Monday, December 28, 2009

The Taiwan Independence Action Motorcade protests cross-strait talks being held with Chen Yunlin

Photo: Reuters

In this photo, a demonstrator standing atop a Taiwan Independence Action motorcade (獨立台灣會) propaganda truck burns a Chinese flag in protest of the cross-strait talks being held at the Windsor Hotel in Taichung on December 22.

This photo appeared in this Taipei Times article:

Here's another related story from the Taipei Times:

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Video footage of Su Beng's December 17 return to Taipei, Taiwan after being hospitalized in Tokyo, Japan

This video of Su Beng's release from the hospital in Japan and return to Taiwan on December 17 begins with the following words that flash across the screen:



Here is the English translation of the above:


If it's my time to go, I'd rather die on the soil of my homeland- Su Beng

Su Beng, an elder of the Taiwan independence movement was greeted in the Taiwan Taoyuan Airport by the Taiwan Referendum Alliance and several Taiwan civic groups.

That night there was a candlelight vigil for Su Beng in front of the Legislative Yuan.

The video begins with shots of Su Beng being released from the hospital in Japan, and then being driven to Haneda Airport (Tokyo International Airport).

Back at the Taiwan Taoyuan Airport supporters awaiting Su Beng's arrival practice shouting "Long live Taiwan nationalism! Long live Taiwan independence!"

Su Beng is shown being wheeled into the Haneda Airport.

Upon arriving at the Taiwan Taoyuan Airport, Su Beng is greeted by people shouting "Long live Taiwan nationalism! Long live Taiwan independence! Su Beng Ojisan* we love you!"

Su Beng is taken by ambulance to a Taipei hospital, where he will remain for about 10 more days.

Later that night at a candlelight vigil held in front of the Legislative Yuan for Su Beng, several people assembled and the following people spoke:

Professor Tsai: We are very thankful today that Su Beng Ojisan was able to get on a plane to return to Taiwan from Japan. We made a special trip to the airport to welcome him home. Thank you for everyone’s warm welcome. The things that concern Su Beng the most are continued Taiwan nationalism and nation building. It seems as though, well, we all saw Su Beng ourselves, and he looks well. But what the news media is interested in is the timing of Su Beng's return to Taiwan. Why has Su Beng chosen to return at this particular time? Is there any reason behind this? I believe that the reason why Su Beng chose to return to Taiwan now is mainly because next week Chen Yunlin [an envoy sent by the Chinese Communist Party and chairman of China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS)] will be coming to Taiwan for a visit. In fact, several years ago, the first time Tang Su Bei [a Chinese Communist party representative] came to Taiwan for a visit, Su Beng led people in a protest of his visit. The reason [for these protests] is always the same, because Taiwan is not a part of China. Taiwan belongs to the Taiwanese; Taiwan is the Taiwanese people’s Taiwan. China cannot treat Taiwan as its territory. The Chinese Communists should not think that they can just come here to check up on us as if Taiwan’s government is a part of its local government. We will not accept this sort of treatment or subordination under any circumstances. So when Tang Su Bei came to Taiwan Su Beng led people in a protest and when Lien Chan went to China he also led people in a protest. Because of Su Beng's involvement in protests of Lien Chan’s trip to China, he was recently charged with about 6 months of jail time and fined. This time, while in Japan, the hospital expenses were quite high. Su Beng doesn’t have health insurance there, so he had to pay a lot of these expenses out of pocket. Now several presidents of the North American Taiwanese Professors Association chapters are voluntarily trying to fundraise for Su Beng. If you can, offer your support in any way that you can. Today he has returned because he wants to encourage the people of Taiwan to protect Taiwan’s sovereignty.

Bin Hong: …so much concern for Su Beng. Everyone is so happy that Ojisan has finally been able to return safely to Taiwan. He himself is also really happy too. On November 11, when Su Beng fell sick, A-diong was the only person from the Taiwan Independence Association there by his side. At that time, having encountered such situation, made one understand what it feels like to be really helpless... [looking around and being alone] without any relatives or friends by one’s side, unable to communicate- because A-diong and I can’t speak any Japanese. So at that time it was quite despondent. That first week, Su Beng’s kidney function was at a critically low level. By Taiwan’s medical standards, dialysis would have been used to treat him by the third day. But fortunately, at the time he was in Japan and over a month’s time of treatment and care [Su Beng was treated with the use of a catheter and IV], his condition is now stable. It really was… such a painfully miserable situation. It’s very fortunate that Ojisan was able to get through this hardship. I told Ojisan that there is a Taiwanese saying, “If one is able to survive such hardship then they be able to live until 120.” We want him to continue fighting for Taiwan. He’s been able to overcome such hardship and return safely to Taiwan today also because there were so many people including overseas Taiwanese who have offered their moral support. The phone kept ringing with people offering encouragement, and there were people like Professor Tsai, Mr. Chen and everyone who went there to encourage him and Freddie and a lot of other people who flew from Taiwan to Japan just to visit and offer him encouragement. It was because of this that Su Beng had the strength and will to fight to overcome this, I believe it was because of all the encouragement that Taiwanese people gave him… Really, for someone with such poor health, to have to go through something like this is so tough. Thank you everyone for your support, because of everyone’s support he has been able to get through all of this. Thank you everyone, thank you everyone.

Prayers said during the candlelight vigil:

We thank god for giving us all the opportunity today to gather here together to welcome home the most respected ninety-three year old Taiwanese Revolutionary, our Su Beng Ojisan, who has spent his life fighting for Taiwan, for independence, for nationalism, and for the Taiwanese people’s dignity. He has returned to fight for Taiwan. We will continue to follow and support his ideals of Taiwanese nationalism and the dream of building a new country Taiwan. We ask god to give use strength to deal with Chen Yunlin and Ma Ying-jeou.

At the end of the candelight vigil participants sing the song: “Taiwan Forever Green”

*Oijisan is a Japanese term which means uncle

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A hero's welcome

Michael Richardson of the Boston Examiner has written about Su Beng's return to a hero's welcome.

Of course, as Su Beng's English Biographer, it is my duty to offer correction, clarification and comments where necessary and they appear below, after Mr. Richardson's article.

Here is Mr. Richardson's article:

Su Beng returns to a hero's welcome in Taiwan where he faces ROC jail cell:

Su Beng, Taiwan's elder champion of independence, has returned to Taiwan to a hero's welcome. The aged and ailing Su Beng had been hospitalized in Japan and fears were that he would not be able to return home.

While receiving treatment in Japan a number of Taiwanese independence advocates made a pilgrimage to Su Beng's bedside including musician Freddy Lim. Generations apart in age, the two men share a desire for Taiwan independence.

Photo courtesy of: Freddy Lim

Freddy Lim's visit to Japan to see Su Beng must raise concerns with the Republic of China in-exile government controlling Taiwan. Freddy, as he is known worldwide, is a heavy metal rock star and promotes Taiwan's liberation from the stage during his performances.

Freddy's message seems to be striking a chord with the youth of Taiwan. A recent poll showed that seven out of ten in the 18-29 year-old age group identify themselves as Taiwanese rather than Chinese, a demographic shift with huge political implications for the Kuomintang rulers of the island.

Su Beng can be expected to return to the struggle for independence for which he has tirelessly worked for over six decades. The Chinese government of Ma Ying-jeou must now decide if they intend to jail Su Beng for the 9-month prison sentence he recently recieved for a 2005 protest.

Su Beng was leading a protest against the Chinese at an airport rally when he got word that fellow demonstrators were being attacked by men in black shirts--organized thugs that distrupt outdoor political events in Taiwan--and gestured with his cane. Su Beng's outrage at the actions of the black shirts was seen by the ROC government as using a weapon to incite violence.

Although the news media in Taiwan give Su Beng infrequent attention, his weekly motorcades and other protests have made him a word-of-mouth folk hero and his views are moving from the margins of society into the mainstream.

