Police in Taiwan have been ordered by a court to pay compensation to a group of protesters who were injured during clashes in 2014 over a controversial trade pact with China.

Hundreds of people stormed the government’s headquarters five years ago until riot police eventually dislodged them using shields, batons and water cannon.

Sunflower Movement Taiwan students 2014
‘Sunflower Movement,’ Taiwan. Photo: Wikicommons.

More than 100 activists and police officers were injured in the clashes which were part of a period of political protests against then-president Ma Ying-jeou’s Beijing-friendly policies that became known as the “Sunflower Movement”.

On Wednesday a district court in Taipei ruled in favour of 14 protesters who were injured by police while holding a sit-in outside the building.

The court said officers used “excessive” force which led to “serious injuries” as it ordered the police to pay around Tw$1.11 million (US$35,900) in compensation.

The police department said it respected the ruling but would consult with lawyers on whether to file an appeal.

The Sunflower Movement was sparked by President Ma’s perceived cosiness with Beijing.

Ma Ying-jeou and Xi Jinping
Ma Ying-jeou and Xi Jinping. File Photo: Taiwan Gov’t.

During his 2008-16 presidency, Ma oversaw an unprecedented thaw in ties with mainland China.

But his decision to push ahead with an unpopular trade deal sparked a major backlash with young voters especially alarmed by his administration’s growing closeness to the authoritarian mainland.

The student-led Sunflower protesters occupied the island’s parliament and the backlash eventually led to a landslide defeat for Ma’s Kuomintang party at elections later that year.

His successor Tsai Ing-wen, from the Beijing-sceptical Democratic Progressive Party, dropped a lawsuit against 126 protesters who stormed the cabinet headquarters, saying the movement had “legitimacy” and reflected societal concerns.

Sunflower movement Taiwan
Sunflower movement in Taiwan. Photo: Wikicommons.

Tsai is seeking re-election in January and is facing off against an opponent who favours closer ties with Beijing.

China’s communist leaders still see the democratic island as part of its territory and have vowed to seize it if necessary, even though the two sides have been ruled separately since 1949.

Since Tsai’s election, Beijing has ramped up economic and military pressure on Taiwan and poached half a dozen of its dwindling band of diplomatic allies.

Hong Kong Free Press relies on direct reader support. Help safeguard independent journalism and press freedom as we invest more in freelancers, overtime, safety gear & insurance during this summer’s protests. 10 ways to support us.

fundraising fundraise banner

AFP is a global news agency delivering fast, in-depth coverage of the events shaping our world from wars and conflicts to politics, sports, entertainment and the latest breakthroughs in health, science and technology.