Two nights ago I went to the Ministry of Education to observe the students’ protests. It turned out that they would announce yesterday that they were ending their sit-in. The announcement wasn’t surprising to me since it looked like the protesters who were still there looked exhausted. The looming typhoon was a convenient face-saving device. I’m really sorry that I didn’t get out to the site earlier, while the protests were at their height.
Here are some pictures.
This is the best shot I could get of the entire MoE courtyard. Note the stack of barbed wire bariers and the TV reporter in the foreground.
There weren’t a lot of students left. These were playing music to keep their spirits up.
Some students take a selfie. My gosh, they are so young.
I like this guy’s jersey. I want him on my team.
Outside the walls, these people were holding a petition drive about the KMT party assets.
Vendors. The most popular items were anti-nuclear and sunflower paraphernalia. Surprisingly (to me), there was not much supporting the DPP or Tsai’s presidential campaign.
Students relaxing over in the corner. By the second to last night, students were already in the minority. Most of the people there were older (like me) who had come to express support or see for themselves what was going on.
When these girls saw I was taking pictures, they jumped up and posed for me with the list of their demands.
The occupation of the courtyard was in its 143rd hour.
A few banners to give an idea of what they want. Both of these demand retracting the black-box guidelines, which was the most basic theme.
This one also stays on the theme of retracting the guidelines.
We’ll print our own textbooks!
However, many of the banners went far beyond the textbooks to talk about more basic themes.
Restore Taiwan’s true history, refuse to become slaves to the invaders.
There was a kiosk were people could write their own messages on post-it notes. I think this one from a student at Hsinchu Girls High School is particularly relevant to changing ideas of Taiwanese identity. “I am from Taiwan; I was born in Taiwan; I live in Taiwan; I am a Taiwanese; I only study Taiwan history.”
“Those who don’t identify with this land; Chinese refugees; Go back to China”
This slogan sounds a lot like those from an earlier era, telling Mainlanders to go back to China. However, there is a critical difference. This one draws the line at subjective identity, not objective heritage. It’s also a bit different from the previous student’s post-it message, which simply assumes that all people born, raised, and living in Taiwan are Taiwanese (and of course identify with Taiwan). Keep these various ideas in mind the next time you see that NCCU Election Study Center chart of the long term trends of Taiwanese/Chinese identity. There are lots of ideas floating around of what it means to be Taiwanese, and the changing notions of what it means to be Chinese might be even more complicated.
Adults apologizing to children was another theme. Sorry that we weren’t brave enough to handle this problem.
This one thanks rather than apologizes, but it’s the same general idea. Adults have failed, and the students have had to step into the void.
The government keeps calling for an end to emotional methods and a return to rational discussion. This note says, “rational is not equal to passively watching from the sidelines.”
In the 1992 USA presidential election, Bill Clinton famously reminded his campaign team not to overthink things and get distracted with minor problems with his slogan, “it’s the economy, stupid.” This note reminds demonstrators not to lose focus on the root problem: “it’s the KMT, stupid.”