Sun, Mar 13, 2005 - Page 17 News List

Mapping the History of Taiwan's Student movements

A documentary series now airing on Public Television Service looks at the history of campus activism

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chen Ku-ying, a philosophy scholar, was fired from his job as a professor at National Taiwan University for his participation in a student movement in 1971.


More than a decade after the March Student Movement (三月學運), where have the former student leaders who led thousands of college students in a two-week, pro-democracy sit-in at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall (中正紀念堂) gone? Are they still fighting for the idealism of that time? And is there a students movement to speak of now in Taiwan?

With these questions in mind, directors Yang Yi-tse (楊一哲) and Sung Ying-ying (宋穎鶯) began to seek out people former student-movement leaders, such as former Government Information Office director Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍), director of Council of Hakka Affairs Luo Wen-chia (羅文嘉) and legislator Lee Wen-chung (李文忠), asking them to recount their experience of those heady days. The interviews, conducted over three and a half years and with help from seven filmmakers, have been compiled into an eight-hour documentary retrospective on the history of protest movements in Taiwan.

Titled the Stormy Times -- Taiwan's Student Movements (狂飆的年代), episodes are currently playing on PTS every Tuesday.

"It was like cooking a pot of soup with stones -- a long process where you have to keep adding water and ingredients," Yang said.

A history of protests

He originally had planned to make a film about the March Student Movement featuring only Lin Chia-lung, Luo Wen-chia and Lee Wen-chung, but later broadened the time-span to almost a century, starting in the Japanese colonial period and extending to last year's post-presidential-election demonstrations.

In 1910, a group of Taiwanese students studying in Japan started a publication titled Taiwan Youth (台灣青年) in which they wrote about anti-feudalism and rebellion against Japanese colonialist rule in Taiwan. The founders of the magazine went on in 1921 to establish the Taiwan Cultural Association (台灣文化協會), which became one of the main organizations working against Japanese colonial rule in Taiwan. Their actions are now viewed as the fountainhead of the Taiwanese student movement.

According to Yang Tu (楊渡), a senior journalist and author of two books about Taiwan's student movements, the period from 1910 to 1950 saw student movements leaning heavily to the left politically, especially in the wake of the 228 incident and an incident on April 6, 1949, when 10 demonstrating students were shot by police. Protests at the time were aimed primarily against the KMT and identified with socialist or communist ideas.

"Students groups here were seeking allies with mainland Chinese student groups. Campus upheavals spread like wildfire in Taiwan and China from 1947 to 1949," Yang said at the premiere of the documentary series this week.

But the sprouting leftist movement was silenced by the so-called "white terror" beginning in 1950 when the ruling regime sought to consolidate its power by eradicating left-leaning dissidents through imprisonment and executions.

One of the directors of the series, Chang Chao-wei (張釗維), calls this period "the vanishing left eye."

It wasn't until 1970, when a movement arose to defend claims to the Tiaoyutai island group, did Taiwan's campuses resume political activism. Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), then a student at Harvard Law School, was one of the active students in the movement.

Originally a patriotic movement to back Taiwan's claim to the islands and denounce Japan's assumption of sovereignty over the uninhabited rocks in the ocean, the movement also gave voice to calls for freedom of speech and democratic reform in Taiwan.

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