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September 23, 2017

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Concessions, compromises now weigh on Sunflower movement

The Sunflower student movement is coming to its grand finale, as activists are scheduled to leave the debating chamber of the Legislative Yuan tomorrow. Lin Fei-fan, the movement's leader, announced the end of the three-week long occupation of the legislature on Monday, but pledged to extend the protest movement to communities across Taiwan and see to it that a statute governing the conclusion of cross-strait agreements is legislated and the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement reviewed.

Though Lin declared the students want the statute to be enacted, they are trying to abort it by insisting that the draft statute the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is ready to propose defines cross-strait agreements in its preamble as "official documents signed between the government of the Republic of China in Taiwan and the government of the People's Republic of China." It is simply a proclamation of former President Chen Shui-bian's independence dogma of "one country on each side of the Taiwan Strait."

The Sunflower movement, which began on March 18, aims in part to draw voter support for the DPP to win nationwide local elections slated for Nov. 29 this year and the presidential election in 2016. This purpose may have been achieved, but Taiwan's economic future has been sacrificed and its hard-earned representative democracy trampled upon in the process.

Wang Jin-pyng, president of the Legislative Yuan, promised to have a clause-by-clause review of the trade agreement started only after the legislation of the statute in order to persuade the Sunflower activists to vacate the parliament chamber. There are altogether ten drafts to be deliberated on, including one prepared by the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) and adopted at a Cabinet meeting — which the student activists have rejected. The chances are that the statute is unlikely to be adopted and the review of the trade pact, signed in Shanghai on June 21 last year, won't get under way before the 2016 presidential campaign starts. In the meantime, as Premier Jiang Yi-huah predicted, Taiwan's economy "will weaken day after day" until its collapse as its trade with China and the rest of the world continues to shrivel because of the delay of the trade agreement going into effect.

On the other hand, the Sunflower students, who violated the law by hijacking the parliament and storming the government house of the Executive Yuan, have succeeded in imposing their "people's democracy" on Taiwan. Theirs isn't democracy. It's monocracy.

To be more exact, the Sunflower movement is an anti-China as well as anti-Ma campaign. Ma needs to have the trade agreement passed so that Taiwan may economically survive. He has to bite the bullet to get it done as soon as practicable, although there are few cards he can play at this stage.

All Ma has done so far is attempt friendly persuasion to make the parliament deliberate on the draft statute and review the trade pact at the same time, hoping the former will be enacted before the Legislative Yuan recesses for the summer at the end of next month.

The last card President Ma may play may be to invoke the Statute Governing the Relations between the People in the Taiwan Area and the Mainland Area to have the trade in services agreement go into force by an executive order. It is stipulated in the statute that any cross-strait agreement can be made to take effect by the Executive Yuan after it is reviewed but the review is not completed in three months. It's risky to play this card. It is bound to make student leaders organize another Sunflower movement. But it's probably the only way to ensure Taiwan's economic survival.

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