Saturday, August 20, 2011

August 14: Interviewed by HoChie for TaiwaneseAmerican.org

After the August 14 event hosted for Su Beng at the Taiwan Center in Rosemead, I was interviewed by HoChie Tsai of TaiwaneseAmerican.org




HoChie and I went to college together and he is the founder of TaiwaneseAmerican.org



Thanks to TaiwaneseAmerican.org for spreading the word about Su Beng's 2011 US Tour: Reconnecting with Taiwanese America!

Monday, August 15, 2011

August 14: Su Beng @ the Taiwan Center in Rosemead, CA

This was the fourth and final gathering for Su Beng hosted by a FAPA-YPG chapter and I've been to them all!

When Su Beng told me that he was going to be visiting the US this summer, I immediately thought it would be a great opportunity for "second generation" Taiwanese Americans to get to know him. Su Beng is more well known amongst the "first generation" Taiwanese- who are defined as the first wave of immigrants from Taiwan who were born there and moved to the US as adults.


It was a mini-reunion with my college buddies HoChie Tsai and Rick Chang who were there that day. Back in the day we were all involved with the Taiwanese American Students Club at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.


Taiwan's 400 Year History books and poster were available for sale at the event.




FAPA-YPG of LA/OC members Arthur Chang and Daniel Lin served as translators for Su Beng at the event.



One of the questions that Daniel probed Su Beng about was: How could the Japanese authorities grant Su Beng political asylum even though he was known have been involved in activities to resist the Japanese?

In 1952 Su Beng had fled from Taiwan by stowing away in a boat exporting bananas to Japan. There he was arrested and taken to a detention center for illegally entering the country. He told the authorities that he had had to escape from Taiwan because he was wanted for plotting to assassinate Chiang Kai-Shek, and therefore in need of political asylum. When the Kuomintang authorities contacted the Japanese authorities, stating that Su Beng was wanted for trying to assassinate Chiang Kai-Shek, this in fact proved that Su Beng was in need of political asylum, so he was released and allowed to remain in Japan.

Su Beng's answer to Daniel's question was simply that Japan has always been a nation that follows the rule of law. With proof that Su Beng was a political dissident, the Japanese authorities released Su Beng and granted him asylum, rather than repatriating him to Taiwan where he would have most certainly been arrested, tortured or suffered an even worse fate.

Su Beng's life is certainly full of contradictions. At the Revolutionary in New York event that I hosted for him, one audience member asked if he thought that the Chinese Communists were not as bad as the Kuomintang, since he had worked undercover with the Chinese Communists and later tried to assassinae Chiang Kai-Shek.

Su Beng's response was that he did not join the Chinese Communist party and had become disillusioned and disgusted with them, which is why he fled back to Taiwan from China in 1949. While he thinks that the Kuomintang were oppressive and unjust during their rule of Taiwan he does believe that the Chinese Communists are far worse than the Kuomintang.

At the DC event hosted by FAPA-YPG, Su Beng was asked why he choose to go to Japan in 1952 and how he could reconcile living there with his anti-Japanese sentiments.

Su Beng responded that at the time he didn't have much choice about where he could go when he fled Taiwan. Japan was the nearest, safest place. He also said that he has nothing against the people of Japan; it was the imperialistic ambitions of the Japanese empire that he was opposed to. Also, since he had been educated during the Japanese occupation in Taiwan and attended Waseda University in Tokyo, it was an easy for him to fit into life there.

At the gathering that FAPA-YPG hosted for Su Beng in Boston there was a debate over how/why Su Beng calls himself a Marxist. You can read one of the participants' opinions on that topic here: http://aboutsubeng.blogspot.com/2011/07/su-beng-taiwans-spark-for-national.html

It's been really interesting to see how very different each FAPA-YPG sponsored gathering for Su Beng has been. It's definitely raised some interesting questions about him and his life. His story is also the story of Taiwan and the Taiwanese people, and the complex relationship and history that Taiwan has had with Japan, and China.


Thanks Arthur and Daniel, you did a great job translating for Su Beng!


FAPA-YPG, LA/OC chapter members: Sally Chen, Ingrid Chiu, Arthur Chang, Daniel Lin, Jerry Liu, Serena Liao and Patrick Yang with Su Beng. Thanks for making this event possible!