Any attempt to lock up the frail advocate is sure to be met with noisy street protests and take Su Beng's message of independence to a larger audience.


Here are my comments in response to Mr. Richardson's article:

Dear Michael,

Thank you kindly for writing about Su Beng and keeping all of us informed about him.

I'd like to offer few corrections, comments and clarification about your article.

Though the ROC Supreme Court did recently uphold a prison sentence for Su Beng, the sentence is for 6 months and 50 days (or a total of 230 days), not 9 months. A 9-month sentence was given to Bin Hong, Su Beng's assistant.

I'd also like to clarify that Su Beng has not been charged for gesturing with his cane- which could be misconstrued as a weapon. He has been charged for 2 incidents that occurred on April 26, 2005: 1) trying to obstruct Lien Chan on the highway en route to the Taiwan Taoyuan Airport 2) setting off fireworks in the Taiwan Taoyuan Airport.

I wrote about a photo that appeared with a caption stating "Su Beng waves a stick." The stick was in fact his cane:


If you read Mr. Richardson's article on the website, you will notice that at the end of it is a video posted on by Taiwan Independent Media Inc. It is a video of Su Beng's release from the hospital in Japan and return to Taiwan. I was touched to see how Su Beng was received at the airport and to hear many of the things said in the video. In a few days, I will post a translation of what was said in the video.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Bin Hong called today to let me know that Su Beng has safely returned to Taiwan. He was given a warm, rousing welcome at the airport. She estimates that there were about 200 supporters there to greet him. That night, there was also a candlelight vigil held for Su Beng.

It has been a long, exhausting trip and arrival.

Video and photos of Su Beng's homecoming have been shot. I will post links to the video and provide some translation of what's being said in the video within the week.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The woman behind the man

I spoke to Su Beng's assistant, Bin Hong last Friday. She has been kindly giving me weekly updates, sometimes even several times a week regarding Su Beng's condition. Since Su Beng took ill, she has been traveling back and forth between Taiwan and Japan. In recent years, she has taken over the responsibility of handling the Taiwan Independence Action (獨立台灣會) Motorcade in Taipei. Since 1994, every Saturday and Sunday afternoon, around 3pm the motorcade's propaganda trucks and taxis make rounds in Taipei city and its outskirts (I wrote about it here.). I've sat on the top of one of the Taiwan Independence Action Motorcade propaganda trucks as it went on its rounds around Taipei. I've seen and heard Bin Hong at the helm, speaking over a megaphone- her powerful voice reverberating through the streets of Taipei as she shouts out these slogans: "Taiwan for the Taiwanese people." "Taiwan is not the Republic of China!" "The Taiwanese people must step up and be the masters of their own fate."

She has been there at all of my interviews with Su Beng, which for the most part, are conducted at his home in Sinjhuang. She has facilitated much of my contact and correspondence with Su Beng. She set him up on Skype. She set up his facebook account. And she's been helping me to get all the documentation that I need. I am truly indebted to her and grateful for all of her cooperativeness over these past FIVE (!) years.

Last Friday she was back in Tokyo, hoping that Su Beng would be released from the hospital in a few days time and that she'd to be able to accompany him back to Taipei. Bin Hong told me that though Su Beng's condition is relatively stable, he had had a fever the week before and that the doctors aren't exactly sure what may have caused it, so they've decided to keep him in the hospital for further observation for a few more weeks. So it looks like Su Beng won't be able to return to Taipei until mid-December.

Su Beng and the Taiwan Independence Action Motorcade making rounds to commemorate its 10 year anniversary in 2005.

There are also two other Taiwan Independence Action Motorcade groups making rounds on the weekends in Kaohsiung (which is located in southern Taiwan) and Tai Chung (which is located in central Taiwan).

Meanwhile a Taipei Times reporter recently wrote this article about Su Beng:

Monday, November 23, 2009

Update on Su Beng's condition

The doctors have decided not to do kidney dialysis on Su Beng if possible. So they are treating Su Beng's kidney condition with the combined use of an IV and catheter.

In recent days, Su Beng has become more lucid and seems in good spirits. He's been able to sit up and talk, and has had plenty of visitors. Even in his frail condition, he talks passionately about Taiwan, the state of politics in Taiwan and has expressed his wish that the Taiwanese people continue working towards building their own new country.

Since late October, Su Beng has been in Tokyo trying to get his noodle shop up and running again. All these years, since the 1950s, it was the noodle shop's revenue that has supported Su Beng and financed all of his Taiwan independence activities. It funded the underground training of Taiwan independence activists in the 1960s-70s, the weekly Taiwanese Independence Action (獨立台灣會) motorcades that make their rounds throughout Taiwan, and the Su Beng Education Foundation (史明教育基金會). Over the past year, Su Beng has made several trips between Taipei and Tokyo to renovate and reopen the noodle shop in hopes that the noodle shop will be able to continue to provide funds for the Su Beng Education Foundation (史明教育基金會)- so that the foundation can continue working to build Taiwan into a country made for and by the Taiwanese.

The noodle shop has been closed for much of the year. Su Beng is facing financial hardship with the loss of the noodle shop's revenue and now he has the added expense of medical bills for his treatment in Japan. If you are in Taiwan and wish to make a donation to Su Beng through the Su Beng Education Foundation, visit this website:

On the bottom of the page is an account number where donations can be made to to support these organizations: Taiwan Independence Association (獨立台灣會) and the Su Beng Education Foundation (史明教育基金會).

Taiwan independence advocate Su Beng hospitalized in Japan is too ill to travel to face ROC jail

Michael Richardson of the Boston Progressive Examiner has written about Su Beng's condition.

I had a few points of clarification regarding Su Beng's book "Taiwan's 400 Year History" and I've included my comments below.

Taiwan independence advocate Su Beng hospitalized in Japan is too ill to travel to face ROC jail
November 21, 10:38 AM
By Michael Richardson

Su Beng, the 91 year-old elder of the Taiwan independence movement, is in a Japanese medical facility too ill to return to Taiwan to face nine months in prison for a 2005 protest. Su Beng must undergo dialysis treatment or face death from kidney failure. Doctors are contemplating moving Su Beng from his treatment center to a larger hospital because of his frail condition and oppose any travel to Taiwan unless in a special aircraft equipped with life support equipment.

Su Beng had travelled from Taiwan to Japan in October to reopen his noodle restaurant which has been closed for renovation. Also in October, Su Beng's appeal of a nine-month jail sentence for a 2005 Taipei protest was denied and he must face imprisonment or pay a hefty fine.

The Republic of China in-exile [ROC] Supreme Court ironically denied Su Beng's appeal on the 60th anniversary of the founding of the Peoples' Republic of China. The independence activist had been arrested for an April 2005 protest against Kuomintang [KMT] leader Lian Chan's visit to China.

Su Beng, author of Taiwan's 400 Year History, was the first native-born Taiwanese to write a history of the four centuries of colonial rule in Taiwan. The classic history book has been translated and is now available in Japanese, Chinese and English. The book was written from Su Beng's noodle shop in Japan during his long exile from the island under the martial law period of Taiwan.

Su Beng had plotted the overthrow of KMT dictator Chiang Kai-shek after the defeated Chinese Nationalists fled to Taiwan in 1949. In the early 1950's Su Beng's revolutionary plans were discovered and he had to flee the island to Japan or face certain execution.

After martial law was lifted in the late 1980's Su Beng eventually returned to Taiwan where he renewed his independence efforts. Speaking, writing and leading protests filled the aging advocate's time. Although the passing years have slowed Su Beng down they have not quieted his voice or ended his tireless advocacy for Taiwan independence.

