The largest student movement in Taiwan’s history, the Wild Lily Student Movement was a major event that would eventually lead the Taiwanese government to reform into the democracy it is today.
In 1986, members of the Tang-Wai movement officially formed the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), despite it still being illegal. However, the ruling KMT party at the time did not take any actions against them, leading to the legalization of the party in 1991.
In 1988, President Chiang Jing-Kuo passed away and his vice president, Lee Teng-Hui, took over his presidential position. 1990 was the year for a new president to be elected. However, at this time, candidates for President and Vice President of the Republic of China (ROC) were selected from the National Assembly (國民大會). The National Assembly had the nickname, “Ten Thousand Year Assembly” (萬年國會), because after the ROC retreated to Taiwan, no new local Taiwanese representatives had joined.
In 1989, the Tiananmen Square Incident, which resulted in the Tiananmen Square Massacre, was a protest of the people in China for a democratic reform.
As momentous change unfolded around the world, Taiwan quietly underwent its own democratic reform.CommonWealth Magazine
March 16, 1990
Nine students from National Taiwan University (NTU) went to the Chiang Kai-Shek (CKS) Memorial Hall and held a sit-in protest. After hearing this, many other students and non-governmental organizations came to join them.
March 17, 1990
By the evening, 200+ students took part in the sit-in protest. Over 2,000 people were around to support them.
NTU liberals skipped class and designated the week to be a “civic education week” and went to CKS Memorial Hall to learn by doing. Many other schools joined them.
March 18, 1990
On this day, the organizing committee made four demands:
- Abolish the National Assembly (國民大會) and re-establish a new National Assembly infrastructure.
- Nullify the Temporary Provisions Against the Communist Rebellion (動員戡亂時期臨時條款) and re-establish constitutional order.
- Hold a National Affairs Conference (國是會議).
- Establish a political reform time table.
March 19, 1990
The Formosan Lily (Lilium formosanum) was selected as the symbol of the movement for the following reasons:
As a Taiwan-specific specie of lily, the Formosan Lily reflects that the movement was homegrown, and thus autonomous from foreign ideals.
Found from the mountains all the way to the coast, the Formosan Lily reflects the grassroots aspect of the movement.
Formosan Lilies are able to bloom even in the worst of conditions.
The movement took place in the spring, when Formosan Lilies bloom. It also represented the youth of the students. Spring is often used to describe the youth as the word ‘youth’ in Mandarin is 青春 (the second word is the character for ‘spring’.)
Being pure white, the Formosan Lily represented the students’ innocence and purity.
In the Lukai Tribe, an indigenous tribe of Taiwan, the Formosan Lily was a symbol of honor.
March 20, 1990
There are now more than 5,000 protestors. The presidential selection is to be made the next day on March 21. At this point, tensions are high and the government, department of education, and principals from all schools demand that students return to attend classes.
March 21, 1990
Newly selected President Lee Teng-Hui invites 53 students to the Presidential Office. Lee agreed to accomplish the following before his inauguration:
- Abolish the National Assembly
- Nullify the Temporary Provisions Against the Communist Rebellion
- Hold a National Affairs Conference
- Establish a time table for political reform
Upon reviewing the meeting footage, the organizing committee agreed to end the student movement on March 22.
March 22, 1990
Participation grew to over 20,000 protestors. This day marks the end of the six-day student movement that will henceforth be known as the Wild Lily Student Movement, Taiwan’s first large-scale student movement.
A National Affairs Conference was held in 1990.
The National Assembly was disbanded in 1991.
The Temporary Provisions Against the Communist Rebellion was nullified in 1991.
All of this allowed for a free and democratic election where each Taiwanese is able to cast their own ballot. In 1996, the first true democratic election was held and President Lee was re-elected for his final term in office.