Twenty-two-year-old Keng Hsiang-hsuan (孔祥瑄), a 75th-generation descendant of Confucius (孔子), used to live a comfortable and privileged life that revolved around new clothes and afternoon teas.
All that ended in autumn last year, when Keng’s insistence on joining social movements, including the one against the controversial cross-strait service trade agreement, prompted her parents to cut her off financially.
Keng’s parents went so far as to empty their daughter’s bank account in a desperate effort to prevent her from “going astray,” after seeing her throw eggs during rallies against the government’s appropriation of farmlands in Miaoli County’s Dapu Borough (大埔) and taking part in a skit staged during a 250,000-strong protest against the military’s treatment of deceased army corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘).
“I thought it was the end of the world and that I was not going to survive. I had nothing left … but the NT$200 in my pocket,” Keng said.
Keng decided to become financially independent.
A junior at Soochow University’s Department of Chinese Literature, Keng took up a part-time job at a radio station, working three hours a day in exchange for a small salary.
She eats free food provided by the company in an effort to save money to pay her rent.
Keng’s determination to pursue social activism has earned the support of her boss, who recently granted Keng paid leave to allow her to participate in the Sunflower movement.
The 22-year-old now serves as the administrator of the Facebook page of the Black Island Nation Youth, the group responsible for spearheading the anti-pact movement and organizing the unprecedented occupation of the Legislative Yuan.
The page has attracted nearly 20,000 fans a day since the group led the seizure of the legislature on March 18. It currently boasts more than 300,000 fans.
“Success is not random, nor a matter of luck,” said Keng, who is also a member of the group.
“Over the past six months, we have gone to great lengths to try to understand the content of the agreement, such as by exchanging opinions and information at study groups, and taking up courses that would equip us with the knowledge needed to do so,” Keng said.
Keng said the fan page provides an easy-to-read analysis of each of the agreement’s articles and also shares the stories of people who have sought to support the student movement.
Being cut off from her parents has forced Keng to grow up, and while the consequences of her actions have been bitter, she said she is willing to stand up for her beliefs even if it costs her her life.
“The Taiwan in my mind is a free and democratic nation... Our parents have failed to safeguard Taiwan’s democracy for us, but we would rather die than let our children grow up in a land without democracy,” she said.
Keng said although some have questioned their beliefs and actions, the activists could never give up and walk away, particularly after seeing so many people gathered outside the legislature, believing in them.
“It is our duty not to fail them,” she said.