A constant irritant to the ROC government that rules the island, Su Beng has continued to lead marches, plan protests, write essays and seek to motivate others to liberate Taiwan from the Chinese government imposed on the island by the United States following World War II. Although the KMT-controlled media infrequently mentions Su Beng his many years of effort have made him a popular word-of-mouth folk hero in Taiwan.

Su Beng's long life has spanned the Japanese colonial period, the Chinese civil war where he fought with the Communists, and his decades of Taiwan independence advocacy at a time when he was considered by KMT leaders to be a traitor.


Here are my comments on Mr. Richardson's article:

Dear Michael,

I'd like to offer some clarification regarding the Japanese, Chinese and English versions of Su Beng's book "Taiwan's 400 Year History."

In this article, you mention that, "The classic history book has been translated and is now available in Japanese, Chinese and English."

Actually, Su Beng wrote the first version of "Taiwan's 400 Year History" in Japanese and it was published in 1962. Several years later, he wrote a more comprehensive Chinese language version which was published in 1980. The condensed English version of "Taiwan's 400 Year History" was published in 1986.

To read more on Su Beng visit:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Critical Condition

It is with great reluctance and a heavy heart that I must report this.

This weekend I heard from Bin Hong, Su Beng's assistant. She told me that Su Beng is in the hospital in Tokyo. In late October Su Beng had returned to Japan to look in on his noodle shop but recently he's had some health complications.

It's his kidneys.

Bin Hong was going to fly from Taipei to Tokyo on Wednesday but moved up her travel plans to Monday.

Yesterday she told me that his condition is not stable enough for him to return to Taiwan for treatment. In order to do so they'd have to charter a plane with special medical staff and equipment, which would be quite costly, so he will remain in Japan for treatment. Though the facility he's in specializes in kidney treatment, they are making arrangements for him to be transferred to a general hospital which will be better equipped to deal with any possible complications that might occur when they do kidney dialysis on Su Beng.

In the past year Su Beng has been traveling back and forth a great deal between Taiwan and Japan- overseeing renovations on his noodle shop in Ikebukuro and trying to get the shop back up and running. There's been a great deal of financial burden, and Bin Hong is afraid that the stress of it all has taken its toll on him.

What is there to say at a time like this?

It is serious. The man is ninety-one.

Let's just hope for the best and pray that Su Beng pulls through all of this okay.

For those of you who read Chinese, this blogger has written about Su Beng's condition and posted a video about Su Beng here:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Letter to the editor at Taipei Times regarding ROC Supreme Court ruling on October 1

On October 7, I wrote a letter to the editor at the Taipei Times regarding this photo which accompanied an article written about the recent Republic of China's Supreme Court ruling on Su Beng's involvement in incidents occurring in 2005. Well I just found out that the Taipei Times has published it!

Photo courtesy of: Liu Hsin-De, Taipei Times

I guess the thrill of seeing what you've written in black and white or online never gets old. Here's the unedited letter I submitted to the Taipei Times:

Dear Taipei Times Editor,

Your October 3, 2009 article, “Court upholds ruling on Su Beng”, states that, “The Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a lower court ruling that found independence activist Su Beng (史明) guilty of using violence or threatening behavior at a public gathering and other crimes in a 2005 protest against then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan’s (連戰) visit to China. “

It is unfortunate that the ROC Supreme Court ruling seems to characterize Su Beng as man of violent actions.

What I’d like to comment on pertains not so much to the content of this particular article, but to the photograph that accompanies the article and its caption which reads, “Veteran independence activist Su Beng waves a stick inside Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport on April 26, 2005, during a protest against then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Lien Chan’s visit to China.”

Look closely at the photograph and you will see that Su Beng is waving a wooden cane, the wooden cane that he uses to walk with, not a stick that could be misconstrued to be a weapon.


Felicia C. Lin
Su Beng’s English Biographer

Here is how the letter to the editor at Taipei Times appears at the Taipei Times online: here:

The original Taipei Times article that I wrote in response to appears here:

ROC Supreme Court Sentences Su Beng to 230 Days In Prison

On October 1, 2009, the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China (PRC), the Republic of China (ROC) Supreme Court sentenced Su Beng to 6 months and 50 days, or a total of 230 days in prison for his involvement in two incidents that occurred on April 26, 2005. Su Beng's assistant, Bin Hong was also sentenced with 6 months, plus 3 months, i.e. a total of 9 months- for her involvement in incidents that occurred on April 26 and May 3, 2005. Both Su Beng and Bin Hong must either serve out these sentences or pay a penalty of NT$1000/day for each day of the sentence, which means that Su Beng would have to pay NT$230,000, in lieu of serving the 230 days in prison, and Bin Hong would have to pay approximately NT$270,000. I first wrote about these charges here.

Su Beng told me that he was surprised to learn of the ROC Supreme Court judgment through reporters from the Liberty Times and Apple Daily newspapers, who had called him asking for his reaction to the judgment. I'm not sure, but this seems to imply that the media might be privy to court rulings before they are publicly released. The judicial system in Taiwan is quite complex and confusing, so I'm going to have to look into this.

How did all of this get started? What exactly happened on April 26?

On April 2, 2005, Su Beng and his associates "greeted" Chiang Pin-kun, then Kuomintang (KMT) Vice Chairman, at the Taiwan Taoyuan Airport with protests. Chiang Pin-kun was returning from a trip to Beijing. Su Beng and his associates were protesting Chiang's visits to China, which they deemed as a betrayal of Taiwan's sovereignty.

Soon after Chiang’s return to Taiwan, there were rumors that Lien Chan, then KMT Chairman, would be going to Beijing on April 26. Su Beng’s assessment of this situation was that the Kuomintang was about to sellout Taiwan to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

On April 26, 2005, Lien Chan was to leave Taiwan for a trip to Beijing. Su Beng and members of the Taiwan Independence Association's (TIA) underground network (which consisted of 100 people in 70 Taiwan Independence Association vehicles) followed Lien Chan's motorcade, to the Taiwan Taoyuan Airport. Amongst the TIA members were several taxi drivers who made coordinated efforts to surround Lien’s motorcade so that a taxi carrying Su Beng could drive up along side Lien’s car, close enough so that Lien could read a piece of paper that Su Beng held out the window of the taxi. It read, “Don’t sellout Taiwan.” After following Lien Chan for 49.5 km on the highway, Su Beng and the TIA were able to stop Lien's vehicle for about 5 minutes. But Lien had some police escorts with him, so they stopped the Taiwan Independence Association from blockading Lien's vehicle. Even though the Taiwan Independence Association was not able to blockade Lien, they continued on to the airport.

Later on, Su Beng and members of the Taiwan Independence Association arrived at the airport. They were on the third floor of the airport when they saw some people dressed in black using bats to beat up some old Taiwanese men who were at the airport protesting Lien's visit to China. The people from the Taiwan Independence Association who were with Su Beng were not carrying any weapons with them, but they had some fireworks on them, so they set off the fireworks to scare away the men dressed in black. The police stopped the Taiwan Independence Association people, so then Su Beng and people from the TIA left through a side door.

The Taiwan Independence Association had tried to blockade Lien Chan on the highway en route to the airport, in hopes that if they could delay Lien by just half an hour, it would make international news, making a statement that Taiwan is not a part of China. Not only did the Taiwan Independence Association want to interrupt Lien Chan’s visit, but more importantly, they wanted to warn the Taiwanese people that Lien Chan, the KMT and CCP were all going to betray Taiwan.

I've talked to Su Beng about these charges. He simply said that the ROC law is not the law of Taiwan.

It seems that the one thing that you could say that Su Beng and Bin Hong are guilty of, is of loving Taiwan. Su Beng wonders, is it such a crime to love Taiwan?

