National Chiao Tung University last week established a research center to study and bring to life the history of Taiwanese farmers’ activism under Japanese colonialism.
Tsai Shih-shan (蔡石山), director of the university’s Research Center for Humanities and Social Sciences, said that though a group of activists led by Chien Chi (簡吉), an elementary school teacher, organized a nationwide campaign against Japanese colonial rule, the history of the movement is not well-known. Even after the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) took over Taiwan, that story remained largely untold, Tsai said.
Tsai, who doubles as head of the new research center, said Chien gave up his teaching job after seeing that many Taiwanese children were compelled to leave school to help their families farm at a time when local farmers still led a poor life, no matter how hard they worked.
Led by Chien, Taiwanese farmers filed petitions with the colonial government, resulting in Chien’s arrest on several occasions for breaking the public order, Tsai said.
Chien later became a leftist farmers’ rights activist and a communist because he found common ground between his care for farmers and socialism, which made Chien unacceptable to the KMT administration, Tsai said.
As leader of the farmers movement, Chien was executed during the White Terror era in the 1950s, when many activists were either executed or jailed, Tsai said.
The history of the movement was seen by the KMT administration as politically taboo and has been excised from Taiwanese history, Tsai said, adding that the center hoped to help the public have a better understanding of the history of the movement.
Unveiling the new research center in Hsinchu, Chien Ming-jen (簡明仁), Chien Chi’s son and president of First International Computer, called the movement “history that every Taiwanese should fully understand.”
“Throughout the farmers movement during the Japanese colonial era, Chien Chi’s name was synonymous with intellectuals’ care for economically disadvantaged farmers,” Chien Ming-jen said.