This is our news report on a conversation we had with Wei Yang and Wu Cheng. Many thanks to Nikki Lin for speaking with them in London. We will post the transcript of the interview later this week.
Six months after the student-led Sunflower Movement ended, two of its representatives Wei Yang (魏揚) and Wu Cheng (吳崢) visited London from November 1st to the 3rd. They were invited by Taiwan Corner, a Danish member-based civic organization, to raise awareness in Europe of the pressures and challenges facing Taiwan’s democracy. According to Taiwan Corner’s chairman Michael Danielsen, Wei and Wu’s visit will “give the press, politicians, interested academics and others direct access to this new generation of activists.”
Wei and Wu gave a presentation to a gathering of academics at the University of London, and visited UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
“Recent events highlight the emergence of an axis of democratic activism involving both Hong Kong and Taiwan that is sophisticated, realistic and determined,” said Danielsen. “With majorities in both locations believing that under direct and indirect Chinese pressure, democratic freedoms are threatened, creative and peaceful civil disobedience is on the rise.”
Wu and Wei visited the United States in April and met with several members of Congress and senators during that trip. While discussion with American politicians mostly focused on official US-Taiwan relations, European scholars and politicians are more interested in learning about Taiwan’s current situation and strategies for the future.
“We often say that within Taiwan’s international relations, there are only China and the US,” said Wu. “Due to us having a weaker relationship with Europe, most of our discussions during this trip focus on learning about the Sunflower Movement rather than talking about the partnership between Taiwan and Europe.”
In the meantime, lawmakers from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) are trying to push through two controversial bills in the Taiwanese parliament this week. To Wu and Wei, KMT’s attempt to rush the Cross-Strait Supervision and Regulation Bill and the Free Economic Demonstration Zone legislations through the parliament shows the KMT’s unwillingness to hold serious discussions with the opposition parties and the general public. Instead, Wu and Wei believe that the KMT is trying to play up Taiwan’s midterm election in three weeks. Wu emphasized that the Free Economic Demonstration Zone will allow China’s problematic raw materials to flow into Taiwanese markets and the products manufactured from those materials will be sold to Taiwan’s general public.
“The Free Economic Demonstration Zone will affect Taiwan’s industrial development, and it also logically contradicts with the government’s goal to sign FTAs with other countries,” said Wu. “I think the ruling party should stop promoting a bill that will economically and legally damage Taiwan’s livelihood.”
Wei pointed out that the KMT basically tries to write the unofficial rules governing Taiwan’s past economic activities with China into law, and if that were to happen, future attempts to monitor economic activities between China and Taiwan will become very difficult. He suggested that the Taiwanese public should evaluate the impacts of these bills at the level of Taiwan’s national development.
“We need a more transparent and inclusive supervising mechanism to govern our economic activities with not only China, but also other countries,” said Wei. “We should not just create a Cross-Strait Supervision and Regulation Bill because society demands one.”
Although the Sunflower Movement seems to be currently out of the media’s spotlight, both Wei and Wu believe that it is simply due to the cyclical nature of social movements. Since the Sunflower Movement attracted many inexperienced social activists, Wei and Wu see their current tasks as training new activists into organizers in their own right. In other words, activists should think about how to utilize momentum and positive social atmosphere, and turn all participants into active practitioners.
“Problems identified during the movement are being discussed continuously even when actual actions are halted temporarily,” said Wu. “I believe many Taiwanese are recognizing the China factor and unjust social distribution in Taiwan. Our next climax will be reactivated when dissatisfaction mounts again.”
Both Wu and Wei plan to further their education while remaining active in the field of social activism. Wu hopes to pursue a degree in business or management because he believes that diversity is what helps a social movement to analyze things from different angles. As for Wei, he plans to continue transforming his NGO, Island Nation Youth, into an informative advocacy group that initiates practical discussions in society.
“I think a life in academia or working in an NGO suits me because either way, I will be working on developing quality discussions,” said Wei.
After London, Wu and Wei will continue their Europe trip with Taiwan Corner and visit Brussels, where they will meet with representatives from European political parties, and the EU’s External Action Service, its de facto foreign ministry. The two will return to Taiwan after November 6th.
(Feature photo of Wei Yang, and Wu Cheng, provided by Taiwan Corner)