的案例。我們看到的確有關心政治的年輕人,可能對於聲援團體比較貼近。如果有新的團體政黨去延續3月以來運動的訴求和拓展票源能力,事實上不見得會去搶到民進黨的票。第二件事情就是說就算真的會搶到票,大家必須要有一個觀念就是說,事實上需要新的政黨出來去一併監督民進黨與國民黨,這才是一個健全的過程。

我看到民進黨現在擔憂的政策。在政治上面,他們雖然宣稱是台獨政黨,但是我們看到過去這一段時間,民進黨內部有凍結台獨黨綱,有往92國共紅線靠攏的方向去前進。這東西雖然暫時被壓下來,未來可能會再被提出來,這是政治上的隱憂。第二件事情在經濟政策上面,民進黨對於自由貿易政策上面,事實上一直非常的不穩固。蔡英文在三月之前對服貿事實上沒有很明確的表態,到了學運後才站出來說反對。在自由經濟示範區的立場上面,民進黨地方首長也是態度一直很模糊,直到現在也是一直如此。在這之後你必須要有一個更堅持、更獨派的立場。

事實上我們說我們是獨派的立場,但我想我們不會超出過去民進黨基本的價值的東西,就是台灣已經是獨立自主的國家,未來變更領土或是主權必須要共同決定。這東西民進黨現在默默在退守,但是我們至少站穩這腳步。對於經濟政策上面,我們要站在比他們更左的立場去監督他們,我覺得這是一個健康的過程,也是一個必要的過程。如過大家覺得瓜分票源害到民進黨的話,其實反對才是害到民進黨。

KM: 最後一個問題就是淡江大學的學生會長的事情,我們知道為廷已經發表自己的意見,那飛帆你覺得呢?

帆:我的態度是支持,這沒有什麼好說的。說實在中國學生在台灣的權利,一直是受到某種意義下的獨派的侵害。我們在先前幾個重大關於中生的議題,包含中生是不是該納健保,或者是中生是不是在台灣擔任老師 TA, RA 的工作機會,去領去獎助學金的議題,其實之前在臺大也有過類似的爭辯。當時候我在當研習會長的時候已經主張很清楚,就我自己的認知,中國學生我們應該要視同外級學生的權利來做看待。同時,外籍學生享有怎樣的權利,如果外籍學生能做 TA, RA,那為什麼中國學生不行?我們為什麼要把中國學生特別拿出來看待?

我覺得我們對中國現在有個模糊的地帶、模糊的空間。同時,也是兩岸關係條例之間創造了很多的問題,並沒有解決這些問題。事實上中國學生在台灣的所有權利,最基本應該比照所有的外籍學生一樣。如果當今天,外籍學生是有辦法能夠包含歐洲美國這些學生,日本留學生,韓國留學生,甚至香港的學生,他們有辦法在台灣選學生會長的話,那我們要去限制中國學生不能去選學生會長。我覺得這是一個基本的態度。

那當然中國學生如果真的要來參選,會不會有滲透的問題?確實會有,實際上在台大也有類似一樣的事情,那事情不是在學生會層級的事情,而是在系所層級的事情,確實有發生過。問題是說不能夠因為他有可能造成滲透這件事情,我們就去禁止他來選,而是我們應該要來想的是說我們在選舉的過程當中,他必須要把他的政見,他的價值拿出來辯論跟討論。

 

(Feature photo of Lin Fei-fan and Chen Wei-ting in San Francisco, by Gina Mao)

 

The Ketagalan Project

History and culture are the frames that prescribe how we understand the world around us. Our co-hosts present in-depth interviews on how art, culture, history and politics intertwine throughout time and space to connect us. Find out about the cosmopolitan modern Taipei downtown in the 1920s, regional trade, the future of aboriginal culture and more.