Furthermore, the Republic of China's (ROC) Supreme Court judgment was announced on October 1, 2009, which is the 60th anniversary of the Peoples’ Republic of China. In doing so, Su Beng feels that the KMT has used this judgment as a tool to appease the Chinese Communist Party. He thinks that the Taiwanese people should know that the ROC does not represent the country of Taiwan, and Taiwan will survive only if Taiwan becomes independent.

The Taipei Times recently ran an article about the ROC Supreme Court's sentence of Su Beng.

NOTE: Before you read this article in the Taipei Times, I'd like to point out that in the photograph Su Beng is pictured waving the wooden cane he always walks with. He is not just "waving a stick" (that could be misconstrued as a weapon), as described in the photograph. To read the article click here.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Su Beng is now on facebook!

Thanks to Su Beng's assistant Bin Hong (敏紅), Su Beng is now on facebook! Checkout his profile and friend him here:

The other day Bin Hong and I talked over Skype about "facebooking" strategies for Su Beng.

I'm looking forward to this opportunity to help Su Beng increase his visibility in this new, as yet uncharted frontier.

In this day and age of social media (i.e. Twitter, LinkedIn, FaceBook), it's important to know how to leverage these platforms in order to develop new contacts, and your personal brand.

There's always something new to be learned. So bring it on!

Monday, September 28, 2009

More than just a noodle shop

I heard from Su Beng the other day. After returning to Japan in late June and spending many of the summer months in Japan, he is now back in Taiwan again. Renovations on his noodle shop, which is located in the Ikebukuro district of Tokyo, have finally been completed. The New Gourmet (新珍味) noodle shop is now open for business, but it seems that business is not what quite it used to be.

Photo courtesy of: L. Huang

There is a temporary cook working there now, but Su Beng still needs to hire a full-time cook for the shop, so he will be going back to Tokyo at the end of the month to find and train a new cook and staff.

Su Beng's noodle shop is certainly more than just a noodle shop- as I've written about briefly here.

In fact, the noodle shop may not have come into existence if Su Beng had not been able to flee from Taiwan in the early part of 1952, when it was discovered that he had been stockpiling weapons (left by the Japanese in Taiwan after World War II) for the purpose of attempting to assassinate Chiang Kai-shek.

Since Taiwan was under martial law at the time, people's whereabouts were closely monitored. Travel within and out of the country was restricted. So Su Beng temporarily went into hiding. If he had gotten arrested, he would have been tortured and forced to reveal the names of others involved in this plot.

Eventually, he figured out a way to get out of Taiwan. Back then, one of Taiwan's major exports was bananas, so in the late spring of 1952, after months of planning, he escaped from Taiwan by hiding in the cargo compartment of a boat exporting bananas to Japan. There are of course many more nail-biting details that I am leaving out here- about how Su Beng was even able to get access to the "banana boat" and the 5 day, 6 night boat ride that he endured, hidden in the cargo compartment of a boat, surrounded by nothing but bananas.

In the abridged version of this incredible tale Su Beng was arrested for illegally entering Japan and put in a detention center for several months, waiting to be repatriated to Taiwan. In a strange twist of fate, Su Beng was released early before serving out his entire sentence.

Now given political asylum in Japan, how was he going to support himself? He only knew that he wanted to continue his work for the Taiwan independence movement. And in order to do that, he decided that he'd have to start his own business, so he decided to start off small by renting a food stall.

Initially he thought of preparing and selling Taiwanese food, but then he realized that there would be a bigger market for Northern Chinese food. Many Japanese had been stationed in Northern China during World War II and surely they missed Chinese style fried noodles and dumplings, he thought. His food stall was an instant success, since he was one of the first to prepare and sell Northern Chinese style food.

In a few years time, he had made enough to purchase the building which is where his noodle shop is today. Later he added on 3 more floors- which he used as his residence and to train underground Taiwan independence activists. It was here that he later wrote the Japanese and Chinese language versions of Taiwan's 400 Years of History, one of his most palpable contributions to the Taiwan independence movement.

Stay tuned for more photos of the newly renovated shop.

Here are more photos that one of my friends in Tokyo snapped back in July of the noodle shop:

Photo courtesy of: L. Huang

Photo courtesy of: L. Huang

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Talking to Su Beng

For me there have always these little milestones, these breakthroughs that I remember having experienced along the way in my interviews and interactions with Su Beng. It has been nearly five years now since I began this project! In the beginning I saw the big picture, I felt the potential of it ALL- and that is what moved me to pursue his story. For me it was a "calling" of sorts.

I remember noticing how the trust that I had built with him over the years was starting to yield results. During my interviews with him, especially in the past two years, new details have resurfaced.

And it may seem strange, that even now, I am still amazed by how our relationship has become so collaborative.

Su Beng has contacted me a few times in the past week- the good old fashioned way- via telephone. He will be sending me more photos and written materials for the biography. He'd like to find someone to translate his book: The Ideology of Democracy(民主主義). So now I'll be on the lookout for a translator.

But what I've always hoped would eventually get translated more completely some day, is Su Beng's Chinese language version of "Taiwan's 400 Year of History", which is over 2000 pages! The only English language version of it in existence, which is out of print, is a mere 150-something pages long.

Today he told me that on June 29th he will be returning to Japan to finally reopen his noodle shop. I'm looking forward to hearing about the grand reopening and have already enlisted a friend in Tokyo to pay the noodle shop a visit and to report back with photos of course.

The top of the wooden case of Su Beng's three volume work depicts the now "legendary", but true account of Jan Huygen van Linschoten, a Dutch navigator on a Portuguese ship who cried out "Ilha Formosa" ("Beautiful Island") upon seeing Taiwan in the 1500's.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Su Beng's disapproval of Chen Chu's visit to China

Su Beng (史明) recently wrote an editorial article expressing his disapproval of the mayor of Kaohsiung, Chen Chu’s (陳菊) recent visit to China. With the help of my mother, I have translated his editorial, which was originally written in Chinese.

On May 17 there were protests in Kaohsiung and Taipei for an independent Taiwan, and to criticize of the government’s cross-strait policies. The protests concluded in Taipei with an overnight sit-in protest (May 18-19) for reform of the Assembly and Parade Act (集會遊行法). Prior to the protests, Chen Chu (陳菊) had announced that she would be canceling her trip to China. But on May 21, just days after the protests, Chen Chu (陳菊) reversed her decision, announcing that she would be going ahead with her trip to China.

Having spent seven years in China (1942-1949), dealing with the inner workings of the Chinese Communist Party, Su Beng (史明) believes that the politicians of Taiwan, especially members of the Democratic Progressive Party (民進黨) are ill-equipped to deal with the Chinese Communist Party. While China has over 2000 ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan and refuses to acknowledge Taiwan’s sovereignty, the emerging trend of engagement between the politicians of Taiwan and China is troubling to him.

Here is the English translation of Su Beng's (史明) editorial article:

Chen Chu (陳菊) Has Betrayed the Taiwan Independence Movement
By Su Beng (史明)

In the early 1970s, Chen Chu (陳菊), the current mayor of Kaohsiung city, was the secretary of Guo Yu Xin (郭雨新) (former leader of the opposition to the Kuomintang (國民黨) during the 1970s).

Mr. Guo (郭雨新) was my father’s friend. Since I was in junior high school I’d visit Mr. Guo’s (郭雨新) house (on Zhong Shan Bei Road 中山北路). From the end of 1960 to the beginning of 1970, I was in Japan continuing my work for the Taiwan independence movement, by working outside of the Republic of China (中華民國) political framework. At the same time, Mr. Guo (郭雨新) was in Taiwan working to promote democracy under the Kuomintang (國民黨) colonial regime; he and I had some secret communications then.

At the end of the 1970s, Chen Chu (陳菊) was working for the opposition movement in Taiwan. Because of this, she was arrested twice. Towards the end of 1978 Chen Chu (陳菊) was released from jail early. After her release, the Kuomintang (國民黨) gave her special treatment, by taking her to visit Kimen (金門, which was a restricted military zone at the time). After returning from Kimen (金門), at the end of 1978, the Kuomintang (國民黨) granted Chen Chu (陳菊) permission to travel abroad.

