Friends and family of late teacher Liu Po-yen (劉柏煙) were earlier this week joined by members of arts and cultural communities in commemorating the fifth anniversary of his death by self-immolation, as they called on the government to respect the dignity and rights of Taiwanese.
Eighty-year-old Liu set himself on fire at Liberty Square in Taipei in 2008 to protest what he called President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration’s affront to national dignity during a visit by Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), who was then chairman of China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits.
During the diplomatic visit police roughed up people who raised Republic of China national flags.
Born and raised in Nantou County, Liu, a teacher at the National Renai Vocational Agricultural Senior High School in Nantou’s Wushe (霧社), had been a member of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) for 58 years.
In his suicide note, Liu accused Ma of kowtowing to Chen and compromising Taiwan’s sovereignty, adding that people’s rights and dignity were being trampled upon.
Since Liu’s death, Taiwanese artist Chao Tsung-song (趙宗宋) has organized an annual remembrance service for Liu in November.
This year, Chao visited Liu’s family in Nantou County and presented them with an oil painting depicting maple tree leaves turning red in autumn.
Chao said that the fiery colors of the maple leaves turning red in the early autumn frost symbolized Liu’s martyrdom after his self-immolation.
“Last year, a Taiwanese businessman in Oregon [in the US] commissioned me to produce a giant wall mural for public display on the exterior of a building. My work depicted scenes of Taiwan’s rural countryside, as well as portraits of Tibetan self-immolators struggling for freedom,” Chao said.
“The consul general of China’s consulate office in San Francisco repeatedly complained to the Oregan State Government, demanding that the mural be taken down,” he said.
“However, the state government said that it is a free speech issue and did not agree with the complaint. So the mural work is still on public display,” Chao added.
“You look at the US, and then see that here in Taiwan we are always affected by China’s suppression and bullying, but the Ma government has only given weak, spineless responses,” he said.