Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I recently completed the first draft of a book proposal for Su Beng's memoir. For those of you who don't know, a book proposal is basically an author's business plan for his/her book. Who knew that you could do this? I certainly didn't. I thought that I'd have to write the entire book before finding a publisher. That's what has to be done for works of fiction, but nonfiction is different. I had no idea how these things worked when I started this project. I simply did not know how the publishing industry works. But I've learned, and I'm still learning.

Writing this book proposal has of course required me to work on the basic nuts and bolts of the book, such as its table of contents and chapter titles. But it's more than just that. How do I tell the story of this man's life in an engaging way?

Rather than writing a straight chronology of Su Beng's life, I've decided to start off with something compelling in the first chapter which leads back to the beginning.

On Sunday I spoke to Su Beng via Skype about the first chapter. There were some details that I needed for the chapter. I also asked for his feedback, and thoughts on it.

I'm still uncovering things about his man's life. Su Beng has been writing his autobiography in Chinese. He's shared these writings with me but since I can't really read Chinese characters, I've been working with someone to read and translate them for me. In the process, I've discovered a few surprising things.

For instance, Su Beng has told me that he left for Japan during what would have been his fifth year in middle school, the year he was to graduate. Also, his choice to study politics and economics at Waseda University in Tokyo, was against the expectations of his family, who had expected him to study something more practical.

But there's more to the story. Su Beng had actually planned to secretly run away from home to Japan. He was all packed and prepared; he had bought a large luggage trunk for the trip, and as he waited at the boat terminal in Keelung, he was spotted by a relative who also happened to be there. Seeing Su Beng there alone with this huge piece of luggage, it was obvious that he was running off without the consent of his family, so the relative intervened and called Su Beng's family. Su Beng's mother insisted that he come home, but it was his grandmother who said that they should let him go; she realized that Su Beng had made up his mind to go and that there was nothing that she or anyone else could do to stop him. And so she gave him her blessing to go and it was her, Su Beng's grandmother, that paid for his tuition and monthly allowance while he was at Waseda.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Part V: The challenges of the ART’s limited resources

An Interview with Professor Tsay, Chairman of the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan (ART)

FL: How did you get the permit to set up a base in front of the Legislative Yuan?

PT: At the beginning of the sit-in, we had to fight against the police department for our rights to freedom of speech and expression, and to be on the street. They randomly issued us fines of NT$30,000 based on sanitary violations. In 2009 the fines totaled NT$840,000. We have convinced them through our disciplined action that we are practicing a nonviolent struggle. We also asked DPP city councilpersons and representatives to help by exerting pressure on the city police department and on the Legislative Yuan, respectively. More importantly, we have received support from everyday people. Taiwanese people have donated money to pay off the fines.

Gradually, the police department came to a mutual understanding with us and we got a permit from the city government which required paying a deposit of NT$30,000 into an account of the Taipei City government for a permit to stay on the street for two days. These funds were refunded to us almost 45 days later.

FL: So is the NT$30,000 deposit something separate and different than the NT$30,000 of fines for sanitary violations?

PT: Yes, they are different.

We now must pay NT$660,000 so that we can have permit to stay on the street continuously without any disruption. The amount of NT$660,000 is calculated on the base of a 45-day period.

FL: Has the ART paid or raised enough money to entirely paid the NT$660,000 fee? Will there be any further fees since the ART has been staging a sit-in for over 900 days? Will there be any further fees that the ART has to pay for a continuous sit-in?

PT: The fee is required by Taipei City Government regulations. We had a fund raising dinner last year. Most of the money raised has been used to meet this regulation requirement. However, we have become short for daily operational funds. We believe that the KMT is using the tactics of sucking up our monetary resources in order to push us away from the continuous street sit-in. We do not know what kind of fees or fines are to be paid under any accusations from the police department in the future. We are determined to continue the street sit-in in order to accumulate sufficient momentum for all reforms of the KMT system in the interest of Taiwan’s citizens.

FL: What sorts of expenses does the ART have now? What will people's donations to the ART be used for?

