On the 22nd of March 2008, Ma Ying-Jeou of the Kuomintang Party (KMT) became President of Taiwan. President Ma’s election brought an end to an eight year period of rule by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). In very brief synopsis, the DPP is part of the “pan-Green” segment of Taiwan. Those who are “green” broadly favour a move towards open international recognition of Taiwanese independence (…from The People’s Republic of China. Currently, Taiwan is de-facto independent, but exists in a ‘status-quo’ whereby its independence is not widely officially recognised by other nations). The “pan-Blue” segment, led by the KMT, is broadly “pro-China”, favouring some variety of unification between Taiwan and the PRC in the future. The situation in Taiwan is internationally important for a variety of reasons, including local stability in the Asia-Pacific region, US commitments to Taiwan and the Taiwan-USA-China triangle of political leverage which affects China’s role in international diplomacy (for example regarding the Nuclear status of North Korea) amongst other things, in addition to Taiwan’s international trade (the largest shares of which are with the US and China).
The Taiwan Wild Strawberries Movement began as a group of student’s gathering peacefully outside the Offices of the Government in Taipei on November 6th, 2008. Their protest is primarily against a law which limits citizens ability to peacefully group or parade in their own country. Since the 6th, more “Strawberries” have grouped at Universities throughout Taiwan (Taipei, Hsinchu, Taichung, Chiayi, Tainan & Kaohsiung). Essentially, the Strawberries seek true freedom of speech and the continuation of democracy in Taiwan.
Some may say that the actions of the Strawberries are politically motivated. Whilst many may favour the “green” point of view, there are many “blue” Strawberries, and as stated in their initial protest statement they gathered independently from any political support, motivation or organisation. Perhaps their intent is best summarised by the following video, “The voice of Wild Berries”:
The English lyrics to the song are as follows:
I have opened my eyes and have withstood the aches of awakening
I opened up my arms to feel the breeze coming from all directions and shook off the stinging pains of your control
I was not wrapped in cotton wool, so please save the insincere compassion
I could never understand your hypocrisy and will always remain true to myself
We have dreams and ideals
We have a few things to say
After you have betrayed yourselves
Please do not also sell us out We have dreams and ideals
We have a few things to say
As you broke all your promises
We chose to rise and join this sit-in
Silence does not represent acquiescence
Nor does peace indicate acceptance
Your arrogance has once again burned us
And this time we will no longer remain silent
Finally, if you are wondering where the name “Wild Strawberries” comes from, “Strawberries” is a term originally used by older Taiwanese to describe the younger generations born in the ’80s and after. The label was given because of the perceived softness of the younger generation compared to the hardship that older people had endured. The “Wild” refers to the Wild Lily student movement of 1990.