CARTOON: Sunflowers Bask in Judicial Blessing

CARTOON: Sunflowers Bask in Judicial Blessing

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Sunflower movement leaders celebrate acquittal by Taiwan's High Court of charges relating to the 2014 protest movement.

Sunflower protest movement leaders celebrated Tuesday (March 13 ), after Taiwan's High Court ruled to exonerate them of charges that they incited others to commit violence while obstructing official business.

The High Court ruled to uphold the acquittal of the 22 leaders in a district court last year, stating that their actions in the 2014 protests against the government's backdoor efforts to push through a service-trade agreement with China were protected under Taiwan's freedom of speech laws.

The court said that while the protest action, which occupied the legislature for 24 days, did result in clashes with police, no weapons were involved and the injuries sustained were not serious. Instead, the judge said the protests were "an expression of democracy" and were justified as an assertion of civil disobedience. The judge also said the court's decision is final.

Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷), one of the 22 activists involved in the case, was quick to hold up the ruling as an example to China and its President Xi Jinping, now in possession of a lifetime mandate as leader, of a judicial system that protects the rights of its people, while the Judicial Reform Foundation highlighted the example the case sets for law enforcement of how to respect people's right of assembly. Fellow leaders Lin Fei-Fan (林飛帆) and Huang Kuo-Chang (黃國昌) were acquitted along with Chen.

"I want to tell Xi Jinping that even if you can become an 'emperor' and have endless terms, Taiwan is a democratic country," Chen said, before pledging support for the ongoing struggles of democracy activists and political candidates in Hong Kong.