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


Despite his later leftist leanings, Chiang left the association with Lin and the right-wing faction, eventually forming the Taiwan People’s Party in July 1927 after several attempts. It was Taiwan’s first political party, only allowed after the members vowed not to espouse Taiwanese nationalism and bar Chiang from any leadership position. This actually boosted Chiang’s reputation as it showed that the Japanese were wary of his influence.

The party tackled numerous social issues. They continued to petition the Japanese government for the assembly, pushed for self rule, freedom of speech and more educational opportunities for Taiwanese, spoke out against colonial methods of community surveillance and attempted to eradicate social ills such as opium and gambling.

Their most significant victory was alerting the League of Nations to Japan’s producing and selling of opium, earning them a visit from several officers and causing an international uproar. Although the government continued their lucrative monopoly, it did set up an addiction treatment facility.

But Chiang’s focus increasingly turned toward the working class. In 1928, he formed the League of Taiwanese Laborers (台灣工友總聯盟) and delved into the class struggle, having become a leftist by that time. This drove a wedge between Chiang and Lin, who believed that pushing for autonomy was the only way to go.

After Lin’s departure, Chiang continued on with his worker’s rights activities and also managed to force governor-general Eizo Ishizuka and three other high-ranking officials to step down by publicizing internationally the Wushe Incident (霧社事件), a violent clash between Japanese and Aborigines. The government barged into their final meeting and shut the party down in February 1931, and Chiang would die six months later.


Yang was attending college in Japan at the time, but he worked closely with Chiang. He was so aggressive in pushing the self-rule agenda that he earned the nickname “The Taiwanese Lion.” However, he watched Taiwan’s political scene descend into factionalism.

Yang shared Lin’s belief that autonomy should be the sole focus of Taiwanese activism. The rightist faction in the Taiwan People’s Party visited him on the day of his graduation, asking him to return home to join their efforts, but he declined.

In April 1930, he received a letter signed by Lin and over 10 other activists pleading for him to return and affirming that they were on the same page. He finally relented.

Five months after its inception, the alliance had swollen to more than 1,000 members, regularly drawing between 500 and 1,500 people to each of their speeches across Taiwan. The Japanese police were present at every event, often interrupting if they didn’t like what was being said.

After five years of tireless campaigning, the Japanese government finally allowed the public to elect half of Taiwan’s city and township councilors — although due to stringent restrictions only 28,000 people were eligible to run. Also, while the city councilors had partial decision making privileges, the township ones were only in a consulting role.

While Yang was unhappy with the results, he still considered it a step forward. His alliance fielded a number of candidates, all being elected but one.

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