PT: We have one part-time and one full-time employee, rent an office for receiving telephones and mails, a small warehouse for storage, and offer free lunch boxes to volunteer workers and participants at the sit-in. Most of the money has been spent on the protest activities to prepare direct marketing materials, booklets, posters, etc. Sometimes, there are expenses to run an advertisement in a newspaper to disseminate rally information, which takes a chunk of our limited resources. Often we send text messages to supporters inviting them to attend flash rallies. The costs of sending these text messages have accumulated to a monthly fee that was beyond our expectations.

FL: If people would like to support the work that the ART is doing where can they send their donations?

PT: We certainly welcome donations. We do need the financial support of our friends as we work to promote awareness about the fight for human rights and democracy in Taiwan.

Anyone who wants to support the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan can wire their funds to:

E.Sun Commercial Bank, Ltd. Taipei, Taiwan (SWIFT Code: ESUNTWTP), Account No.: 0532-940-006394, payable to title of Alliance of Reference for Taiwan.

Any assistance is highly appreciated. Thank you for supporting our work to achieve democracy and freedom in Taiwan.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Part IV: The work of the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan

At the Wednesday night seminars attendees sing these unofficial anthems of Taiwan: Formosa Taiwan (台灣翠青)- at the beginning and Ocean Country (海洋國家)- at the end.

An Interview with Professor Tsay, Chairman of the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan (ART)

FL: What are some of the regular activities happening at the base in front of the Legislative Yuan?

PT: In the first two years of the sit-in, many of our protests were directed at the KMT regime, who allowed officials to behave irresponsibly. After the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was defeated in the 2008 presidential election, the ART took on the role of opposing the KMT and encouraging the Taiwanese to fight on an individual basis.

After the DPP regained its strength, we took on the role of educating the public about civil rights and nonviolent struggle. Every Wednesday night, we offer a “Taiwanese Self-Liberation Movement Seminar” at the base for the public. Prominent community leaders and scholars are invited to present their ideas and to encourage citizens to engage in public affairs. Su Beng has been one of our speakers. At the base, we also receive volunteers who want to sign-up, petitions against injustice policies, donations for charities and appointments for discussions.

FL: What are these volunteers signing up for? Are people signing up to be volunteers of ART?

PT: People sign up to be volunteers of ART. Some people from other cities come to Taipei to talk to me and the volunteers help to make these appointments. The subjects of discussions range in a full spectrum. We also make appointments for invited speakers.

FL: What are some of the Alliances current projects?

PT: One of the major projects of the ART is to share the writings and thoughts about nonviolent struggle by Dr. Gene Sharp of Harvard University and the Albert Einstein Institution. His writings and thought are rooted in the philosophies of Mahatma Gandhi in India and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the USA.

We offer lectures, seminars, speeches and forums to anyone interested in this subject. There have even been discussion groups of nonviolent struggle formed on the Internet. Civil rights organizations are especially encouraged to focus on local issues.

In order to quickly disseminate information about nonviolent struggles, a facebook group has been formed for general discussion. When local issues such as the government’s forceful collection farmer’s lands, and abuse of kids in schools, have surfaced, the Internet is an efficient way to distribute the information. We invite Civil rights organizations to participate in our programs.

As the result of forceful seizure of farmers' lands, the government reclaims the titles of the lands first and then rents the land to groups who want to develop the land. Usually the farmers’ are only paid for their lands at cost, which is far less than the market price. If a farmer does not agree on the price, the money offered by the government after seizing his land will be deposited in a bank account under supervision of a court. The farmer's house or building would then be torn down and the farmer would be kicked off his land.

One of the ART’s special projects is to create the “Taiwan Justice Action Church” in cooperation with the Taiwan Presbyterian Church. We call this church a “Street Church” that will give prayer services on the street and open Sunday services at the Taipei 28 Memorial Park in Taipei City and the Taichung Park in Taichung City. Also, the church is intended to provide prayers and services when the police show up to break up a crowd of protesters.

FL: What are some of the social movements/protests that the Alliance is currently involved in?