A huge thanks to all the FAPA-YPG chapters that coordinated and hosted gatherings for Su Beng, during his 2011 US visit. you helped make him more accessible to "second generation" Taiwanese Americans!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

July 30: Su Beng speaking @ the Taiwanese American Association South Summer Conference in Houston, Texas

Here's a video of Su Beng speaking at the Taiwanese American Association South Summer Conference in Houston, Texas on July 30:

A speech of Su Beng from Hui-Hsiung Kuo on Vimeo.


Su Beng is in the Bay area now and will be speaking in San Jose tomorrow afternoon. Click here for the details.

After this he will be in Seattle for a few days before appearing at the Taiwan Center in Rosemead, CA on August 14. This will be his last appearance in the U.S. before returning to Taiwan and I've decided to fly out to LA for it!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Final thoughts on the July 22, 2011 Revolutionary in New York event

Looking back on the event, the one regret I have is that I wish that I said more about Su Beng’s current involvement and contributions to the Taiwan independence movement. I also wish that I had taken the opportunity to say something more about Su Beng’s Taiwan Independence Action (TIA) motorcade when I was explaining the video footage from April 26.




Photos courtesy of: Bin Hong

The TIA is notable not just because its members were involved in orchestrating the high-speed chase of Lien Chan on April 26, 2005, nor because the TIA also regularly makes its rounds every Saturday and Sunday in three major cities in Taiwan. The TIA motorcade is a symbol of Su Beng’s continued involvement in major demonstrations and mass movements the Taiwan over the years. The TIA has been present on:

February 28, 2011 to commemorate 64 years since the 2-28 massacre in which an estimated 20,000 Taiwanese were murdered

May 20, 2010 to participate in a demonstration calling for a referendum on the free trade act between Taiwan and China (aka the Economic Cooperation Framework Agreement)

December 2009 in protest of the cross-strait talks being held between Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤), Chairman of the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), and Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), Chairman of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS)

May 2009 in a month long month-long march with the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan

I suppose that as Su Beng’s biographer, I have a tendency to focus on his past. But clearly, Su Beng is not slowing down. Just take a look at his scheduled appearances during what I’ve called “Su Beng's 2011 US Tour: reconnecting with Taiwanese America.” Not only does he remain actively involved in Taiwan’s social movements but if you talk to him you’ll discover that he’s also very up on current events.

Finally, a few acknowledgments:

I’d like to thank every one of my wonderful friends who volunteered out at the event or helped in some way to make this event happen! I really couldn’t have done it without any of you. Because of your support, I was able to pull it all off and people got a chance to hear Su Beng talk about some of his life experiences and views on Taiwan.

Special thanks to the Formosan Association of Public Affairs, Young Professional Group of New Jersey and New York for providing refreshments at the event and organizing the afterevent social gathering at La Lanterna.

A heartfelt thanks to all those who attended! This event and all the work that I am doing would be meaningless without an audience. You all braved the heat that day to make it to the event where unfortunately, the conditions indoors were almost equally hot and humid.

Political views aside, I do hope that some people in the audience were perhaps inspired by this man’s tenacity.


Photo credit: Corky Lee

Part II: An Insider’s Look at Revolutionary in New York: a reading, talk, Q&A with Su Beng

With the spotlight off of me, I was ready to turn it over to Su Beng and to start my Q&A with him. Right about that time, the translator, Professor Ching Lee walked in. And so he took over for Catherine as the translator for Su Beng.


Photo credit: Corky Lee

I’d prepared a long list of questions for Su Beng and I actually managed to ask most of them.


Photo credit: Corky Lee


Photo credit: Corky Lee


Photo credit: Corky Lee

Sensing that it would be a good time to take a brief intermission, and to relieve the audience from the unbearably hot sauna-like conditions in the room, I looked over at Ed, who seemed in agreement and indicated that I should wrap things up. It was definitely time for an intermission and to get some much needed refreshment!

And some autograph signing


Photo credit: Corky Lee

You wouldn’t have known it if you where there, but there was an air conditioning unit in the back corner of the room. Someone at the event said, it felt like we were in Taiwan, which I think was a very nice way to say it was @#$% hot in the room! Even so, most of the audience stayed after the intermission for the audience Q&A session.


Photo credit: Corky Lee

The event rounded off with a screening of the trailer of Victoria Linchong’s documentary film ALMOST HOME: TAIWAN. However, when it came time to play the DVD on my MacBook, somehow it wouldn’t play, and so Victoria who had already said a few words to introduce her film, was stuck standing in front of the audience stalling for time. The DVD of Su Beng from April 26th had been played on the MacBook but now it wouldn’t play the DVD of the trailer for ALMOST HOME: TAIWAN.


