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September 24, 2017

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The Sunflower Movement represents something unique

Hundreds of thousands gathered on Ketagalan Blvd. in front of the Presidential Office in Taipei yesterday, nearly two weeks after a group of protesters occupied the Legislative Yuan to oppose a controversial service trade pact with China.

The news coverage of the 13-day protest, dubbed the "Sunflower Movement," has saturated local airwaves over the past two weeks, and for once the Taiwanese media outlets have served the public right with their 24/7 coverage (albeit not without bias) of the once-in-a-decade event.

The Taiwanese political talk shows, notorious for their lack of informed content, were filled with genuine debate over issues such as the merits and dangers of the service trade pact, the legitimacy of the protesters' occupation of government buildings and of the authorities' use of force in evicting people from these buildings.

The event also caught the attention of the outside world, but the international media generally regard the Sunflower Movement with an equal measure of amusement and detachment. While many described Taiwan as a mature democracy and the rarity of a protester occupation of a government building, the global media see the event mostly as a Taiwanese issue, not a democracy issue. Most noted the unprecedented nature of the occupation and then duly continued their coverage on the China-Taiwan relation issues behind the controversy.

The Wall Street Journal observed that the rejection of mainland China's influence and the Kuomintang administration's rapprochement policy "may soon come to dictate Taiwanese politics." The Economist pointed out that the protesters "have tapped a vein of popular mistrust of Mr. Ma (Ying-jeou) and of economic integration with the mainland."

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