The new Taiwanese administration has announced that it has decided to drop charges against 126 activists who were involved in 2014’s sunflower movement. The move came on the first working day after officials were sworn into office.

The activists stormed the Taiwanese Executive Yuan on March 23 and 24 in 2014, opposing a trade pact between Taiwan and mainland China being rushed into legislation. The sunflower became a symbol of the movement. They were charged last year.

It was the first political decision made by Premier Lin Chuan, after deliberation with newly sworn-in President Tsai Ing-wen, as announced by the Taiwanese Executive Yuan on Monday, Taiwan’s official Central News Agency reported.

Student protesters occupy Taiwanese legislature during Sunflower Movement
Student protesters occupy Taiwanese legislature during Sunflower Movement. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

“The sunflower student movement was a political incident, and not a purely legal incident, it should be handled as leniently as possible under the principle of more harmony and fewer conflicts,” the executive branch’s spokesperson Tung Chen-yuan cited Lin as saying.

Tung further quoted Lin as saying that the former cabinet’s move to press charges against students was a political action.

The demands of the movement were now the “consensus of society” and the legislature has moved to introduce laws to monitor cross-strait agreements. The legitimacy and contribution of the movement have been accepted, so the government decided to drop the charges, Tung quoted Lin as saying.

Lin Fei-fan
Lin Fei-fan. File Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Lin Fei-fan, one of the student leaders of the movement, said he personally was “very pleased” by the decision to drop the charges. He was not one of the 126 who were charged, but he admitted participating in planning the protests.

He added that there were many other legal cases concerning the sunflower movement and activists would face the legal consequences no matter what they will be. “I expect judicial independence in handling these cases,” he said.

Lin said that the government decision was “a good start” but hoped that the demands of the movement would be truly implemented by the new administration.

taiwan sunflower
The document dropping the charges. Photo: Facebook/Executive Yuan of the Republic of China.

The Kuomintang party, now in opposition, expressed deep disappointment at the decision, Central News Agency reported.

The party’s Culture and Communications Committee deputy director-general Wang Hung-wei said the Executive Yuan had used political means to handle a legal case, so it disrespected the rule of law.

She said that this way of handling the matter amounted to condoning members of the public intruding in and damaging public property, and agreeing that the public could achieve political goals through illegal means.

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.