The protest called ‘the Sunflower Movement’ began on March 18, 2014 when Taiwan’s ruling party pushed the trade bill through the parliamentary review process without bipartisan discussion. Dozens of activists, mostly students stormed the parliament building and occupied the main chamber for 14 days, defending police raids by piling entrances and exits with furniture. On Sunday, February 30, again over 100,000 people protested in the streets of Taiwan’s capital Taipei against the trade deal by holding sunflowers in their hands. Sunflowers became the symbol of the movement, since they are heliotropic and symbolize hope.
Meanwhile netizens nationwide started a campaign to collect money for a full-page anouncement in the New York Times magazine explaining the opposition to the cross-strait service trade agreement. Within only three hours they were able to raise US$221,000 on a crowdfunding Web site and on March 30 the anouncement was published in the Times.
Taiwan split from China over 60 years ago, but China still regards the self-governed island as part of its territory. Under Taiwanese President President Ma Ying-jeou ties between China and Taiwan have greatly improved, and the president insists that increasing trade with China is essential to maintain Taiwan’s economic competitiveness. However, many in the country are deeply skeptical of China’s influence while at the same time demanding greater transparency from their government.