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Sunflowers and Umbrellas: Government Responses to Student-led Protests in Taiwan and Hong Kong

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Sunflowers and Umbrellas: Government Responses to Student-led Protests in Taiwan and Hong Kong

Syaru Shirley

The Asan Forum

With local identities increasingly consolidated, especially among young people, there have been unprecedented protests in both Taiwan and Hong Kong against their respective governments’ policies toward Beijing. Taiwan’s Sunflower Movement in March 2014 opposed further economic integration with China, specifically the ratification of a cross-Strait agreement on trade in services. Soon after, in September 2014, Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement demanded that Beijing modify its formula for nominating and electing Hong Kong’s next chief executive in 2017. Taiwanese students held sunflowers as a symbol of hope to effect change, while Hong Kong students held umbrellas to shield themselves from police tear gas. In both instances, the international attention and the political impact were far greater than what the two governments and most pundits had expected. Both protests were led by young people, many of them students, some of whom expressed strong “anti-China” sentiments. This was despite a continuing effort by Beijing to promote a Chinese identity among young people...

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