Chen Chu (陳菊) went to Japan and came to see me. The next spring, she came to Japan during a stopover on her way to the U.S. She traveled all over the U.S. visiting overseas Taiwanese students, to promote Taiwan independence and to fundraise for the movement. Soon she became a famous activist for the Taiwan independence movement. After that visit, she often came to Tokyo to stay at my noodle shop. We often discussed strategies for the Taiwan independence movement.

In 1986, the Democratic Progressive Party (民進黨) was formed. Chen Chu (陳菊) was one of the founders of the party. Many people saw her as a key person for the Taiwan independence movement.

After Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁, the Democratic Progressive Party (民進黨) candidate for the presidency) was elected as the President in 2000, Chen Chu (陳菊) and the Democratic Progressive Party (民進黨) had to work within the Republic of China (中華民國) political framework. When Chen Chu (陳菊) was appointed to the position of Labor Minister, she became a high-ranking bureaucrat within the Republic of China (中華民國) political framework, which is against Taiwan’s independence.

Although Chen Chu (陳菊) had become famous for her work with the Taiwan independence movement, when she went to visit China as the mayor of Kaohsiung, she kowtowed to China, which has threatened to invade Taiwan. In doing so, she betrayed Taiwan.

Historically, China has claimed that Taiwan is a part of China, within its territorial borders and disparaged Taiwan by describing it as a remote, barren land. Now they have over 2000 ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan, putting Taiwan under eminent military threat. China has cut off Taiwan’s lifeline to the international community. China is totally against Taiwan’s independence and nation building efforts. However, Chen Chu (陳菊), a major figure, who had consistently advocated Taiwan’s independence, went to China, under the guise of recruiting Chinese athletes and spectators for the 2009 World Games, and promoting Kaohsiung (the host of the 2009 World Games). But she ended up prostrating herself to China. While in China, Chen Chu (陳菊) referred to the Republic of China (中華民國) as the central government of Taiwan (while China refers to the Republic of China (中華民國) as “Taiwan authority”) and she referred to Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) as President (while China refers to him as Mr. Ma (馬英九)). With this choice of words, she has kissed the Koumintang’s (國民黨) ass. She has thrown away her principles and turned her back on her years of dedication to the Taiwan independence movement, and diverged from the path of Taiwan’s ancestors, who have struggled for over 400 years, to stand up to become the masters of their own fate, and to break the shackles of colonial rule. Which is more important, the development of Kaohsiung or Taiwan’s future?

Chen Chu’s (陳菊) actions are shameful. What is troubling is that the case of Chen Chu (陳菊) could be the first in a long line of Taiwanese politicians who will surrender to the tactics of Communist China.

I hope that the people of Taiwan know right from wrong, insist on protecting Taiwan’s sovereignty, and will not be misled by Chen Chu’s (陳菊) reprehensible dealings with the devil.

Translated by Felicia C. Lin and Mei-Ling Lin

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Three's a charm

It's been very productive week, having talked to Su Beng via Skype three times in the past week. The first two times, there were some technical difficulties with the web cam on his end, so we just went on with the call without video. But on the third try, today, we got the video working!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Su Beng or bust

Back in April of 2007, I blogged about Mr. Lin, a sculptor and longtime friend of Su Beng who was working on a bronze bust of Su Beng here. When I was in Taiwan last year (from February to May of 2008), the bronze casting of the bust still hadn't been completed.

I wondered what had happened, so I asked Su Beng during one of our recent Skype conversations. It turns out that the bust was completed in July 2009 and his assistant Bing Hong emailed me this photograph of Su Beng with the finished product.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Stay tuned for the reopening Su Beng's noodle shop

For the past year, Su Beng has been in Tokyo overseeing some much needed renovations on his noodle shop, which he opened in the mid-1950s. This photo of Su Beng's noodle shop, currently closed for business, was taken in March 2009 by Freddy Lim.

It’s been a bit of a financial hardship for Su Beng to have to have had the noodle shop closed for a year. There have been complications and delays due to Japan’s strict building codes. The New Gourmet (新珍味) noodle shop, located near the Ikebukuro train stop, is a historic relic- it was the place where underground operatives from Taiwan were invited to be trained by Su Beng; it was the place that once generated a steady stream of income which Su Beng funneled back through his underground channels to Taiwan, the funds were for activists fighting for Taiwan’s independence. And it was the place where Su Beng wrote both the Japanese language and Chinese language versions of “Taiwan’s 400 Year of History.” It is also where Su Beng lived and worked during most of his over forty years of exile from Taiwan. Now if only the walls of this noodle shop could talk!

I was fortunate enough to have visited the noodle shop in 2005. This is how the noodle shop looked back then:

The noodle shop is located near Tokyo's Ikebukuro train stop, here you can see the address if you'd like to make a visit in the future:

Now that Su Beng has been back in Taiwan for about a month and has returned from the month long march with the Taiwan Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan, I have been able to schedule some Skype calls with him about the biography. Though exhausted, the 92 year old is upbeat and anxious to return to Japan to reopen his noodle shop.

Over the past year, I have increasingly come away from my interviews with Su Beng feeling as though I am mining for precious gems. As Su Beng fills in the details, it is as if I am making all these small, but significant discoveries that will enrich the telling of this man's amazing life.

May 17: Su Beng arrives in Taipei with the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan

The Taiwan Independence Action Motorcade arrives.

Su Beng in one of the Taiwan Independence Action Motorcade "propaganda trucks."

Su Beng talks to television news reporters.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Review of Assembly and Parade Law postponed again

Su Beng at a protest of the Assembly and Parade Law- Taipei, May 5, 2009
What could be more compelling than images of this ninety-something year old activist still getting out there and fighting for what he believes in?

Su Beng speaks at the May 5th protest of the Assembly and Parade Law

David on Formosa sent me these photos he snapped of Su Beng at another protest regarding the Assembly and Parade Law in front of the Legislative Yuan Building in Taipei on May 5th. Why another protest? The vote on the Assembly and Parade Law has been postponed yet again.

Read about it here on the Taipei Times:

Day 12: The Taiwan Independence Action motorcade on the trail of the Alliance of Referendum of Taiwan march

Su Beng's Taiwan Independence Action (獨立台灣會) motorcade in Chiayi (嘉義), Taiwan- on the trail of the month-long march with the Alliance of Referendum of Taiwan. (Photo courtesy of:

Friday, May 1, 2009

Protesting the Assembly and Parade Law

Activists protested the Assembly and Parade Law at the Legislative Yuan Building on April 28, 2009. Su Beng is amongst them front row center in his blue denim shirt. Su Beng rouses the crowd just past the two minute mark in this video.

The assembly law stipulates that people must first obtain a permit from the police precinct where the assembly is to take place. The police at the precinct level therefore have the power to permit or deny all applications for assembly and protest activities, and they are charged with maintaining order during the marches and driving away protesters if things get too rowdy. (Source: Taiwan Journal)

In 2006, Su Beng was charged with violating the Assembly and Parade Law. You can read more about that here:

This anachronistic law has been the subject of much debate in Taiwan lately. On November 6, 2008, the Wild Strawberry student group began protesting the excessive use of force by police against protesters during the visit of Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin, and urging the Ma government to revise the Assembly and Parade Law. The Wild Strawberry student group's requests are that:

1. President Ma Ying-jeou and Premier Liu Chao-shiuan must publicly apologize to all citizens.

2. National Police Agency Director-General Wang Cho-chiun and National Security Bureau Director Tsai Chaoming must step down.