PT: We have assumed the leading responsibility for the nonviolent struggle against the ROC system. There are so many social movements in Taiwan on topics such as environmental protection issues, indigenous people rights, and judicial reform, etc. If there is already a group taking the lead on a particular issue, we will be there to give our support. If not, then we will take the lead. We want to demonstrate that nonviolent struggle is a realistic alternative and strategy instead of a military struggle against an oppressive system.

FL: What are some of the more notable rallies/protests that the Alliance has participated in?

PT: We successfully used nonviolent actions to put pressure on the Legislative Yuan to force KMT member Lee Ching-An (李慶安) to resign from her post after about 300 days of denying that she holds a US passport and the parliament’s refusal to take any actions on this issue.

We took the lead in organizing a major protest against the KMT’s passage of the Economical Corporation Framework Agreement, ECFA in the Legislative Yuan and organized many protests against visits of Chinese Communist envoy in different cities.

Some other notable rallies/protests have included environmental protection rallies against the Kuo-Kuang Industrial Development Project in a Chunghwa County wetland and anti-nuclear plant rallies after Japan's recent 311 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

Also, on the 3rd day of each month, we call on people to show up in front of the Tuchung detention center in a show of support for former President Chen Shui-bian and his judicial rights.

FL: What are some of the Alliance's accomplishments?

PT: I would have to admit that the accomplishments of ART are not yet very apparent. But I see that my fellow Taiwanese have become more confident in expressing their opinions publicly. I feel that support from the public has been strong enough for us to remain on the street for more than 900 days. We will continue focusing on educating people in Taiwan about nonviolent struggle through our actions and the use of technology.

FL: What is the sit-in meant to accomplish?

PT: I believe that when every Taiwanese person is able to enjoy the rights of a free citizen, then a real democratic system has been accomplished. The sit-in is to demonstrate our rights to freedom of expression in a nonviolent way on the street.

It serves as a base to distribute the information about nonviolent struggle and it is also a symbolic defiance against the oppressive ROC system. We call for reform of Referendum Act and the Electoral System of Legislative Yuan, and abolishment of the Parade and Assembly Act.

FL: Are there people stationed at the "base" in front of the Legislative Yuan every day?

PT: We have volunteers signed up for duties at the base on daily basis. We hand out booklets to promote democracy and civil rights and receive donations. We even served as collection center for donated goods after typhoon disasters. Volunteers are at the base every day, 24 hours around the clock.

UPDATE as of May 14: The "nonviolent struggle" facebook discussion group that Dr. Tsay mentioned in this interview can be found at: http://www.facebook.com/update_security_info.php?wizard=1#!/home.php?sk=group_165362803517243

For those interested in participating, the discussions have been conducted in Chinese.

NEXT: Part V The challenges of the ART’s limited resources

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Part III: Beyond 900 days

The Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan sit-in base stationed in front of the Legislative Yuan in Taipei, Taiwan

An Interview with Professor Tsay, Chairman of the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan (ART)

FL: How many people are now involved with running the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan?

PT: It is difficult for me to give an accurate number of participants. It is a long term protest. My supporters mostly come from the middle class and lower class Taiwanese workers. They cannot be on the street with me every day. However, whenever there’s been an immediate call for action in response to a current issue, usually about 100 citizens will show up in a flash protest, at a designated site in Taipei City. We believe that these protests and demonstrations, which are exercised with the discipline of nonviolent action, are well received in the community. We encourage those who share the same beliefs of nonviolent struggle to organize themselves locally. On a daily basis, we have about 20 volunteers managing routine business. Currently, there are about 10 contact points in different cities.

FL: Are any similar long-term protests happening in other cities (in Taiwan)? Has the ART organized action in other cities? Which cities?

PT: There has also been a long-term street protest in Kaohsiung City, although it is not as well organized as the ART. We keep close contacts with that group and other smaller groups in other cities, such as Taichung, Tainan, Taoyuang, and Pintong.

FL: How long is the sit-in, in front of the Legislative Yuan in Taipei going to last? Is it running indefinitely? What would have to happen to make the sit-in end?

