By Jason Pan / Staff reporter
Leaders of the Sunflower movement yesterday hailed the Taipei District Court’s not guilty verdict in favor of the protesters who stormed and occupied the Legislative Yuan’s main chamber in Taipei on March 18, 2014.
The protesters occupied the legislative chamber until April 10, 2014, in reaction to the Chinese Nationalist Party （KMT） trying to ram a cross-strait trade in services agreement through the legislature.
“The Sunflower movement has not ended; it is still going on... With the ruling, the judicial system has paved the way for Taiwan’s next round of democratic reforms,” prominent Sunflower movement leader Lin Fei-fan （林飛帆） said.
At the time, “KMT officials, along with many media outlets, tried to vilify the Sunflower movement by saying that [the storming of the Executive Yuan on March 23, 2014] marked a split in the movement. Therefore, I urge the judges to make their rulings on related cases based on the same legal framework,” Lin told a news conference outside the Taipei District Court.
“For the past three years, I have asked myself every day how much progress Taiwan’s democracy has made after the Sunflower movement. At the time, we called for legislation to set up an oversight mechanism for cross-strait agreements and urged the government to convene a ‘national convention on constitutional government’ with public participation,” he added.
“These were aimed at solving the shortcomings in Taiwan’s democratic system and establishing a mechanism to protect our democracy,” Lin said. “However, we wonder how much has been achieved in the past three years. We urge the Democratic Progressive Party [DPP], which has won elections to become the ruling party by harvesting the fruits of the movement, to reconsider how to accomplish these goals.”
Sunflower movement leader and now New Power Party Executive Chairman Huang Kuo-chang （黃國昌） said the ruling is not only about the defendants, but also about the actions of “people trying to save their nation.”
“It will have great significance in the annals of Taiwan’s judicial system, as it deliberated on the meaning and results of civil disobedience from the perspective of the constitutional system,” he said.
The defendants’ lawyer, Yu Po-hsiang （尤伯祥）, said the ruling affirmed the spirit of civil disobedience in cases when the government acts against the public will. “We applaud the court for its interpretation based on the rule of law, which enables people to engage in civil disobedience,” he said.
He thanked more than 100 volunteer lawyers who were on call 24 hours a day during the proceedings to provide legal assistance.
Asked about the verdict, Legislative Speaker Su Jia-chyuan （蘇嘉全） said he respects the ruling, adding: “After all, the judiciary is independent.”
KMT Legislator Lin Wei-chou （林為洲） said he hopes the court would hold the same standard to other protests and demonstrators so that the public can have faith in the nation’s judiciary.
KMT Vice Chairman Hau Lung-bin （郝龍斌） said that while he has no choice but to respect the judicial system, he believes the verdict runs counter to public opinion and the rule of law.
“How many legal boundaries can a person be allowed to cross in the name of [upholding their] political beliefs?” Hau said, adding that the ruling could encourage the occupation of government buildings.
Presidential Office spokesman Sidney Lin （林鶴明） said the Sunflower movement without a doubt marked a milestone in Taiwan’s democratic consolidation.
“With the awakening of civil society, a new wave of democracy has allowed the values of freedom, democracy, fairness and justice to be carried out in public affairs, which has led to an overall improvement in public welfare,” Lin said.
The office of Fair Winds Foundation president Jiang Yi-huah （江宜樺）, who was the premier at the time of the protests, declined to comment on the ruling.
Jiang had voiced his opposition to the Cabinet’s decision in May last year to drop all criminal charges against the protesters who stormed the Executive Yuan.
Additional reporting by Stacy Hsu and Alison Hsiao