A weekend of commemoration (April 5-7, 2007) continued

Picking up where I left off and after spending my first evening at Su Beng's residence in Sinjhuang

The first day of my visit (April 6th) we set off early in the morning to pick up some offerings for Su Beng’s ancestral tomb.

It was a dark rainy morning which made the walk down to the tomb from the top of a hill quite precarious.

It’s a shame that it was so dark, dreary and rainy; it must be quite a view from there usually. Funny thing is, I’ve been told that in Taiwan, much of the prime property on hillsides with a view like this, have in large part, been occupied by ancestral tombs.

After the all the rites were performed we went off to pick something up to bring over for lunch at Mr. Lin’s.

We drove for what seemed like more than an hour. When we arrived I saw that we could see the ocean from the back of Mr. Lin’s house. We entered the house through the back via Mr. Lin’s art studio.

Mr. Lin has been working on this clay bust of Su Beng for the past four months, since December of 2006. He will be using the clay bust to make a mold and finally a bronze sculpture. The entire process will take about 6-7 months, so the bronze bust should be complete in June or July.

Do you see a resemblance?

Su Beng and Mr. Lin have known each other for over twenty years now; they met in 1982. During the summers of 1981-82, Su Beng began making annual trips from Japan to North and South America, and Europe to make connections with overseas Taiwanese and to distribute copies of the Chinese version of Taiwan's 400 Years of History (which was published in 1980). At that time Su Beng had been living Japan since 1952, when he was forced to flee there after the Kuomingtang discovered his involvement in a plot to assassinate Chiang Kai-shek. He remained there in exile until he returned to live in Taiwan in 1993.

During one of Su Beng’s trips to Europe in 1982, some friends in the overseas Taiwanese community there introduced Su Beng to Mr. Lin, so Su Beng went to Austria to spend a week at Mr. Lin's. Mr. Lin recounted how Su Beng would start off every morning by faithfully doing yoga exercises, how they’d have a drink together over lunch and have enlightening conversations. As Mr. Lin reminisced about those days, so long ago, he remarked that they were both young then- Su Beng was 64, about the age that Mr. Lin is now.

The following morning (April 7, the second day of my visit) we went to the Freedom Era (自由時代) Weekly magazine office pay our respects to 鄭南榕, Mr. Cheng Nan-jung (aka Nylon which is his anglicized name). Mr. Cheng was publisher of the Freedom Era Weekly magazine and that day was the 18th anniversary of Mr Cheng's tragic death. Su Beng decided to take his Taiwan Independence Action ( 獨立台灣會) motorcade out in the morning for its rounds, instead of the afternoon, en route to the Freedom Era Weekly office.

The troubles that led to Mr. Cheng's death that fateful day began in December of 1988, when he published a draft of a new constitution for a new independent Taiwan in his magazine. In January and February of 1989, Mr. Cheng was summoned to appear in court on sedition charges. He refused to appear, and on April 7, 1989 about a hundred riot police prepared to attack the Freedom Era Weekly's office by assembling at the Chung Shan Primary School, which was just across the street. Mr. Cheng set himself on fire in his office rather than be arrested for sedition charges. The burnt remains of Mr. Cheng's office have been preserved and it is now a commemorative site; it is a truly haunting scene that will remain etched in my memory. For the complete details of what happened on April 7, 1989, please click on this link: http://www.taiwandc.org/twcom/tc40-int.pdf

The Taiwan Independence Action motorcade arrives at the Freedom Era Weekly office

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.

Riding back to Sinjhuang after visiting the Freedom Era Weekly office