PT: We have committed ourselves to continue this sit-in until the disintegration of the ROC system in Taiwan. It is the system which is the culprit, and it is responsible for all injustice in Taiwan, regardless of which political party is in power.

Although having the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration in power may improve the situation, the pains suffered from a foreign occupying regime, namely the ROC, will not disappear until a new Constitution has formed. We have resolved to carry this civil rights movement until we achieve our ultimate goal of establishing a real democratic system in Taiwan.

The base of this sit-in is a civil rights education center, an action planning center and a sort of community center for those who believe in democracy.

FL: There is a "Senior Revolution Army" stationed at the ART sit-in base. How is this group different or related to the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan?

PT: With an understanding and plan to exercise a nonviolent struggle against an oppressive system, namely the ROC in Taiwan, we also have to prepare strategies for all possible future scenarios.

The “Senior Revolutionary Army” consists of retired seniors who are free from family responsibilities. They have volunteered to safeguard the interests of Taiwan in the worst case scenario. We plan to fight, through nonviolent action, in the case of a Chinese Communist invasion or the KMT’s refusal to transfer power after losing a presidential campaign, even if this means sacrificing our lives in the worst case scenario. The "Senior Revolution Army" is a branch of the ART. There are several overseas Taiwanese individuals who have volunteered to join this "army" too.

FL: What is the goal of the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan? Has the goal of the Alliance changed from the time it was first formed to now?

PT: We have called for changes and better laws since our protest on day one, as I have mentioned previously. The goals of the ART have not been and will not be changed.

The Kuomintang (KMT) regime has not felt threatened enough to take counter-actions to the ART. In other words, the number of people protesting is not sufficiently large enough for KMT regime to feel threatened. The KMT has not felt threatened by the actions of the ART, so they have not changed any laws.

The KMT has not committed acts as they used to do under martial law, i.e. by killing any political opponents. Under the Kuomintang’s rule, martial law was declared (1949-1987). During the martial law era, if the KMT felt threatened by the actions of a political dissent, such as speaking out publicly, the publishing of an opinion article, or associating with other dissents, they killed these political dissents. When Professor Chen, Wen-cheng (陳文成) of Carnegie Mellon University, visited his parents in Taiwan in 1981, he was murdered for his assistance in collecting money from supporters of political dissents of the Kaohsiung Incident of 1979.

We believe that once every single Taiwanese is able to enjoy full civil rights, the illegitimacy of ROC regime in Taiwan will have no place to hide. The ultimate goal of the ART is to disintegrate the ROC system, and to call for a new Constitution for Taiwan as a sovereign state. The reason for that is we have concluded that the ROC government is not one for people, by people, and of people.

I say all of this because the KMT has turned down petitions with signatures of more than 100 thousand people (as required by current referendum law), and which were reviewed three times by a Review Committee.

FL: You have alluded to referendum requirements in Taiwan. Could you explain/clarify the requirements for a referendum to be brought forth in Taiwan? Could you also explain the role of the Review Committee?

PT: There are four steps required before a referendum can be held. First, a referendum petition has to have 5/1000 signatures of total eligible voters to initiate the motion.

[Interviewer’s Note: the population of Taiwan is approximately 23 million, which includes non-eligible voters.]

Next, the signatures will be examined by the Central Electoral Commission for validity. Third, the motion with validated signatures will be discussed by the Referendum Review Committee under the Executive Yuan, in which all 21 members are appointed by Kuomintang (KMT). Fourth, if the motion is passed through the Review Committee, the motion needs to gather 5/100 signatures of total eligible voters to hold a referendum.

For example, a petition of referendum on the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) has been initiated three times, the first time was by DPP and the last two times was by the Taiwan Solidarity Union party (TSU). All three have been turned down by the KMT controlled Review Committee which has used all kinds of absurd reasons. Not all 21 Committee members were present at the meetings. But as long as more than half of the committee members were present at meeting, they voted and half of them voted to run down the referendum motion. Effectively, the end result is that about 15 people have completely blocked the will of more than a 100 thousand people. The TSU has appealed this case to the Higher Executive Court.