Photo credit: Corky Lee

Earlier that day I’d somehow suddenly become paranoid about things that could possibly go wrong at the Revolutionary in New York event. What could go wrong, really wrong? If for some reason there were technical issues with the AV equipment and we couldn’t play the ALMOST HOME: TAIWAN trailer- that would be a disaster! The AV equipment set up at the venue was the one thing that I’d struggled with in preparing for the event. Everything else I pretty much had under control. There was nothing else technical about the event besides the video cameras that would be there to record the event. By noon I was frantically trying to find someone who could bring an extra PC laptop computer to the event as a back up,” just in case.”

And it’s a good thing that something (call it my gut) told me to bring a backup computer (namely one of the “PC variety” just in case something went wrong with the connection to the MacBook). So in the end, a bigger crisis was averted, as I booted up the extra PC laptop computer I’d brought, connected it to the projector and inserted the DVD. Finally, after some fiddling around, we were able to play the trailer. Phew!

Now let's watch that trailer!

Photo credit: Corky Lee

Indeed, I have a lot to be proud of. Incredibly, I was able to put everything together for this event in less than a month! The venue wasn’t booked until July 6. With seating for 50, I initially just hoped that I’d be able to fill all of the seats. But just a few days before the event, I realized that I’d need to have extra seats brought in. And in the end, about 60 people attended the Revolutionary in New York event that I hosted for Su Beng on July 22.

Stay tuned for video footage of the Revolutionary in New York event, which will be uploaded to YouTube. You’ll be able to hear me read my excerpt and see some of the Q&A portion from the event. Please be patient. There are some technical issues that are still being worked out in order to get this done.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Part I: An Insider’s Look at Revolutionary in New York: a reading, talk, Q&A with Su Beng

Sullivan Hall, Suite 6B
July 22, 2011

That day, the temperature had reached a sweltering 104 degrees Fahrenheit and unfortunately it wasn’t much better upstairs in 6B of Sullivan Hall, where the Revolutionary in New York event was to be held.


Photo credit: Peter Yang Zhao

As people trickled in, video footage from Su Beng’s April 26, 2005 high-speed chase of Lien Chan’s motorcade en route to the then “Chiang Kai-shek” airport in Taipei, Taiwan was played. A group of taxis, organized by Su Beng, was seen chasing Lien Chan on the highway en route to the airport, and one taxi in particular, drove right up alongside Lien’s car. Out of the passenger window, someone (Su Beng) held out a piece of paper, which read, “Don’t sellout Taiwan.” The police intervened in the chase, and Su Beng and members of his Taiwan Independence Action motorcade were unable to delay or stop Lien from making his flight to China that day.

April 26, 2005 was also the day that mass protests erupted in the now renamed Taiwan Taoyuan airport. Formerly known as the Chian Kai-shek airport, it was renamed in 2006. The protests were a reaction to Lien’s “unofficial” trip to China, where closed-door meetings and negotiations with the Chinese Communist leadership would take place. There were over 3000 police officers deployed at the airport and on the highway that day. Approximately a thousand people showed up at the airport that day, among them were both supporters and opponents of Lien’s trip. Though unable to prevent Lien Chan from making his flight to China that day, Su Beng and his supporters showed up at the airport later on, joining the mass protest. Unfortunately, conflicts between the two sides turned violent and many participants were physically injured in the process.

View the entire video here:


Meanwhile, suite 6B was filling up and it seemed like it was time to officially kick off the Revolutionary in New York event, but there was just one problem. The translator for Su Beng was nowhere to be found. And of course, he would have to be the one person who’s mobile number I didn’t have with me. So it seems, when things could have gone wrong, they did. I frantically checked through my email to find his number and call him.


Photo credit: Peter Yang Zhao

In a quick change in plans, my friend Catherine, who’s actually met Su Beng quite a few times in Taiwan, agreed to step in as the translator for him.


Photo credit: Peter Yang Zhao



Photo credit: Peter Yang Zhao

Finally Ed Lin, the emcee, stood up, and addressed the audience, explained the program for the evening and read biographical introductions for Su Beng, myself, Catherine and Victoria (who’s film trailer for her documentary, Almost Home: Taiwan would be shown at the end of the night).


