A group of National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) students and professors have organized a series of activities to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the April 6 Incident to raise awareness of the tragedy, which happened 60 years ago and sparked major changes in the culture of the school.
“As members of the NTNU community, you should all know something about the historic event,” NTNU history professor Cheng Feng-hsiang (陳豐祥) told some 150 students at the school yesterday. “It can be forgiven, but cannot be forgotten.”
On the morning of April 6, 1949, military and police personnel stormed through the NTNU student dormitory and arrested 200 students following a standoff between students and police after the students refused to surrender their Student Association leaders.
Then Taiwan Garrison Command deputy chief Chen Cheng (陳誠) had ordered the arrest of student leaders at both NTNU and National Taiwan University (NTU) after students from both schools organized and took part in a series of rallies and marches protesting police abuse and demanding political reform in March that year.
Seven of the arrested students were executed immediately, while many others were never seen again. In May 1949, 40 more NTNU and NTU students were arrested on sedition charges, with 18 of them executed later that year and the rest sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.
After the incident, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government suspended classes at NTNU for nearly a month to run checks on each student and began to keep a tight control on universities across the nation, but especially NTNU.
“When I attended NTNU [in the late 1960s], all students were required to stay in dormitories,” NTNU history professor Wu Wen-hsing (吳文星) said. “We had to be in bed by 10pm — the military education officers would come into our dorm rooms and check every bed.”
At 5:50am came the wake-up call, “and we had to attend the flag-raising ceremony at 6:30am every morning,” Wu said. “Such tight control on student life completely changed NTNU culture and the influence is still there today, even decades after all these measures have been removed. NTNU is known as the most conservative university in the country.”
While the political climate has long since changed, the April 6 Incident remains somewhat taboo at the school.
“I came to NTNU [as a student] 56 years ago and have been a professor here for a long time, but I didn’t know about the incident until 10 years ago,” Cheng Feng-hsiang said.
That was the reason why the Department of History, the Student Association and the Humanity Studies Club decided to organize events to commemorate the incident.
“The school hasn’t done much to commemorate the incident. It has always been the student organizations that organize events,” Student Association vice-president Huang Po-ting (黃渤珽) said. “We want more students to be aware of this important, historic event in our school’s history.”
Chan Hui-min (詹惠閔), a student at NTNU, said she was very interested to find out about the April 6 Incident when she was a freshman at the school.
“My impression had been that NTNU is a very conservative and boring school, so I was quite affected and found it unbelievable that something like this had happened at NTNU,” she said.
“Right now, I’m more involved in student organizations and am participating in some social movements partly because I want to recall the long lost NTNU spirit,” Chan said.