3. The Legislative Yuan must revise the Parade and Assembly Law, which currently restricts the rights of the people.

To read their entire protest statement, click here:

Monday, April 27, 2009

Su Beng on month-long march with the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan

Here's a video that's been posted on YouTube and on the blog of The Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan. There are shots of Su Beng and his Taiwan Independence Action (獨立台灣會) motorcade propaganda trucks.

The Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan has a blog with updates on their month long march from Heng Chun to Taipei here:

Why a month long march?

Michael Richardson of the Boston Examiner brought this video to my attention; it's a video of Su Beng at a roadside rest stop talking about the month long march from Heng Chun to Taipei, which has been posted on

Unfortunately the sound quality of the video clip is not very good and there is a lot of background noise from traffic going by. I will offer my best efforts of a translation highlighting the main points of what Su Beng has said in the video clip here:

Interviewer: Su Beng, excuse me could I trouble you in asking you some questions? How old are you this year?

SB: I am 92 years old.

Interviewer: Oh you are up there in age now. Now where did you going to start walking from?

SB: Heng Chun to Taipei.

Interviewer: That will take several days…

SB: A month.

[I've skipped translating some of the interviewer's comments and Su Beng's responses, which follow since they were unclear. What follows below is a summary of highlights of what Su Beng said in the rest of the video clip.]

Interviewer: Why are you walking?

SB: We are walking in the footsteps of our ancestors. Secondly, the Taiwanese people must be unified, have solidarity and bravely stand up to be their own masters, to build their own country.

Interviewer: What do you think are the future prospects of Taiwan/the Taiwanese building a new nation for Taiwan? What’s your hope for that? What are your opinions on that?

SB: Taiwan will be independent. The entire world will support Taiwan’s independence. The problem that the Taiwanese haven’t worked hard enough or bravely enough to build a new nation and that will delay the road to independence. What we should be most afraid of is, if China tries to take over Taiwan. If the Taiwanese people don’t work hard for their future, if you don’t fight for yourself then how could you expect the rest of the world support you? What’s important for Taiwan is that everyone must forcefully declare that Taiwan is not a part of the China. The Taiwanese have to say that Taiwan is not the same as China or the Republic of China; it is the Republic of Taiwan. We must prevent or stop China from taking over Taiwan. The Taiwanese people have not worked hard enough for themselves.

[Su Beng starts conversing with another person in the video here]

SB: The Taiwanese consist of Holo, and Hakka people, who are basically of Han ancestry, and some aboriginal people of Polynesian decent, but when the enemy comes, they will target all the people on the island. That the Taiwanese are still pulling each other’s legs is troubling.

We need to put things in black and white terms. Yes or no, right or wrong, it’s black and white. We need to be clear about what is right and wrong. People need to know right from wrong. There are universal standards.

Su Beng offers some opinions of the Roger Lin case:
[Note: If you'd like to know more about the Roger Lin case, click here]

SB: This is a political tool. Their chance of success with this may be low but any methods that move us towards Taiwan’s independence are good. This is a good method, but the most important thing is that the Taiwanese must stand in solidarity and fight for independence themselves.

To view and listen to the entire video clip for yourself, click on this link:

Su Beng joins a month long march from the southern most tip of Taiwan to the north

On the morning of April 22, Su Beng joined a month long, 504.7 km march from Heng Chun Town, Pingtung County, (which is in the southern most part of Taiwan) to Taipei, the capital up in the north. The group will arrive in Taipei on May 17. The key organizer of the march is the ex-president of the Taiwan Association of University Professors, Professor Tsai Ding-Kuey. Professor Tsai has also formed a group called "Referendum Save Taiwan Union."

Once in Taipei, there will be a 3 day long protest from May 17th to May 20th at the Office of the Legislative Yuan building. The Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan is calling for reform of Taiwan's referendum laws, which currently has unusually high requirements for approval. If you'd like to know more about the requirements of referendums in Taiwan, read this article written by Jerome Keating.

A referendum is needed in order to impeach President Ma Ying-jeou, who many Taiwanese feel is selling out Taiwan's sovereignty with his China friendly open economic policies. More specifically, many are uneasy with the Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) proposed by President Ying-jeou.

To learn more about the controversy surrounding the ECFA, read this Taiwan News editorial:

MAC fails to show how ECFA aids Taiwan
Taiwan News, Staff Writer
Page 6
2009-04-08 12:37 AM

New "policy explanation" materials on the proposed "economic cooperation framework agreement" between Taiwan and the People's Republic of China released Tuesday by the Cabinet-level Mainland Affairs Council fail to respond sincerely to widespread doubts and concerns about a so-called "ECFA" raised by many economists, domestic industrial associations, labor federations, farmers groups and the opposition Democratic Progressive Party and many Taiwan citizens.

The new 12-page "Cross-Strait Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement: A Policy Explanation" and a brochure describing the proposed ECFA as "The Brick to Knock on the Door to Return to the World Stage" evidently aim to defend the "fixed policy" of the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) government of President Ma Ying-jeou.

Instead of being "a brick to knock on the door to return to the world stage," many Taiwan citizens are deeply concerned that an ECFA will lock our economy into an "one China market," further isolate Taiwan from the world economy and undermine its economic and political autonomy, competitiveness, employment and social equity.

Unfortunately, the MAC's so-called "policy explanation" takes a key step away from rational discussion for consensus by describing the objections raised to the ECFA or CECA concepts by numerous economists, professionals and former leading government officials, including DPP Chairwoman and ex-MAC minister Tsai Ing-wen and Taiwan's first permanent representative to the WTO Yen Ching-chang, as merely "misunderstandings and even distortions."

Not surprisingly, neither the pamphlet or the brochure respond to the main doubts raised about this policy with more than slogans or outright omission.

A glaring example is the section entitled "Whom Will Benefit from ECFA Whom Will Be Hurt" that only lists how an ECFA will benefit "exports and employment," "the rights of Taiwan businesses" in China and even "weak industries" and makes no mention whatsoever of whose interests will be disadvantaged.

Actually, there are perfectly reasonable grounds for dissent from the pamphlet's prime assumptions, such as an ECFA is necessary to overcome the "the greatest challenge facing the Taiwan economy," which it identifies as "the grave threat to Taiwan's export competitiveness," and therefore its touted prescription.

The MAC prescribes an ECFA as the cure to avoid "the threat of marginalization" from the regional trade arrangements between the Association of Southeast Nations and the PRC and Japan and South Korea and the path to "turn crisis into opportunity" by consolidating the stake of Taiwan businesses in the China market, which already absorbs 40 percent of our exports and most of our offshore direct capital investment. But other professional economists believe that the greatest threat to Taiwan's export competitiveness and dynamism lies precisely in our over-exposure in the PRC economy and the resulting replacement of "Made in Taiwan" goods in international markets by cheaper products made in China by "Taiwan businesses" attracted to the PRC by a matrix of unfair competition measures, trade barriers and subsidies and artificially low production costs and wages maintained in part by state suppression of autonomous trade unions.

In this case, an ECFA would boost Taiwan investment and trade into the PRC and therefore exacerbate the decline of Taiwan's own exports, bleed even more private investment or private consumption out of our economy and leave our remaining domestic manufacturing, service and agricultural producers vulnerable to the importation of PRC unfair competition into our domestic market.

If cross-strait relations have improved as much as the MAC claims, what the KMT government should first raise with Beijing are demands for the PRC government to cease unfair subsidies and other measures aimed at inducing the transfer of Taiwan's manufacturing and service industries to the PRC as well as demanding that Beijing end the blockade that it has imposed on FTA or RTA talks between Taiwan and third countries.

However, such "controversial" items are absent from the ECFA agenda as outlined by the MAC, whose pamphlet also fails to respond to challenges to outdated "forecasts" about an ECFA's costs as well as benefits.

The MAC "policy explanation" also fails to provide any guidance on what Taiwan can do to avoid "marginalization" if the PRC fails to reciprocate Taiwan's goodwill and maintains its overt and covert blockade against our negotiating FTAs with third countries.

