Sun, Jun 15, 2014 - Page 1 News List

NTU mull Chen Wen-chen plaza

MEMORIAL:Students want to remember a former alumni and democracy supporter who is believed to have been killed on a trip home in 1981 to see his family in Taiwan

By Rachel Lin and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Mathematics teacher Chen Wen-chen, left, who was found dead on the National Taiwan University campus on July 2, 1981, poses with his wife and child in an undated family photograph.

Photo retaken by Lin Cheng-kung, Taipei Times

A portion of the National Taiwan University (NTU) campus could be designated as the Chen Wen-chen (陳文成) memorial plaza, the university said yesterday.

The student council’s proposal to create a memorial for Chen, whose body was found at the university in 1981, has gained significant support from professors.

A graduate of the school’s Department of Mathematics, Chen studied in the US and became an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Statistics.

A supporter of Taiwan’s democracy movement, he was found dead on an NTU lawn on July 2, 1981, after he was questioned by the then-Taiwan Garrison Command one day after returning to the nation to visit his family.

He is believed to have been murdered.

The Garrison Command said Chen had been released after his interrogation and that it had nothing to do with his death.

NTU student council leader Lee Hsin-wen (李心文) called the motion yesterday in a school administration morning meeting that is open to student council participation.

Saying Chen’s death was the result of political oppression and a tragedy of an era during which the nation was ruled by an autocratic regime, Lee said that having shifted to a democracy, Taiwanese must still reflect upon the past to understand the nation’s journey and to ensure the transitional justice.

Naming the plaza after Chen would increase awareness of his story and the period of Taiwan’s history among the university faculty and students, Lee added.

Professors voiced their support, saying the motion would highlight the nation’s core values of democracy, freedom and human rights.

However, some professors said a broader name such as “Human Rights Plaza” would be more encompassing, or something like the NTU Department of Philosophy Incident (台大哲學系事件) or the April 6 Incident (四六事件).

The first refers to a period of student activism from 1972 to 1975 over the sovereignty of the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), claimed by the Republic of China (ROC), Japan and China.

The Incident refers to the then-government’s subsequent crackdown on the university that led to the dismissal of several liberal-leaning professors.

The April 6th Incident refers to a mass arrest of students by the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government in 1948, when students asked for a raise in public stipends.

The students’ choice of rallying songs, which perhaps stemmed from a disillusionment with the party and socialist views, led the KMT government to believe that the students had been swayed by the Chinese Communist Party’s “united front” rhetoric (統戰).

NTU president Yang Pan-chyr (楊泮池) yesterday said that he agreed that the Chen incident was poignant, but that the naming of any public space must follow procedure.

He said the university’s judicial team would invite student representatives to attend a discussion on the process of the naming.

Yang added that the university had previously been willing to create a Chen Wen-chen memorial in an area next to the library.

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