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September 25, 2017

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Student activists depart Legislative Yuan

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The occupation of the Legislative Yuan drew to an end yesterday as student-led activists filed out of the Legislature and passed out sunflowers to the cheering crowds, vowing to spread the movement throughout Taiwan.

Three days after their announcement that they would end their occupation of the Legislature, students were seen cleaning and making repairs around the Assembly Hall. Several volunteer repairmen assisted the students in restoring the furniture.

Before leaving the Assembly Hall at 6:00 p.m., the student protesters announced that their departure did not mean that they were giving up on their beliefs and their demands of the government, saying that the demonstrations against the Cross-Strait Trade in Services Agreement would spread throughout Taiwan.

Students read out people's opinions gathered from citizen's forums held on April 5, pointing out that over 1,000 people had participated in a judgment of the supervisory law slated to be passed to strengthen oversight of cross-strait pacts.

Divided into 51 groups, the participants and the activist leaders sorted the opinions into six major demands of cross-strait agreements: that the scale of citizen participation should be elevated; conference information should be transparent to all; national security, human rights values and disadvantaged groups should be defended; the Legislature should be granted actual power to deliberate the specifics of pacts; pre-signing talks should be equal on both sides and Taiwan's sovereign rights should be defended.

The students also replaced the Legislature's gavel on Speaker Wang Jin-pyng's regular seat, despite rumors that the protesters had lost it. "The Assembly Hall is now returned to the 'people's Legislature,'" student representatives announced.

Keep These Days in Mind: Chen

Student activist leader Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷) stated that the movement was not yet a success, but neither had it failed. "Although there are issues regarding the alleged 'heroism' of the strategy team, we are open to all criticism and hope that we will be able to provide better answers in future movements," said Chen.

"To the students inside and outside the Assembly Hall: if the day comes when we become the adults students are protesting against, let us not forget these very important 24 days in our lives. The future is still a great battle to be fought ... I hope we can all embrace one another when victory is ours and when the movement ends," Chen remarked.

"It is a difficult decision, and one that called for immense courage, for us to leave the Assembly Hall. The expectations, responsibilities and pressure will not lessen with our departure, but this does not mean we are abandoning our beliefs," said fellow student leader Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆). "We arrived with our ideals and now, we leave loaded with responsibilities."

Sunflowers Passed Out

After leaving the Assembly Hall, student activists passed out sunflowers to the waiting crowds around the Legislature, asking people to continue passing the flowers around and encouraging their fellow demonstrators not to give up. Student leaders and civilian volunteers were also invited to speak about their experiences and thoughts on the 24-day occupation. Many students announced that they will protest once more if the government does not stay true to its word.

Voices rose in song to mark the end of the occupation. Local rock band Fire Extinguisher's song — written for the sunflower movement — was sung twice by demonstrators, some of whom expressed a reluctance to leave.

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