NEXT: Part IV The work of the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Part II: Why a 900+ day sit-in?

An Interview with Professor Tsay, Chairman of the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan (ART)

FL: Recent photos of the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan base indicate that a sit-in has been going on now for over 900 days. How did this all get started?

PT: It started with my hunger strike on October 25, 2008 after a rally of about 200 thousand people in front of the Presidential Palace. It has been more than 900 days since then.

My hunger strike was in protest of Ma’s decision to permit a Chinese Communist envoy to visit Taiwan. If the Taiwanese were to let this go without any public objections, Ma and the Chinese Communists would have succeeded in confusing the international community by creating the impression that Taiwan is a part of China. I first called for a referendum on Ma’s policy. In his 2008 presidential campaign, he had openly promised that all 23 million Taiwanese would be able to decide the future of Taiwan.

While I was on hunger strike, I noticed that even the Legislative Yuan, which was controlled by the Kuomintang (KMT), couldn’t do anything to stop Ma’s policy due to a well-manipulated electoral system. As the street protests continued, the police tried to silence us forcefully. However, we believe that the hope of democracy should continue and that we should be there to guard it.

FL: Who was the Chinese Communist envoy that you are referring to? What’s his name? Could you tell me or give me examples of how the police tried to forcefully silence you and the protesters?

PT: His name is Chen Yun-lin (陳雲林) and he is the Deputy Director of Cross-Strait Relation Association of China.

The first time Chen Yun-lin came to Taiwan, the police used brute force on a few people when they tried to show the Republic of China (ROC) flags in front of Mr. Chen. People were physically injured and sent to the hospital for treatment. The ROC flags were confiscated by the police and thrown into the street garbage cans. A music store located near the Welcome Dinner restaurant, where the owner played Taiwanese songs over the big speakers was forced by the police to shut its doors while customers were still inside the shop. At that time, I was on hunger strike and not personally involved in those protests. The police did not want to let Chen see any ROC flags and kept shifting protesters far away from Chen, giving him the impression that there were no demonstrations at all. They moved transportation, including pedestrians, many blocks away from wherever Mr. Chen was.

FL: Why was the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan formed?

PT: We are under the superficially democratic system of the Republic of China, which is the Chinese Nationalist Government (aka Kuomintang) now exiled in Taipei (aka Chinese Taipei). This government has installed many barriers within the Referendum Act, which severely limit citizens in exercising their referendum rights. Additionally, the electoral system was designed so that the ruling Kuomintang regime will forever be in the majority and able to dominate the parliament. Even worse is the existence of the Parade and Assembly Act, which suppresses freedom of speech.

[NOTE: You can learn more about the Parade and Assembly Act and the debate over it here: http://www.taiwantoday.tw/ct.asp?xItem=120135&CtNode=423]

FL: Professor Tsay, what is your role in the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan? Are you the founder of the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan?

PT: I am not the sole founder of the ART but one of many founders and I now serve as the Chairman of the ART. The Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan (ART) was founded in response to my calls “to return people’s civil rights” and after my hunger strike on October 25, 2008, which lasted for 7 days in front of Legislative Yuan. My hunger strike was in protest of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) policy of selling out Taiwan to Communist China. At the time, I was the President of the Taiwan Association of University Professors (TAUP). Many Pro-Taiwan independence organizations, such as the Alliance of Taiwanese Teachers, Taiwan Society, Taiwan North, South, and Central Societies, Taiwan Hakka Society, and Su Beng’s Independent Taiwan Society, etc. came out to back me up and together we founded the ART.

FL: Could you give me some examples of how President Ma has sold out Taiwan?

PT: He promised in his 2008 presidential campaign, “that the future of Taiwan will be determined by the 23 million people of Taiwan.” After he took office, he opened the doors to Communist China by signing the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement (ECFA) between China and Taiwan and permitting an envoy from China to visit major cities in Taiwan despite people’s protests. Ma has said that Taiwan is part of China under current Republic of China (ROC) Constitution and he will pursue reunification with China eventually.

