Sun, Aug 12, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan in Time: Fractured resistance

While Taiwanese cultural and political activism flourished in the 1920s, the scene was plagued by factionalism leading to several ugly splits

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

A group shot of the Taiwan People’s Party taken in 1931.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Aug. 13 to Aug. 19

The long-simmering divide between the rightist and leftist factions of the Taiwan People’s Party (臺灣民眾黨) finally reached a breaking point. On Aug. 17, 1930, more than 200 people gathered at Taichung’s Drunken Moon Restaurant as the Taiwan Local Autonomy Alliance (台灣地方自治聯盟) was established.

Two of the party’s founding members, Lin Hsien-tang (林獻堂) and Tsai Pei-huo (蔡培火), were involved in the new alliance, which had the sole goal of achieving Taiwanese autonomy — whether working with anti-Japanese activists, elites who cooperated with Japan or even the Japanese themselves. They recruited Yang Chao-chia (楊肇嘉), a noted political activist living in Tokyo, to come back to Taiwan and lead the charge. Many pro-Tsai members joined as well.

The rest of the party, however, were not happy about the alliance. The central committee banned its members from joining the new group, giving the ones who had already joined two weeks to “repent” — but to no avail. On Oct. 1, the committee expelled Tsai and 16 other members, and Lin quit in protest.

This event hit the party’s leader Chiang Wei-shui (蔣渭水) hard, as it was just in its third year of existence after splitting from the Taiwan Cultural Association (台灣文化協會).

“This deeply affected Chiang’s desire to reorganize the party as a proletariat party,” writes Chien Chiung-jen (簡炯仁) in the book, Taiwan People’s Party (台灣民眾黨).

The party would not last much longer, disbanding in 1931 after mass arrests targeting Taiwanese communists, which also wiped out the Taiwan Peasant’s Union (台灣農民組合), Taiwanese Communist Party (台灣共產黨) and the New Taiwan Cultural Association (新台灣文化協會). The Taiwan Local Autonomy Alliance was the only one to survive, lasting until 1937 when it voluntarily dissolved due to rising Japanese imperialist policies.


Chiang and Lin were longtime comrades-in-arm before they parted ways in 1930. The two first met in 1921 through the first of many petitions to the Japanese colonial government to form a Taiwan Representative Assembly, which was spearheaded by Lin.

The two soon formed the Taiwan Cultural Association, which aimed to foster a sense of Taiwanese or Han Chinese nationalism through seminars, classes, publications and other activities.

Like Chiang, Yang got his first taste of political activism through the representative assembly movement. Joining as an 18-year-old in 1924, he was one of four delegates to head to Japan to petition the Japanese Diet for the sixth time. But unlike Chiang, Yang staunchly opposed socialism, which by 1926 had taken hold in Taiwanese organizations in both Taiwan and Tokyo.

Yang describes the “Marxist invasion” as “tragic” in his memoir. Instead of working for the common good, he says, leftist ideals will lead to a class struggle that would tear apart the Taiwanese activist community as most of the officers in the Cultural Association were wealthy, highly-educated landowners.

The final showdown took place in January 1927 between the left faction, which wanted to form a political party, and the rightists, who aimed to continue cultural activities while pushing for self-rule. A Taipei City Government historical publication states that the left faction took complete control by initiating a large number of people into the association, heavily skewing the vote in their favor.

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