TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – On Tuesday, March 13, Taiwan’s high court upheld the decision to acquit the 2014 Sunflower Movement protestors who were originally charged with a crime for illegally occupying the Legislative Yuan.
The judge presiding upheld the acquittal for 22 defendants, reiterating that the actions of the protesters opposed to China’s influence over Taiwan, constituted an “expression of democracy.”
The ruling comes at a time when Taiwan is facing increasing pressure from China in its attempts to isolate and coerce Taiwan into accepting Beijing’s authority. This has in turn inflamed resentment and a greater desire for political autonomy throughout the island.
In March, 2014, over 200 people occupied the main chamber of the Legislative Yuan for three weeks, as crowds of protestors massed outside rallying in opposition to legislation, which lawmakers tried to pass in an underhanded manner, that activists say would have harmed Taiwan’s domestic industries and increased dependency on China.
In retrospect the Sunflower Movement of 2014 is seen by many as marking a turning point in awareness and popular opinion, with many young people beginning to express a greater degree of concern for Taiwan’s political future.
Judge Chang Huei-li, quoted by AFP, said that “The defendants did not initiate attacks or cause bloody conflicts and it was an expression of democracy.”
It was stated that the activists were acting to address the failure of lawmakers to represent the interests of constituents in their policy decisions. The activists were deemed to be within their rights, using civil disobedience to make their voices heard.
Many leaders from the 2014 protest shared their opinions on the verdict, declaring that the high court’s decision reaffirmed Taiwan’s status as a democratic country.
After finally being arrested and removed from the chamber, their cases were later acquitted in court. Four years after the incident, Taiwan’s high court has declared the acquittals final.
Sunflower Movement activists celebrate the High Court's final verdict outside the courthouse