Taiwan Sunflower Leaders Visit Ann Arbor

The leaders of the Sunflower movement that created a wave of change to people’s attitude towards the government, and raised awareness of social issues, visited Ann Arbor on Aug 19th. This is the third stop of their North American tour. The leaders, Kuo-Chang Huang (黃國昌), Wei-Ting Chen (陳為廷), Fei-Fan Lin (林飛帆), Pin-Yu Lai (賴品妤), Yu-Fen Lai (賴郁棻), and Fu-Yi Chou (周馥儀), visited Ann Arbor for two days. They met with Stephanie Chang, who won the Democratic primary for State Representative, and held a symposium on the March protest in Taiwan and the reasons behind it, and also met with Congressman Bentivolio who is a firm supporter of Taiwan. They arrived at Vancouver, Canada on Aug 16th, and later San Francisco. They will continue on to Washington D.C., New York, and Boston. Altogether the trip will last 15 days and they will leave for Taiwan on Aug 27th.

From left to right: Kuo-Chang Huang, Fu-Yi Chou, Pin-Yu Lai, Yu-Fen Lai (Sunflower leaders), Jonathan Lin, and Stephanie ChangThe meeting with Stephanie Chang was very informational for the Sunflower leaders, and they were able to understand what local American politics and elections are like. It was also an invaluable opportunity for them to compare the political systems between Taiwan and the U.S. as they are quite different. Topics during the meeting ranged from U.S. election rules to the Democratic policy on Taiwan. The Sunflower leaders were also able to understand the political spectrum of the Taiwanese living in the U.S. as well as the way they vote.

Wei-Ting Chen answering a question from the audience (right)The symposium was held at the University of Michigan with over two hundred attendees coming from all over the place; not only, but including students from Michigan State University, and elders coming from as far away as Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio. The Sunflower leaders shared their stories on how they took over the Legislative building and how they stuck through staying inside for three weeks. Despite being blamed by the government for heavily disrupting and impeding the works of the Legislative branch during the protest, the Sunflower leaders shared their experience on how they relieved and overcame the pressure by the government, and how they stayed strong together to reach their ultimate goal.

Symposium AudienceTopics discussed also included China’s influence on Taiwan’s economy and democracy through any agreements made between the two governments. One thing to note was a comment from Professor Huang, expressing that “China is the greatest threat to Taiwan’s democracy”. Another important issue they raised was about Taiwan’s political structure that is impeding the improvement of Taiwan’s democracy, and that the people need to bring the power of referendum back to their hands. Professor Huang also expressed that “there needs to be a change in Taiwan’s political structure.”

Group photo with Congressman Kerry Bentivolio (center)The following day, the group had a chance to meet with Congressman Bentivolio (R-MI) who is a firm supporter of Taiwan. Political ideologies were shared and exchanged between the two groups. While there was no specific request for the Congressman, the Sunflower leaders learned a lot on how the U.S. Congress functions and what are the suitable ways to get things done. Congressman Bentivolio also introduced the idea of the mobile service center, which is a constituency service center that stops at a different location every week. This idea is relatively new for Taiwan, but could be applicable as there are many people who live in the mountains.

Professor Huang talking to local Taiwanese residentsThe two day trip ended with an open picnic at a park for anyone interested to have the opportunity to talk to the Sunflower leaders in person. Many traditional and authentic Taiwanese foods were provided and conversations were exchanged on various topics. Many students also gave their appreciation to the group for inspiring them and letting them know that they can still accomplish many things even though they are here in the United States. Although the Sunflower leaders stayed at Ann Arbor for only two days, they have definitely spread seeds that are certain to grow.

Jonathan Lin is an ACT Ambassador. He was born in the United States, but grew up in England and Taiwan. He studied at the University of Maryland, majoring in Urban Forestry, and is currently in the master program for Urban Planning at the University of Michigan. Jonathan has been involved in politics in Taiwan and in the US, Taiwanese Legislator Chia-lung Lin, and Taiwanese American challenger for Michigan State Representative, Stephanie Chang. He also helped organize the symposium and picnic that featured prominent Sunflower Movement leaders.

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