Youth Labor Union 95 and other student groups from colleges across the nation on Wednesday rallied behind Chinese Culture University (CCU) fourth-year student Yuan Chen-hsi (袁禎禧), who is facing possible expulsion because of his conduct.
What got Yuan into trouble was his staging of a play titled Do as I Do: A Tribute to Ai Weiwei (艾未未) on Jan. 6, during the final examinations for the university’s Department of Chinese Music. The play protested the department’s alleged deletion of a comment he had made on the department’s Facebook page in support of protesters fighting for the conservation of the Losheng Sanatorium.
The entire play was performed in the nude.
Yuan argues that the university infringed on his freedom of speech.
Ai, a Chinese artist and vocal government critic, was arrested by Chinese authorities and held in custody for 81 days last year and was ordered to pay 15 million yuan (US$2.4 million) in back taxes.
The Losheng Sanatorium, constructed in 1929, houses people with leprosy. Controversy over its future arose in 2002 when the Taipei City Government began evaluating a construction plan for the Xinzhuang MRT line.
Youth Labor Union 95 executive commissioner Lucas Hu (胡孟瑀), who is also a graduate student in the university’s Department of Labor Relations, said the department of Chinese Music should tolerate different forms of expression and encourage students to strive for artistic creativity on social issues. It should not have deleted Yuan’s comments, he said.
The university’s actions show a conservative attitude that “binds its own hands,” Hu said, adding that in contrast, Tsai Ming-liang (蔡明亮), an alumnus of the university and now a renowned Taiwanese director, made sex and lust the material for his films in the conservative 1980s and even won the Outstanding Artistic Achievement Silver Bear award at the 2005 Berlinale for the film A Wayward Cloud (天邊一朵雲).
The Feb. 28 daubing with red paint of the area around a statue of late dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) on campus by National Chen Kung University’s student organization, the 02 Group (零貳社, whose name sounds similar to “protest” in Hoklo, commonly known as Taiwanese); the 2010 protests in front of the Executive Yuan by the Gao Ke Ji Leng Sie Cing Nian, or “Youths Concerned over the Ruthlessness of High-Tech Industries,” group of bloggers; and the pleas by the NCCU Seed Club calling on students to focus on public issues — these all concern issues of disadvantaged groups on the margins of society, Hu said.
Such issues are brought to the government’s attention through creative acts, he added, and freedom of speech is the absolute red line that these groups have, and they would die to defend it.
In addition to Youth Labor Union 95, the High Wave student group from Shih Hsin University, the Youths Concerned over Ruthlessness of High-Tech Industries, the Seed Club, Tunghai University’s World Workshop, National Taiwan Normal University’s Humanities Club and Fu Jen Catholic University’s (FJCU) Black Ditch Club, added their support for Yuan.
Yuan said he had collaborated with students from National Taiwan University, FJCU, National Tsing Hua University and National Chiao Tung University in staging his play. The response to the play showed that the Arts Academy, under the false mask of being more accepting of differences and dynamism, was actually more conservative and oppressive.