Sat, Aug 07, 2004 - Page 8 News List

Chiang Wei-shui deserves to be honored

By Lee Shiao-feng李筱峰

Recently, some have launched a signature petition to name National Highway No. 3 the Chiang Wei-shui (蔣渭水) Memorial Highway. I also signed the petition, without hesitation.

Who is Chiang? What is his position in Taiwan's history?

During the more than 50 years of Japanese colonial rule, successive anti-Japanese social movements took place in Taiwan. In 1921, Chiang united with students and social leaders and established the Taiwan Culture Association to promote cultural movements. The association later became the base of many nationalist and social movements.

The association had branch offices in almost every major city and township. Among its activities, speeches on cultural affairs were perhaps the most important. Statistics show that a total of 230,000 Taiwanese attended such speeches nationwide in 1925 and 1926. That was then 8 percent of Taiwan's population of 3 million. The association's cultural activities were like a thorn in the side of the Japanese authorities.

In 1927, the association split into factions on the left and right. The left controlled the association, and so Chiang and some other members jointly founded the Taiwan People's Party, which was the first modern political party in Taiwan's history. The party reached out to the international community and drew the world's attention to the Japanese government's opium policy and the Wushe Incident -- the 1930 Japanese massacre of Aborigines.

Chiang also formed the Taiwan Labor Alliance in 1928 to unify labor movements nationwide. He often encouraged laborers with a slogan: "Compatriots must unite; unity is power." As many as 65 labor groups and over 10,000 members joined the alliance, making it the biggest labor organization under Japanese rule. It also launched several large labor movements, and mobilized huge pressure on Japanese capitalists.

Chiang had a special characteristic: he did not demand credit for what he did. For example, although he actively pushed for the establishment of the Taiwan Culture Association, it was Lin Hsien-tang (林獻堂), a co-founder, who became the group's head. Some still praise Chiang as the nation's savior, with others portraying him as the country's Sun Yat-sen (孫中山).

Unfortunately, most people have forgotten his place in history due to the "education" of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT). We have also forgotten Chiang's name, as we have been schooled to think only of Sun and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek (蔣中正).

Since the idea to name the national highway after Chiang Wei-shui was put forward, some pro-unification figures -- including Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) -- have already signed the petition. In light of the political standoff between the pan-blue and pan-green camps, it's rare and precious that people from the both sides are willing to honor Chiang.

To be sure, when we commemorate Chiang today, it does not mean that we agree with every single one of his concepts and actions in the past. For instance, pro-independence activist Su Beng (史明), who has also signed the petition, once criticized Chiang's concept of national identity -- which was that although the Taiwanese and the Chinese belong to the same ethnicity, they have already become two different peoples, both socially and ideologically. But this opinion does not affect his historical standing at all.

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