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: