Sat, Mar 29, 2014 - Page 12 News List

Face the music

Taiwan’s musicians have been on the front lines in the campaign against the cross-strait service trade pact, with some organizing performances at the protest venue

By Joe Henley  /  Contributing reporter

Musicians play on the legislative floor on Wednesday in support of students protesting the cross-strait service trade pact.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

When the Legislative Yuan was first occupied, members of the music groups Masquerader, The Deposers (罷黜者) and Maggot Colony (蠅蛆殖民地) were amongst the first inside. On the third night of the protests, thrash band Bazooka organized an impromptu performance near the protests as a show of solidarity. Though the focus of the protests over the cross-strait service trade agreement has largely been on student involvement, Taiwan’s musicians have also been putting themselves directly in harm’s way.

The White Eyes’s singer Kao Chih-wei (高芷瑋), like many musicians, claim to have fallen victim to what seems like excessive force at the hands of baton and shield-wielding police officers who also employed the use of water cannons to disperse protesters. Kao, a veteran of several protest movements, says she was pulled by police from her passive, seated position on the street in front of the Executive Yuan in the early hours of Monday.

“They surrounded me and began to kick [me in the stomach] — maybe at least five or six [police officers]. I said to them, ‘I am a girl. Why are you beating me?’ But they kept beating me. I can’t remember for how long,” Kao says.

She adds that they surrounded her so that no one else could see what was happening, which falls in line with media accounts that police ordered reporters away before becoming physical with protesters.

Kao has been at the protest every day since it began and will keep returning until the day the trade agreement is sent back to the legislature.

“If we stop this time,” she says, “I can’t imagine what will happen in the future.”


Foreign musicians and artists, even those with permanent residency in Taiwan or those married to Taiwanese, face their own unique dilemma during this time of crisis. Non-Taiwanese taking part in activities such as political demonstrations are deemed to be in violation of the stipulations of their visa and subject to deportation. In other words, join forces with the activists, and you could see yourself banned from your adopted homeland.

This is something American Keith Saunders, a long time Taipei resident who performs and creates under the name Floaty, has wrestled with every day since the protests began. A father to a baby girl, both Saunders and his Taiwanese partner feel it is their duty to defend Taiwan’s democracy. He has gone to the protests to observe, along with his family, but says he can’t actively lend his voice, though it’s not because he is afraid to.

“While I wanted to sing at the protests, I withheld,” he says. “This moment is for the Taiwanese people. It is all about Taiwanese citizens standing up and determining their own fate. It is not my song to sing. It is a song for me, and for the rest of the world, to listen to.”

Everyone taking part in these protests is putting something on the line. They are risking their health, possibly even their lives, and if not those things then at the very least their livelihood. Full-time musician Sarah Wen, bassist for Taipei electro-pop band Go Chic, was also in front of the Executive Yuan in the early hours of March 24 when many documented instances of police beating protesters took place. Her boyfriend, also a musician, says he was among those assaulted, claiming police dragged him away from the crowd to beat him in a more clandestine area.

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