Photo credit: Peter Yang Zhao

In my opening remarks I first explained the background behind the video footage and protest, which had been playing in the background. I don't remember what exactly I said, but here are some of the points that I hope I managed to communicate about the video:

Earlier that year, in March of 2005, China had passed the anti-secession law, which stated that it was illegal for Taiwan to secede from China. The law basically mandated military action by the Peoples' Liberation Army. I also explained the controversy behind why there was such an outcry against Lien’s visit to China. After all of this preamble, which seemed much to go on much longer than I’d intended, I moved on to setting the stage before the reading of an excerpt from the Conscience of Taiwan: The Memoirs of Su Beng.


Photo credit: Peter Yang Zhao

I began by reminding the audience that Su Beng had been in China from 1942-49 during WWII, and that he escaped from Chinese Communists and fled back to Taiwan 1949. When he returned to Taiwan, martial law had been declared and there had been a major uprising in which 20,000 people were murdered and disappeared, many of them the intellectually elite. This era, which lasted up until martial law was lifted in 1987 is called the white terror era. During this era many political dissidents were jailed and suppressed. There were no civil liberties and the moves of all citizens were tightly controlled. People were unable to move around freely- even within Taiwan, let alone leave the country. So when Su Beng’s plot to assassinate CKS was discovered, he had to go into hiding. He remained on the run, going from one city to another city within a 24 hour period. For example he’d stay in a city in the north for a night, but within 24 hours he’d go to another city in central Taiwan and so on… so that the authorities couldn’t track all of his movements or whereabouts. The reason for this was that everywhere he went he had to register or present his ID card. Finally, he figured out a way to get out of Taiwan. Since the main export at the time was bananas to Japan, he devised a plan to stow away in a boat exporting bananas. In the excerpt that I had planned to read, Su Beng had hidden himself in the cargo section of the boat. He was waiting for it to set sail in the wee hours of the morning, and is thinking to himself about how he got there.


Photo credit: Peter Yang Zhao

Now I’m not going to give away the actual excerpt here. You’ll have to read it in the book when it comes out!

It was a very suspenseful paragraph, and hopefully it peaked people’s curiosity, making them want to read more and to learn more about Su Beng.

NEXT: Part II of An Insider’s Look at Revolutionary in New York: a reading, talk, Q&A with Su Beng

Su Beng's statement regarding the 7/31 release of an authorized Chinese language biography of his life

After the gathering hosted by the FAPA-YPG DC Chapter, I spent an extra day with Su Beng in Maryland at the home of his relative where he was staying. It was the first time that I was able to just spend some quality time with him. I brought him some famous New York bagels, which he enjoyed very much. He said they reminded him of something called “kiam gong bian” (in Taiwanese), which apparently is the equivalent of a Taiwanese bagel.

While I was there I also video recorded this statement that Su Beng made regarding a book which was set to be released on July 31st in Taiwan. The book is an authorized Chinese language biography of Su Beng written about him by Professor Su Jen-Ming (衝突與挑戰: 史明生命故事 作者蘇振明). The title of the book translates as: Conflict & Challenge: Lifestory of Su Beng and includes illustrations drawn by the author (Professor Su who is a professor of art).

July 24: Su Beng @ the Blaauw residence (Washington, D.C. area)

The gathering organized by FAPA-YPG, DC Chapter was an intimate affair hosted in the home of Coen Blaauw.

Eileen Lin, FAPA-YPG Coordinator served as Su Beng's translator for the first half of the Q&A with Su Beng


Photo credit: Chia Liu

Chia Liu, FAPA-YPG member took up the job of translating for Su Beng for the second half of the Q&A


Photo courtesy of Chia Liu

Thanks Eileen and Chia for your excellent translation that day!


Photo credit: Felicia Lin

There was also a mini-reunion of sorts. Su Beng was reunited with Jean, who's family hosted him at their home in Texas when he used to make annual visits to the US in the summer months in the 80s and 90s. Su Beng has not seen Jean in nearly 20 years- when she was just a girl! Jean now lives in DC. Su Beng will be staying at her parents' house in Texas once again when he's there to attend the Taiwanese American Association Summer Conference- South at the end of July. Here they happily posed for a photo together:


Photo credit: Felicia Lin

There was plenty of Taiwanese food and drink, like Taiwan Beer!

... and green tea and red bean popsicles


Photo courtesy of Coen Blaauw


Photo courtesy of Coen Blaauw

"Arigato" Su Beng thanked everyone before he left.

video