Wed, Feb 25, 2015 - Page 12 News List

Discovering Su Beng

Freedom fighter, Marxist and lifelong independence activist, Su Beng is the subject of the new documentary by Chen Lih-kuei

By Ho Yi  /  Staff reporter

Su Beng, the revolutionary.

Photo Courtesy of Chen Lih-kuei, Hsu Hsiung-piao and Su Beng Education Foundation

“How is it possible for a documentary filmmaker to capture the life of Su Beng (史明)?” director Chen Lih-kuei (陳麗貴) asks in the beginning of Su Beng, the Revolutionist (革命進行式). It is a fair question for anyone facing the enormity of a life like that of the lifelong Taiwanese independence campaigner.

You might have seen Su in an Association for Taiwan Independence (ATI, 獨立台灣會) motorcade. Rain or shine, Su, now 97 years old and blind in one eye, is always standing atop one of the slow-moving trucks in Taipei to deliver messages on nationalism and Taiwanese independence through megaphones.


Born Shih Chao-hui (施朝暉) to a wealthy family in Taipei’s Shilin District (士林) in 1918, Su became a Marxist at Waseda University in Tokyo — a school known for its liberal environment. With the intention of resisting Japanese imperialism, he moved to Shanghai to join the Red Army after graduating in 1942, but was quickly disillusioned with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) after witnessing the extreme brutality it comitted in name of revolution.

Su returned to Taiwan in 1949, two years after Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) massacred over 20,000 people in an uprising which came to be known as the 228 Incident. The trained undercover agent set up the Taiwan Independence Revolutionary Armed Force (台灣獨立革命武裝隊) in 1950, buying guns and hiding them in Yangmingshan (陽明山) in preparation for a plot to assassinate Chiang.

When the plot was compromised, Su fled to Japan in 1952, where he continued to stay after being granted political asylum. He opened a noodle shop in Tokyo, which served as a base for training underground members to carry out anti-government initiatives and as a meeting point for young activists such as the late Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) politician Lu Hsiu-yi (盧修一).

Su spent all his earnings from his noodle shop on funding underground operations. Before 1975, he plotted arson attacks on police stations in Taiwan and planned to damage railway tracks and military trains with handmade explosives. He had strategic and technical support from the Japanese Red Army (JRA), a communist military group formed in 1970 with the objective of overthrowing the Japanese government and monarchy and unifying the world under communism.

It was during this time that Su established the ATI. Unlike most of the overseas pro-independence groups formed by students and intellectuals at the time, the members were largely gangsters, small business owners and commoners — rather than being from the social elite. Su’s radicalism distanced him from most independence activists.

At the same time as plotting a revolution and running a noodle shop, Su found time to write a book. His Taiwan’s 400-Year History (台灣人四百年史), first published in Japanese in 1962, offered a theoretical base for building Taiwan as an independent nation-state with an equitable distribution of wealth.

A wanted man under KMT rule for more than four decades, Su was only able to return to Taiwan in 1993, six years after martial law was lifted.


In 2012, inspired by a cultural forum on Su organized by the Tsai Jui-yueh Dance Research Institute (蔡瑞月舞蹈研究社), writer and veteran journalist Ho Rong-hsing (何榮幸) and Democratic Progressive Party legislator Pasuya Yao (姚文智) made a film recognizing Su’s contribution.

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