Sunflower Activists Found Guilty, Overturning Previous Ruling

Sunflower Activists Found Guilty, Overturning Previous Ruling
Credit: Courtesy of Meredith Huang
What you need to know

Taiwan's High Court has found 16 Sunflower Movement protestors guilty, overturning a previous ruling.

By Brian Hioe

Civil society groups expressed outrage after Taiwan’s High Court issued a ruling regarding the “324” attempted occupation of the Executive Yuan in March 2014. The ruling found 16 alleged participants guilty of charges connected to the attempted break-in.

That previous not guilty verdicts were overturned, and that the participants were charged for a protest action that took place more than six years ago sparked strong condemnations.

The attempted occupation of the Executive Yuan was one of the key events of the 2014 Sunflower Movement, a student-led monthlong protest against the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement (CSSTA). The CSSTA, a free trade agreement with China backed by the Ma Ying-jeou administration, would have allowed for Chinese investment in Taiwan’s service industry. Activists feared that the CSSTA would restrict Taiwan’s democratic freedoms. Civil society groups were also angered by the Ma administration’s circumvention of oversight procedures to pass the bill.

The “324” occupation of the Executive Yuan — which took place on the night of March 23 and early morning of March 24 — was a controversial event during the movement. The attempt to occupy the Executive Yuan was an effort at escalation through occupying another branch of government, as there had been few responses from the Ma administration one week after the occupation of the legislature. At the same time, others within the movement thought that occupying another branch of government was too radical an action.

1920px-Execyuan
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Protesters evicted from the Executive Yuan. March 23, 2014.

Protesters who attempted to occupy the Executive Yuan were violently evicted by police. This was one of the few times since the end of martial law that water cannons were fired upon political demonstrators. The Executive Yuan incident likely saw the peak of police violence against demonstrators during the Sunflower Movement.

Prominent Sunflower Movement activists such as Lin Fei-fan and Aman Wu, who took up high-ranking positions in the ruling Democratic Progress Party, were both present to offer support during the court ruling on April 28.

Lin and fellow Sunflower Movement leader Chen Wei-ting also criticized the ruling on social media. The New Power Party formed by youth activists after the Sunflower Movement, the Judicial Reform Foundation, and legislators Freddy Lim and Lai Pin-yu were also critical of the court decision.

By contrast, Kuomintang politician Jiang Yi-huah — who was the premier during “324” and presided over the police crackdown — praised the ruling on Facebook, defending police actions.

Critics of the ruling have argued that participants in the Sunflower Movement sought to defend Taiwan’s democratic freedoms using their right to assemble and to conduct political protests. They also cautioned that Taiwan was an authoritarian country with a history of state violence against demonstrators.

Originally, the government sought to press charges against 132 people involved in the attempted occupation. Most of the charges were dropped in 2016, but the government later pursued charges against 21 people involved in the incident.

An April 2017 ruling found 11 guilty. The latest ruling, however, overturns the previous ruling, finding a total of 16 people guilty. This includes activists Wei Yang and Chen Ting-hao, who may now face jail time.

The High Court decision was the second ruling on the case, which can be appealed.

The News Lens has been authorized to repost this article. The original post was published on New Bloom here.

READ NEXT: 5 Years Later, What Is the Legacy of Taiwan's Sunflower Movement?

TNL Editor: Nicholas Haggerty, Daphne K. Lee (@thenewslensintl)

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