By Brian Hioe

Sunflower Movement student leader Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆) joining the Democratic Progressive Party surprised many over the weekend. Lin has accepted the offer to be the party’s deputy secretary-general from the current DPP secretary general Luo Wen-jia (羅文嘉).

Lin, 31, has recently returned to Taiwan after finishing a Master’s Degree in Comparative Politics at the London School of Economics.

As one of the most prominent student activists involved in the 2014 Sunflower Movement, a monthlong occupation of the legislature, Lin was praised by the media as a movement leader, along with other activists like Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷) and Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌).

During the press conference today, Lin said that his move to join the DPP may shock many people, including his friends. During the Sunflower Movement, student activists were of the DPP as also facing issues of internal political corruption, and not proving any better than the KMT in some cases.

反送中  林飛帆在台聲援

Photo Credit: CNA

Lin Fei-fan speaking out against the extradition law in Hong Kong.

After the end of the movement, a number of Sunflower Movement activists sought to form “Third Force” parties, seeking to enter politics directly without surrendering to the established institutional framework.

The New Power Party (NPP), being the most successful Third Force party, won five legislative seats in the 2016 elections, and further defied expectations by winning 16 city councilor seats in the local elections last year. The NPP is currently the third largest political party in Taiwan.

Of the key figures in the Sunflower Movement, both Huang and Chen are working in the NPP. Despite Lin’s close affiliation with the two, he became a DPP member instead of running as an electoral candidate for the NPP.

In 2017, Lin had notably provoked DPP criticisms when he made a snarky comment about the mayoral election in Tainan.

“As people in Tainan are unusually conservative in politics, the DPP could win the mayoral election next year even if it promotes a watermelon as its candidate,” Lin said at the NPP’s headquarters opening in Tainan.

Despite periodic antagonisms, a few post-Sunflower Movement student activists did enter the DPP as political workers or electoral candidates. Notable figures include Jiho Chang, Huang Shou-da, and Wu Pei-yi.

民進黨三一八 林飛帆 呂家華

Facebook Page「民主進步黨」

Lin Fei-fan and Lu Jia-hua

Along with Lin’s appointment, the DPP also announced that Lu Jia-hua (呂家華), the convener of the “D-Street Deliberation” discussion form during the Sunflower Movement, had also joined the party. Lu will be heading the DPP’s newly established Policy Discussion Working Group (政策對話小組). She was praised for her abilities to listen intently and translating people’s desires into effective communication and understanding.

A contributing factor to these Sunflower activists’ decision to enter the DPP is likely a “sense of doom” (亡國感) after the KMT’s resurgence during the local elections last year. China’s increasingly aggressive move towards Taiwan has also alarmed the pro-independence political forces to consolidate their influence and power.

In the event of Third Force parties, such as the NPP, dissolving, as is always possible among small political parties, NPP politicians would likely enter the DPP to continue their political careers. Lin joining the DPP despite his closeness to the NPP could, in fact, be an early sign of a fluid relationship between the two parties.

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TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee (@thenewslensintl)