Fei-fan Lin started the Sunflower Movement in 2014, a student protest against China’s increasing pressure on Taiwan. Lin, who today studies at the London School of Economics, and his movement were successful: they prevented a bill that would have given China more economic influence over Taiwan. Today five of the protesters are members of Congress. The issue of Taiwan’s future, however, is all but resolved.
Save Liberal Democracy: You started the Sunflower Movement in order to tackle China’s increasing influence on Taiwan. Would you say your movement succeeded?
Lin: For achieving the main demand, which is the cessation of the Cross-Strait Services Trade Agreement, we can say the Sunflower Movement has successfully blocked the bill. However, there still are other demands, such as the building of the Cross-Strait Agreement Oversight Bill, and the amendment of the constitution with civil participation process, that remain outstanding. In this regard, we still have to put more efforts on the remained demands of the movement. And, if we look broader beyond the demands, people who participated in this movement actually have many expectations of Taiwan’s political reforms, including the transitional justice, judicial reform, pension reform and marriage equality, as well as labour rights protection. Those expectations should also be counted as part of the remaining mission of our movement.
SLD: Your movement transformed into a political party that now has five seats in Congress. What is the agenda of your party?
Lin: Actually, after the Sunflower movement, two major new political parties formed, the New Power Party (NPP) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) did not win seats in this election. I haven’t joined any political parties, actually. In 2016 election, I was trying to coordinate these two parties and wish to let them cooperate with each other, such as forming a coalition. However, these two parties had their own campaign strategies and agendas at that time, so my efforts to put them together eventually failed.
SLD: As China heads into a new era given president’s Xi Jinping’s second term, what is your take on the implications this may have for Taiwan?
Lin: For Taiwan, Xi’s grand strategy would definitely squeeze the international space, and concerning the cases like Lee Ming-che and the current situation in Hong Kong, Taiwan would definitely face higher pressure from China, even though it doesn’t mean China will push Taiwan to go back to political negotiation table directly. However, through the compression of Taiwan’s international space, it would probably set the Taiwanese government under more pressure. And as China’s puts many efforts on the setting new norms on the international community, we should also be aware of the attitude of Taiwan’s foreign allies, whether they will turn their direction towards China.
SLD: The “One China”-agreement of 1992 that has been in place since then seems to lose grip on the younger generation. Many of them are seemingly not interested anymore in the past or willing to track back their republic’s history. You give this generation a voice. How do they feel when it comes to independence?
Lin: The so-called ‘1992 consensus’ does not actually exist, the term was created by KMT’s officials in order to help KMT building relationship with CCP after KMT’s failure in the election of 2000. As for the younger generation, I think most of the people do no longer struggle with the national identity issue, most of us identify as Taiwanese, not Chinese. The concept of Taiwanese independence, for me, is actually the concept of normalisation of Taiwan’s state regime. For many Taiwanese, their nation has been a de facto independence country; and the remaining problem is that our current constitution hasn’t met the current status of Taiwan. The meaning of independence is actually to pursue the amendment of the current constitution or as some suggested the ‘re-establishment of a new constitution.’
SLD: Taiwan has become a liberal democracy yet Beijing claims the island as a province of the People’s Republic of China. Help us understand this contradiction: what is China’s rationale behind its claim that it doesn’t stop to reaffirm?
Lin: My understanding is that China’s claim over Taiwan’s sovereignty somehow has its own strategic purpose, it’s not a pure nationalism issue. At the same time, the US restraints any move towards Taiwan’s independence by the Taiwanese side which also serves as a sort of strategic purpose. It’s actually a grief to Taiwan being a pawn for both sides.
SLD: US-President Trump is visiting the region right now. Taiwan’s security depends largely on the support of the United States. What are your hopes for this visit?
Lin: I expect President Trump to reaffirm the US’ original position on Taiwan Relations Act. And, although Trump has been criticised for his controversial policies and remarks on many human rights issues, I hope he will utter concerns over China’s human rights conditions, especially in the case of human rights activist Lee Ming-che who has been detained by China for over a half year now. I wish President Trump would at least talk about this human rights issue.
SLD: You personally went to study to England to study at the London School of Economics. How do you see the Europe’s role in regard to Taiwan?
Lin: I think Taiwan and the EU share many common values; democratic values, human rights values, and other pluralist values. Since Taiwan is the only democracy in the Mandarin-speaking world in East Asia, I think we hold quite a special position for the EU countries. I wish the EU countries would deepen cooperation with Taiwan, not only between governments but also within civil societies. In recent years, this cooperation in terms of LGBT rights and efforts to abolish the death penalty have been remarkable progressive. I hope Europe will take this cooperation further.