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.
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?