*To learn more about the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan (aka ART), visit their website: http://taiwanra.blogspot.com/

NEXT: Part III Beyond 900 days

Friday, May 6, 2011

Part I: Su Beng, the ART and Senior Revolution Army

Su Beng speaking at the ART sit-in base

For six Wednesday evenings from March 9-April 13, Su Beng has spoken on the topic of Taiwan's nationalism at the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan’s (ART) sit-in base, which is located on the street, outside of the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.

Members of the ART have been stationed outside of the Legislative Yuan for over 900 days now, since October 25, 2008. On that day there was rally with about 200 thousand people in front of the Presidential Palace. The rally happened before the scheduled visit of senior Chinese Communist envoy, Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) to Taiwan. Protesters were criticizing President Ma Ying-Jeou (馬英九) for allowing the visit, making concessions and moving too fast in relaxing restrictions on trade and investment with China. Many of the protestors wore T-shirts bearing the logo “Defend Taiwan.”

[NOTE: It was also around this time, in November 2008, that the “Wild Strawberry Student Movement” began in response to police crackdowns on protestors of Chen Yunlin’s visit. It lasted until around June 2009. For more information about the student movement, consult these websites:

After the October 25th rally, Professor Tsay, the President of the Taiwan Association of University Professors (TAUP), initiated a hunger strike at the front gate of the Legislative Yuan. Professor Tsay’s hunger strike lasted seven days and it led to the founding of the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan. Many Pro-Taiwan independence organizations, such as the Alliance of Taiwanese Teachers, Taiwan Society, Taiwan North, South, and Central Societies, Taiwan Hakka Society, and Su Beng’s Independent Taiwan Society, etc. came out to support Professor Tsay and together they all founded the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan. The “Senior Revolution Army” is a branch of the ART that has taken on the main responsibility for running and staffing the ART sit-in base.

Through one of my contacts, I’ve been able to interview Professor Tsay about the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan, and Su Beng’s lectures and involvement with the ART and “Senior Revolution Army.”

I’ve been in correspondence with Professor Tsay and my in depth interview with him will appear in 5 parts. In Part I, I’ve asked Professor Tsay about Su Beng and his involvement with the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan.

Part I: Su Beng, the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan and the "Senior Revolution Army"

An Interview with Professor Tsay, Chairman of the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan (ART)

FL: What is Su Beng's involvement with the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan or the" Senior Revolution Army"?

PT: Su Beng is one of the founders of the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan. He has repeatedly pointed out the importance of maintaining a sit-in base on the street as an action to implement strategic thinking and to courageously demonstrate defiance against the oppressive Republic of China (ROC) system. We, the ART and other organizations, regard Su Beng as a pioneering authority of the Taiwanese National Self-liberation Movement.

[NOTE: In Part III of my interview with Professor Tsay he talks about work of the “Senior Revolution Army”]

FL: How many lectures will Su Beng be doing at the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan sit-in base? Is his lecture series ongoing, as long as the Alliance is sitting in front of the Legislative Yuan?

PT: Su Beng has given six lectures on the topic of Taiwan’s nationalism and revolutionary strategies from March 9-April 13. He believes in the power of people and in the value of speaking to the public in these seminars. Su Beng is a role model and has promised to attend seminars as long as his health permits and to encourage the public to learn from speakers invited by the ART. He attended the ART Wednesday seminars on April 20 and 27, not as a speaker but as an audience member.

He wants to attend as a participant and interact with everyday people as much as possible. He sings along with everyone when we sing our “national anthem” Formosa Taiwan 台灣翠青 (which was composed by 蕭泰然 and written by 鄭兒玉). This song has been used as a sort of anthem by numerous Taiwanese organizations whose objective is to build a new sovereign Taiwan. We promoted this song as an unofficial anthem when I served as the President of the Taiwan Association of University Professors in 2007 through the Taiwan National Congress (TNC). Another song popularly recognized as an anthem is a song called Ocean Country 海洋國家 (composed and written by 王明哲). Both songs have been quite popular amongst the general public. We decided to give them wider recognition by singing Formosa Taiwan at the beginning of the seminar and Ocean Country at the end. After this we usually close by shouting slogans of “Long Live Taiwan Independence” and “Long Live Taiwan Nationalism.”