Even more questionable is the MAC's persistence in claiming that an EFCA "has no political preconditions" and will not "denigrate sovereignty" in the face of the ironclad declarations by PRC State Chairman Hu Jintao that any cross-strait economic cooperation will take place only under the framework of Beijing's "one China principle," which posits that Taiwan is part of the PRC.

In sum, the doubts of many Taiwan citizens on the wisdom of a ECFA and on its possible details, negotiation process and political, economic and social costs merit more than such a pollyannaish "policy explanation" in response.

The MAC and the rest of the KMT government need to do take seriously the requirement of policy transparency in a democratic and engage in serious public dialogue and debate that can lead to a genuine consensus on Taiwan's best path to ensure the revitalization of our economy.

Su Beng on the future of Taiwan

Michael Richardson of the Boston Progressive Examiner recently conducted this cyber-interview with Su Beng.

Examiner Exclusive: Interview with Taiwanese historian Su Beng on future of island
April 25, 10:38 AM
By Michael Richardson

Su Beng's classic political history of Taiwan, titled Taiwan's 400 Year History, recognizes that there has been continual resistance to colonial rule during the 400 years covered in his book and that has been the focus of his work.

Su Beng is the first native Formosan to publish a history of Taiwan and his book, available in Chinese, Japanese, and English, is still considered a landmark work in the history of the island.

Su Beng's contribution to the literature of Taiwan followed his days as a revolutionary activist who sought to overthrow the Republic of China in-exile and his own exile to Japan during decades of ROC imposed martial law.

Fortunate to have escaped the secret police of Chiang Kai-shek and avoided execution or imprisonment, Su Beng began writing on Taiwan from his noodle shop in Japan. These days the revered author lives a quiet life and rarely grants interviews. My recent examination of the political status of Taiwan and subsequent review of Su Beng's book gained me an exclusive cyber-interview.

What is your opinion of the latest "two systems" version of the "one China" policy?

"Taiwan and China have experienced different histories and social structures; the 'two system' policy is the first step toward unification which is definitely not the right trend for Taiwan's future."

What is your opinion of the Ma Ying-jeou administration?

"The Ma Ying-Jeou regime considers maintaining political power and economic interest as his highest priority, so he does his best to keep close contact with the CCP."

What is your opinion of the United States current role in Taiwan affairs?

"For the benefits of both Taiwan and the US, the United States has an obligation to support Taiwan when there is a tension or even war between Taiwan and China."

What can American citizens do to help Taiwan?

"I highly wish common American citizens can realize clearly that Taiwan and China are different nations. And I hope that the United States government can help Taiwan to not be merged (unified) by CCP's political and military power."

What can Taiwanese people do to help get self-determination?

"Taiwanese must emphasize self-defense and the will to self-determination, and the people of Taiwan shall work harder to move toward this goal politically."

Is there any important information in the Chinese edition of your book that was excluded from the English edition that readers should know?

a. How KMT governs Taiwan by the “military spy” system.
b. How ex-president Chiang Ching-kuo ( president Chiang Kai-shek’s son) governed Taiwan by the above “military spy” system.
c. From 1951~1965, the US supported Taiwan 4 billion USD. This was very important for Taiwan’s economic kick-off.
d. The actual colonial fighting with KMT regime in the past 50 years by Taiwanese people. (Taiwanese were not just satisfied with economical improvement, but also fought for political rights)
e. The international political status change of Taiwan after World War II.
f. The influence of US, China, and Japan on Taiwan.
g. CCP’s historical development and the policy on Taiwan.
h. How ex-president Lee Deng-Hui governed Taiwan.

Future interviews with Su Beng will explore the missing history cited above and his escape from the Chinese to Japan after his plot to overthrow Chiang Kai-shek was discovered.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

New Angles

Lately, I feel like I've been doing a lot more talking and explaining about Su Beng- more than ever before. I suppose that I've been getting out there more lately- networking and socializing, trying to keep a balance in life. I've also started looking for a job since I had only saved up enough money to take a year off for this project. I've also started talking to people who work in the publishing industry to get some general advice and an idea of how the publishing industry works. No major deals are in the works just yet. I'm just trying to educate myself and to think ahead about what needs to be done, how to get it done, trying to understand the role of one's agent and editor, and how to protect my interests. Also in the works is the process of understanding how to write grants in order to fund raise money for future projects.

What's interesting is how in the midst of some these recent conversations (some of them not so "high powered")- new ideas and angles have come to me.

Usually I'm asked, "How did you get started on this project? How did you hear about Su Beng?" So my standard answer to these questions goes something like this: When I was in Taiwan I read this article written by Su Beng which had been translated into English. I was curious about him after having read this article, so I asked my Mom if she knew who this person was and if he was a well-known person in Taiwan. She told me that he had spent 7 years in China working for the Chinese communists- at which time he had elected to get a vasectomy before the age of 30 in order to remain committed to the cause of being a revolutionary, and had written Taiwan's 400 Years of History. And something about his story captivated me. I wrote about that in detail here.

On a recent road trip, with a few hours of driving ahead of us, my friend, who was not very familiar with my work on documenting Su Beng's life asked me quite simply and directly, "Why? Why or how did you decide to write about the person who's biography you're working on now? Why him and not someone else?"

I thought about it and gave him an answer very different answer from my "standard" answer. The question that he had put to me seemed more like a challenge; a challenge to justify why I had decided to work on documenting this man's life. Unlike most people who ask me about Su Beng- I feel they are looking for a factual answer or an account of how this project evolved for me.

I think that the way I answered my friend's questions reveal what it is about Su Beng that sets him apart as a man of substance, the ideal person through which to tell the story of Taiwan. So I thought I'd paraphrase my thoughts and answers to my friend's questions (with some explanations added for clarification) here:

To me Su Beng is significant because he is one of the earliest people to have fought for the cause of Taiwan independence. He is someone who has not veered from his ideals or become corrupt by power over the years. There have been some political activists, who have entered mainstream politics and have somehow become corrupt by power or personal interest. Some have changed their stances along the way. And some would say that this has happened to the first directly elected president of Taiwan Lee Teng-hui and to some extent, also to the man who ran against Lee Teng Hui as the Democratic Progressive Party's presidential candidate, Peng Ming-Min (who wrote the "Declaration of Formosans", calling for a new democratic constitution and Formosan independence in 1964). I am not implying any charges of corruption on these two men but one cannot help but compare each of these three men's contributions to, stances on and involvement in the Taiwan independence movement.

Su Beng has always been very Marxist and socialist in his approach. He has always been very idealistic and yes perhaps he's been able to maintain this because he made certain choices very early on, that he wanted to work outside of the system, that he didn't want to run for an elected office, that he didn't want to work within the Republic of China framework and that he wanted to reform the system.

My friend also asked me, "What did he do/what has he done for Taiwan? What is he doing now?"

Well he was one of the first native Taiwanese to write about Taiwan's history from a Taiwan-centric point of view. Before that, Taiwan was always written about as, or considered to be a part of China or Chinese history. His book "Taiwan's 400 Years of History" influenced a generation of intellectuals who began to see and realize that Taiwan had its own unique history and culture, it made them think about what Taiwan was and what it meant to be Taiwanese and have a Taiwanese identity.

He has spoken publicly and given lectures educating people about Taiwan and its unique history and past. As a Marxist/socialist, he has always believed in grassroots movements, so it is not surprising that much of his following are taxi drivers.

