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Taiwanese ‘bluebirds’ protest Chinese influence in Parliament

One poster at the protest said, "Today I took bereavement leave because democracy has died." (Yuhan Tsai/YJI)

Taipei, TAIWAN – For the past week, tens of thousands of pro-democracy protesters have walked onto Qingdao E. Road and the surrounding streets of the Taiwanese Legislature Yuan (立法院) – the Taiwanese parliament – creating what is being called the “Bluebird Movement.”

Protesters who couldn’t squeeze onto Qingdao E. Road overflowed onto Zhongshan W. Road and Gongyuan Road at the May 24 protest. (Yuhan Tsai/YJI).

From May 17 to 28, lawmakers in Parliament discussed a new reform bill proposed by two opposing majority parties, the Chinese Nationalist Party and Taiwan’s People Party.

If enacted, the new bill would allow Parliament to question any Taiwanese citizen and ask them to provide any information, as a way of practicing inquisitorial power during any investigations.

If the person refuses to attend, doesn’t answer certain questions, or is found to be lying, they can be prosecuted under the law and fined up to NTD 200,000, or about $6,186 USD.

This bill does not detail whether citizens can accept questioning in the presence of a lawyer. 

People at a protest in Taipei on Tuesday, May 28. (Yuhan Tsai/YJI)

Poya Miao (苗博雅), a Taipei city councilor who ran for legislator in the 2024 elections, spoke at the May 24 protest. She stated that the protesters gathered were pushing for actual discussion, rather than the one-sided discussions happening in Parliament.

Before the program began, it was possible for people to register to speak to the crowd. That’s when four high school students seized the opportunity to take the stage.

“Some legislators, some political figures, these powerful people think they can decide the fate of Taiwanese people,” one of the unidentified students said. “We stand here today to prove they can’t.”

Yu-Hua Tsao, a 27-year-old university student, thinks the passing of the new bill is black-box politics and violates procedural justice.

A protester holds a sign that says “Taiwan can’t become the next Hong Kong.” (Yuhan Tsai/YJI)

Tsao said his reason for protesting as “expressing my beliefs to the (Chinese Nationalist Party) legislators because they refuse to listen to us.”

Mrs. Liu, 42, who didn’t want to share her full name because she feared possible repercussions from China for speaking out, attended both protests on May 24 and 28th with her 9-year-old son.

“Children are also a part of Taiwan,” she said, “and they need to understand what is happening to our country.”

Ji-rong Lin, 29, said her reason for attending the protest is to hopefully raise awareness of how the Chinese Nationalist Party and the Taiwan People’s Party are “dividing Taiwan from the inside” and possibly “acting for foreign forces such as China” under the guise of positive reform.

This wave of protests began on May 21, when more than 40 non-government organizations such as the Economic Democracy Union (經濟民主連和), Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan (公投護台灣聯盟) and Taiwan Citizen Front (台灣公民陣線) started a protest at Qingdao E. Road to stand against what they called “Abuse of power in the parliament and the regression of democracy.”

Flags of organizations involved in the Bluebird movement. (Yuhan Tsai/YJI)

By May 24, netizens had dubbed protests the “Bluebird Movement” (青鳥運動) due to the similarity in the Mandarin characters “Qingdao” and “Bluebird.” According to organizers, the protests on May 21, 24 and 28 were attended by 30,000; 100,000 and 70,000 people respectively. 

As they were on May 21, protests on May 24 and 28 were peaceful, with organizers directing people entering and leaving the area while keeping emergency exit routes clear.

Chairs were provided near the two main stages, and supplies such as raincoats, food, water, and posters were distributed when entering.

Protester receiving supplies from a supply tent. A red sign reads “drink more water!” on the table. (Yuhan Tsai/YJI)

Protesters shouted the main slogan, “No discussion means no democracy” and many held up their own posters.

The creativity of posters that appeared in the Bluebird movement became a hot topic online. A protester used the title of Japanese Anime “Oshi No Ko” (推しの子, meaning “my favorite idol”) and turned it into “My favorite black box politics” with artwork depicting two Chinese Nationalist Party legislators.

Another protester used song titles from K-pop idol Jennie to read “Our country is the right of You & Me. Blue and White (representative colors of the Chinese Nationalist Party and the Taiwan People’s Party) don’t go SOLO.”

Others leaned into dark humor. One poster read, “Today I took bereavement leave because democracy has died.”

Other posters were more serious. One read “Violating procedural justice; destroying democratic constitution; I oppose a bill that abuses power; I protect democracy and freedom.”

Another stated, “I am a Taiwanese person that loves Taiwan, and that’s why I’m here.”

Some posters mentioned the political tension between Taiwan and China. 

One said, “Taiwan can’t become the next Hong Kong,” referring to the similar political situation of Hong Kong and Taiwan, with both having their independence under threat from China.

This also reflects the general consensus of Bluebird movement protesters opposing Chinese rule and the China-leaning Chinese Nationalist Party.

Another poster with a similar sentiment stated “I am Taiwanese. I stand for Taiwanese Independence.”

Police presence is noticeable at the protest scene, but officers did not actively interfere with protests. No conflicts have happened between police officers and protesters. (Yuhan Tsai/YJI)

On May 28, Parliament passed the new bill after the third reading. It was then handed to the Executive Yuan (行政院), Taiwan’s executive branch, for review. According to an official newsletter from the Executive Yuan Premier Jung-Tai Cho (卓榮泰) the same day, the Executive Yuan will veto the bill based on concerns of violating Taiwan’s constitution. 

But the bill won’t end with the veto. Lawmakers from Parliament who support it are expected to try again.

The Economic Democracy Union (經濟民主連和), one of the organizers of the Bluebird movement, posted a statement on their Facebook page after the passing of the reform bill.

“The next step is to promote discussion on the community level. The power of the citizens will unite again,” the group’s statement said. “Our goal is to protect democracy from corruption and to supervise the government, preventing violation of the people’s rights.”

Yuhan Tsai is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

Read more YJI coverage from the Taiwan protests:

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