The Wednesday seminars are intended to be a long-term project. We intend to bring this seminar series to different cities and towns in the future. At this time there are no future dates planned for Su Beng to speak at the ART base. This is always something that is open for consideration.

FL: Could you tell me, and my English blog readers, more specifically what Su Beng has lectured about?

PT: There are many important points that Su Beng has repeatedly emphasized in his talks, for example:

a. Taiwan nationalism has risen naturally from the evolution of Taiwan’s society. It has not been made up for some artificial purpose. No one can deny the existence of Taiwan nationalism; it is there.

The theory of Taiwan nationalism is also a useful tool for one to clearly analyze Taiwan's social problems. Taiwan nationalism is one of the core elements which will unify the different factions within the Taiwan independence movement.

b. A theory without actions is useless and an action without a theory is just experimental.

c. The main goals of the Taiwanese should be to liberate themselves from the ROC’s colonial system and to achieve national independence for Taiwan.

d. Skillfully planned strategies and tactics are required to accomplish these goals.

e. Nonviolent struggle requires discipline to be successful.

f. An oppressive system must be overthrown first before one can build a sovereign state.

g. He believes that Taiwan will definitely become an independent sovereign state as it follows the global tide of democratization.

FL: What have you learned from Su Beng’s lectures? What have people who have attended Su Beng's lectures learned from him?

PT: In addition to the ideas that I’ve mentioned in my previous answer, I have also learned that at the age of 94 Su Beng is indeed a rare character in Taiwan independence movement. He stands firm in defending his theory of Taiwan nationalism from criticism, just as he did 30 years ago when I first met him. His resilience and focus on grass-roots implementation of his theory deserve a lot of admiration.

Many people who have come to his lectures have felt his enthusiasm and passion on even cold nights. He has asked the audience to prepare themselves well to serve for our motherland, Taiwan. He is an example of how real action starts from oneself.

FL: What have people's reactions to Su Beng been?

PT: Su Beng has been regarded by most people as a lonely fighter against the oppressive Republic of China (ROC) system all his life. He chooses to take the so-called “outside of the system” approach to fighting for Taiwan independence, knowing that in doing so, he will face a lack of resources at times. He also encourages people to respect those who have taken another approach “to work within the system” (i.e. to work within the existing governmental framework) as long as they share the same strategic objectives. It is difficult for me to describe what people’s reaction to him have been. I have observed that whenever he arrives at the base, the entire crowd usually stands up to welcome him.

Su Beng and Professor Tsay at the ART sit-in base at a Wednesday night seminar

FL: How do you know Su Beng? How long have you known him?

PT: I met Su Beng about 30 years ago when I was a Ph.D. student at Cornell University in the USA. Taiwan was still under martial law and the rule of the ROC. I returned to National Taiwan University as a Civil Engineering Professor in 1990. After he returned from Japan to Taiwan in 1993, we ran into each other from time to time at rallies or protests. He is a role model to most of us. Since the first time we met, I have admired him for being the first one to emphasize the importance of Taiwan nationalism and as a persistent fighter for his beliefs all his life. Nowadays, I am glad to observe that his theory and the application of Taiwan nationalism are being accepted more broadly than ever before.

FL: Is there anything else that you'd like to share about the Alliance of the Referendum for Taiwan, or about Su Beng?

PT: The participants of the ART, including myself see the reasoning behind Su Beng’s theory of Taiwan nationalism and will try very hard to work side by side with him. We believe that Taiwan deserves status as a sovereign state and that this can be achieved if Taiwanese people work together and believe in Taiwan nationalism.

We are promoting the knowledge (i.e. theory) and technology (i.e. method of action) of nonviolent struggle developed by Dr. Gene Sharp at Albert Einstein Institution, which are comparable to what Su Beng has been teaching. It is quite evident that although both theories developed from different cultural backgrounds they both show that the convergence of people’s power leads to freedom, independence and democracy.

NEXT: Part II Why a 900+ day sit-in?