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

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