Call to Action for All Students: A Retrospective View of Taiwanese Student Activism After the Second War
Curator: Institute ofSociology, Academia Sinica
Organizers: Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica, Academia Sinica Digital Center,National Museum of Taiwan History
Until this exhibition, no organizations hadattempted to present the history of student activism in Taiwan to the public.The motivation for organizing this exhibition was thus not only the fact thatthis issue was overdue for reflection, but also the heavy sense ofresponsibility on our shoulders. Although we know that much more could beincluded in the exhibition, we feel a significant responsibility to history,and thus could not watch an ideal moment for this exhibition pass by. Let us thenfollow the passion of historical figures and the gaze of visitors andexperience several critical moments in the politics of this island.
In this exhibition we shape time into a form ofhistory, which inevitably involves creating a certain interpretation of thepast. We have done our best, both academically and aesthetically, to show thehistory of student activism over the past seventy years, from 1945 to 2015, andwe hope that you can take part, make revisions and fill the gaps in what wehave started. Let us work together to construct the next exhibition on thegrand era of student protests.
Fighting in the Early Post-war Days
In the “February28 Incident” of 1947, young students organized squads which played an importantpart in this armed rebellion. In 1949, the “April 6 Incident” and the “ProvincialWork Committee Case” occurred after the takeover of Taiwan by the KMTgovernment, leading to a hunt for underground political parties and the arrest,detention, and execution of many teachers and students. The bloody bikes, whitewalls, and batons here tell the story of this “White Terror” and the sacrificesmade during this time. As a consequence, student activism fell silent for thenext ten years.
Baodiao Movement, Suppression, and Social Events
The rise of the “Baodiao Movement”(literally translated “Defense of the Diaoyu Islands Movement”) in the 1970sled to another period of greater political participation, the promotion offreedom of speech, and the rise of campus democratization. However, the “purge ofthe Department of Philosophy” at National Taiwan University soon strangled suchmovements among students. In the late 1970s, fluctuations between “resistanceand repression”—such as from the “Zhongli Incident” and the “KaohsiungIncident” to the supplementation election of the Central National AssemblyRepresentatives and the break-off of diplomatic relations between Taiwan andthe United States—bear witness to the ruptures and continuations in the historyof student activism in Taiwan.
The Storming ‘80s
During the 1980s students started to act onthe possibilities for campus revolution that opened up in the contentious socialatmosphere. From underground to overground, the popularity of “campus rebellion”triggered waves of student activism, using flyers and publications as a mainways to express ideas and oppose campus authoritarianism. Social events, suchas the “Anti-DuPont Movement” and “May 20 Peasant Movement,” providedopportunities for students to engage in social issues outside campus. AfterCheng Nan-Jung committed self-immolation to bring attention to the right offree speech, students across the island were inspired to form the “Wild Lily StudentMovement” in March 1990 to make their voices heard at this crucial moment inthe process of political democratization.
The Blooming ‘90s
The liberalization of university campuses in the 1990s allowedstudents to participate more deeply in a wider range of social and politicalmovements. This time appeared as a political kaleidoscope, full of liberty andnew opportunities. Student activism intertwined with social and politicalmovements, blurring the boundaries between them. In this section we thus discussthe profusion of social and political activities that occurred in the 1990s byexamining twelve topics.
Development of Student Activism in a New Age
The change of theruling party in year 2000 had radical impacts on Taiwanese society andpolitics, leading a number of new issues into public discussion. The 2004 protestagainst the “anti-eviction of Lo Sheng Sanatorium residents” was a major event inthis period. In 2008, the KMT Party, with its new pro-China policy, was returnedto power. Numerous concerns about the party’s pro-China policies sparked the “WildStrawberries,” “Anti-Media Monopoly” and, “Occupy Congress” (aka. Sunflower) movements,which are still influencing Taiwanese society to this day.