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June 24, 2017

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Sunflower movement now in a surreal stage

Now in its third week, the occupation of the Legislative Yuan, also known as the Sunflower Movement, has entered a surreal stage.

The former-gangster-kingpin-turned-fugitive-turned-reunification-advocate Chang An-lo attempted to enter the besieged Legislative Yuan Assembly Hall on Tuesday. Like a scene from the Theater of the Absurd, Chang, an early leader of the Bamboo Union, one of Taiwan's three main Triads, decried the mainly student-led movement for bandit-like behavior. He also said that the protesters — who are rallying mainly due to their fear of China's increasing influence in Taiwan — "do not deserve to be Chinese," a criticism gladly received by the Sunflower protesters.

In another ironic turn of events, the Sunflower protesters cheered the riot police who stopped Chang and the pro-Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement groups from confronting them. The Sunflower protesters, who have been condemning police brutality during the eviction of Executive Yuan on March 23, now thanked the police for preventing Chang's groups from getting into the already occupied Legislative Yuan.

Perhaps even more surreal is the paradox of the Sunflower Movement's March 30 demonstration. It was widely seen as a successful rally. Hundreds of thousands of Sunflower Movement supporters showed up in front of the Presidential Office. More impressively, they dispersed peacefully and orderly at the direction of the Movement's representative, student activist Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆). They even picked up their own trash.

After Lin's electrifying speech at the end of the March 30 demonstration, it was not outlandish to consider him one of the most influential figures in Taiwan at this juncture. Several mainstream media outlets clearly consider him to be so, describing him as a new-born political star with communication skills even better than veteran politicians. One TV news channel even suggested Lin was more effective in speech than former President Chen Shui-bian, known as a powerful orator.

Yet while many at the March 30 rally scene were caught crying at Lin's words by TV cameras and many were impressed by the 26-year-old's ability to conclude the rally so orderly, the speech actually failed to achieve one of its main goals. Lin ended his speech by calling for those at the rally to join the protesters "in shifts" at the Legislative Yuan after the demonstration to continue their movement. Yet in the previous three days, very few of the hundreds of thousands of supporters appeared at the Legislative Yuan. Even Lin expressed his surprise in his Facebook page on Monday: "have you guys really arranged shifts?"

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