Sun, Dec 14, 2003 - Page 4 News List

Activists have their own take on history

DIEHARDS Campaigners who played prominent roles in the formative years of the overseas Taiwanese independence movement look back

By Joy Su  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwanese independence activists plot out a plan of action to stop the deportation of Liu Wen-ching in 1968. Policy advisor to the President Alice King is on the far left. Ng Chiau-tong sits with his back to the camera. Koo Kuan-min is second on the bottom right corner.

After half a century of campaigning for Taiwanese independence, the names of overseas Taiwanese political activists have made it into the history books, and yet for the activists themselves history consists of an assemblage of memorable stories and experiences.

For Ng Chiau-tong (黃昭堂), a historical struggle to halt the illegal deportation of a Taiwanese political activist is also the story of how his PhD thesis was finally written and submitted, while for Yang Chung-chang (楊宗昌), freedom was getting on a Greyhound bus without having to show any identification.

Despite the "White Terror" tactics of the government at the time, Ng and Yang played important roles in Japan and the US respectively during the formative years of the overseas Taiwanese independence movement between 1950 and 1990.

"I started to campaign for independence in 1960 as a graduate student in Japan, and I've been working for Taiwan's independence for 43 years now," said Ng, former chairman of the Taiwan Independence Party (建國黨) and currently chairman of the group World Formosans for Independence.

"In 1968 a Taiwanese independence activist, Liu Wen-ching (柳文卿), was illegally deported from Japan. He had informed us that he was going to extend the expiration date on his visa at noon, but when he still hadn't returned by 6pm, we knew that something had happened to him," Ng said.

"At the time, several of us Taiwanese independence activists got together to decide what to do. We called around for information on Liu, but no one was talking. In the end we asked a Japanese parliamentarian to query the authorities about Liu. It was not until after 8pm that we finally found out that Liu had been taken to a detention center and would be illegally deported back to Taiwan on a 9am flight the next morning," Ng said.

Ng and a few other well-known political activists who were in Japan at the time, including presidential national policy advisor Alice King (金美齡), called an emergency meeting to decide on a plan of action. They decided that they would split up into two groups. The first group would intercept the Japanese police on the highway on the way to the airport. The second group would wait at the airport in case the first group did not succeed in halting the deportation.

"We knew that Liu's life would be at risk if he returned to Taiwan, so we had to find a way to prevent his deportation," Ng said.

The meeting to decide on a plan of action did not conclude until 2am. Ng was placed into the second group and expected to show up at the airport at 6 am.

"I still had to finish my PhD thesis, which was due the next day. I knew that I would probably be taken to the Japanese detention center and thus be unable to complete the thesis. So, I rushed back home and completed my thesis in the four hours I had before I was due at the airport," Ng said.

"The only moment that I felt any sadness was right before I left for the airport. I was 36 years old with three sons, and as I turned to go, I saw my wife and children sleeping in bed together. The scene gripped me," Ng said.

The showdown at the airport did not end favorably for Ng. After losing a violent clash, the Japanese police sent him and his compatriots to jail and Liu was deported.

"I remember falling on top of Liu during the fight and looking him straight in the face. I gestured that he should commit suicide by biting off his tongue because his life would be over if he were sent back to Taiwan," Ng said.

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