When Su Beng returned to Taiwan in 1993 he established the Taiwan Independence Action Motorcade, which I wrote about here:

The Taiwan Independence Action (獨立台灣會) motorcade has been making its rounds every Saturday and Sunday afternoon, for more than 10 years, since April 1994. Since returning to Taiwan in 1993, Su Beng has cultivated a grass roots following amongst taxi drivers and in 1994 Su Beng began organizing a group of taxis and trucks that form the weekly Taiwan Independence Action motorcade. On those afternoons, Su Beng himself would stand on a truck painted taxi cab yellow, with the words “獨立台灣會” or “Taiwan Independence Action” emblazoned on the side; he would speak over a megaphone and there would also be about 10 taxis in the procession. For nearly 2 hours, they would make their rounds around Taipei city and Taipei county.

Now, others in lieu of Su Beng have taken up the cause of delivering messages over the megaphone. To paraphrase, their messages are that: the Taiwanese must throw off the shackles of post-World War II colonization to become a normal country, and the Taiwanese need to stand up for themselves and Taiwan. Taiwan should be independent. The Republic of China is not the Taiwanese people's country.

Later on, my friend and I also got into a discussion of Taiwan's international status. I explained how the Republic of China (ROC) was one of the founding UN members, but that after the Chinese Communist Party took over control of China as the People's Republic of China (PRC), the US and UN switched diplomatic recognition from the ROC to PRC in 1971. I explained that Taiwan was part of the Chinese empire in the Qing dynasty (1683 to 1895) , but that it was regarded as some backwater island in the middle of no where full of barbarians... how the Dutch (1624-1662) and Portuguese had been in Taiwan in the 1600s... that Koxinga a Chinese pirate had ruled the island after the Dutch... then in the first Sino Japanese war, Taiwan was given up to Japan in 1895 and occupied by Japan for 50 years until Japan surrendered to the allied forces at the end of World War II. In the process Japan gave up to claim to Taiwan, but it was never clearly stated in whose custody Taiwan would be left.

When the Nationalist Chinese party aka Kuomintang party (KMT) fled to Taiwan in the late 1940s, General Douglas MacArthur did not stop them. The KMT was basically the ROC government in exile that had fled to Taiwan. Their intention was to be in Taiwan temporarily as they plotted to take back the motherland, i.e. China. During their authoritarian rule over Taiwan, they systematically brainwashed and reeducated the Taiwanese to speak Mandarin and believe that they were Chinese.

My friend and I also talked about the Taiwan Relations Act, Taiwan's importance as an ally and a part of the US' strategic line of defense in the Pacific rim and, I explained how Taiwan does not have any official embassies or consulates in other countries, nor do other countries have embassies or consulates in Taiwan. But Taiwan does however have "cultural/economic" offices in the US and Canada which function like an embassy would, and in turn the US has something called the AIT aka American Institute In Taiwan, there is a British Trade and Cultural Office and a Canadian Trade Office in Taipei- all of which provide embassy-like services in Taiwan.

Such is the complicated, convoluted status of Taiwan.

If you'd like to know more about Taiwan's political situation, Michael Richardson of the Boston Progressive Examiner has recently written extensively about Taiwan's "political purgatory" in a 5 part article here:

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Taiwan's 400 Year History reviewed on

Last week I was very excited when I was contacted by Michael Richardson of the Boston Progressive Examiner. He told me that he was writing an eight part review of the English language version of Su Beng's book Taiwan's 400 Year History. The abridged English version is around 150 pages long, just a fraction of the Mandarin Chinese language version, which in its most recent form consists of 3 volumes; the first volume is over 700 pages, the second over 180 pages and the third is over 1500 pages long. Unfortunately, I can't read Chinese well enough, so I myself haven't read the Chinese language version of Taiwan's 400 Years of History. I have always thought that it would be wonderful if someday, someone would do a complete translation of the Chinese language version of the book into English or other languages.

Here is Mr. Richardson's first book review article:

Book Review: Taiwan's 400 Year History--author Su Beng (1 of 8)
March 13, 4:02 PM
By Michael Richardson

Su Bing is the pen name of Si Tiau-hui and means "history clearly" in the native Hoklo language. Commonly known as Su Beng throughout Taiwan, Bing is the spelling used in the English translation of his classic history book, Taiwan's 400 Year History. Born November 9, 1918, in Su Lin Town in Taipei, Su Beng attended college in Japan at Waseda University.

Su left Japan in 1942 and joined forces with the Chinese Communists. Su eventually became disillusioned with the totalitarianism of the Communist Party and in 1949 returned to the land of his birth where he quickly became active in the Taiwan independence movement.

In 1952, Su founded the Taiwan Army Corps and began stockpiling weapons to overthrow the regime of Chiang Kai-shek. After the plot was discovered Su had to flee to Japan as a stowaway to avoid capture and execution.

Su Beng opened a popular noodle shop to pay the bills while he continued his activism. Su began work on the history of Taiwan while he also indoctrinated visitors to his shop on Taiwan independence.

In 1962, the Japanese version of the book was published in Japan. In 1980, a Chinese version was published in the United States. The Chinese edition is in three volumes and is over 2,400 pages in length. An abridged English version was published in 1986. The book was banned in Taiwan under Kuomintang martial law that brutally controlled the island for decades.

Journalist Jack Anderson suggested the use of Bing rather than Beng to make it more friendly to American readers. Anderson gave a dedication to the book, "Truth and wisdom will free all people living on Taiwan."

Su Beng made clandestine trips to Taiwan risking his life to promote the independence movement. Su also became an international speaker with trips to the United States and South America to meet with Taiwanese expatriates following the publication of his book.

The book, the first history of Taiwan by a native Taiwanese author, has been hailed as a classic work of the island's political history. The tone of the writing reflects Su's early Marxist days but has been widely acknowledged as an objective historical work despite its pronounced perspective.

After martial law was lifted and Su Beng could return to Taiwan without facing arrest, the tireless champion of independence returned from his 40-year exile in 1993. Su Beng, now 90, lives in Taipei where he continues to speak out for self-determination, democracy and independence.

Because Su Beng's book was long suppressed and now is out of print, many are not familiar with his work. In the public interest of being better informed about Taiwan and its unresolved international legal status, a special Examiner multi-part book review covering the key points of Su Beng's research follows.


Here are my comments on Mr. Richardson's article:

Thank you so much for shedding some light on Taiwan and Su Beng's book "Taiwan's 400 Year History." This is one of the most accurate English language articles that I have seen written about Su Beng.

As his English biographer, there are two things mentioned in this article that I'd like to clarify:

1) The "visitors" to the noodle shop, that Su Beng indoctrinated were most likely invited and special arrangements were made for them to travel from Taiwan to Japan to meet with and be trained by Su Beng.

2) Regarding what you have written here: "After martial law was lifted and Su Beng could return to Taiwan without facing arrest, the tireless champion of independence returned from his 40-year exile in 1993." This is not entirely correct. When Su Beng returned to Taiwan from Japan in 1993, he had made one of his clandestine trips from Japan to Taiwan and news of his return was somehow leaked out and so he was actually arrested in Tainan somewhere on the highway while he was in a car driving from Kaohsiung to Chiayi bound for Ilan. He was charged and appeared before a judge. There are several outstanding charges against Su Beng, which are quite complex for me to explain here, but interestingly, he has never served a day in a prison for any of them.


You can read parts 2-8 of Mr. Richardson's book review here:

Book Review: Taiwan's 400 Year History--Taiwan's aborigines (2 of 8)

Book Review: Taiwan's 400 Year History--Dutch imperial mercantilism (3 of 8)

Book Review: Taiwan's 400 Year History--Chinese feudal aristocracy (4 of 8)

Book Review: Taiwan's 400 Year History--Japanese imperialism (5 of 8)

Book Review: Taiwan's 400 Year History--Chiang 'secret agent' regime (6 of 8)

Book Review: Taiwan's 400 Year History--Taiwanese revolutionary movements (7 of 8)

Book Review: Taiwan's 400 Year History--Present tasks of the Taiwanese people (8 of 8)