Ninety-something Su Beng is the Grandfather of the Taiwan independence movement. In the 1950’s, Su Beng led a group called the Taiwan Revolutionary Army and plotted the overthrow of Chiang Kai-shek’s dictatorial regime. A forced exile to Japan during the many years of the martial law period led to Su Beng’s writing of a history book, Taiwan’s 400 Year History.
Su Beng granted a face-to-face interview to discuss Chen Shui-bian’s trial and its place in contemporary history. Like any good historian, he began the story with a contextual background.
“Taiwanese don’t understand Americans. The Taiwanese public, the common people, does not understand with accuracy the political field,” explained Su Beng.
“Because of the government, the Kuomintang controlled the media before and even now there are some for China. The KMT’s voice controls Taiwan’s news media, which is why the world does not receive much more information.”
Su Beng complained, “Even the international media neglects Taiwan’s political theater. They just get some information but are not very knowledgeable about the Taiwanese public.”
“With the media controlled by the government, most of the people do nothing. Without real information people do not understand.” Su Beng said, “Even about President Chen’s condition, they don’t know how serious it is because of the news media,”
Not a supporter of Chen Shui-bian, the aging revolutionary finds plenty of blame to go around. “President Chen’s case is about money. Information was released from inside bank systems at the direction of the United States.”
“It is not moral, President Chen’s money laundering. The KMT uses this against Taiwanese. So the public is divided. Some think Chen is an example to scare the public from action against the government; others think Chen is getting his punishment.”
“The trial was definitely not fair.”
Although Su Beng suspects some guilt on the part of Chen Shui-bian, he also recognizes the heavy hand of the Kuomintang. “It was nothing the KMT has not done. It [Chen’s trial] was a KMT fraud, like President Chen. People are confused why Abian accepted so much money. Abian’s case has splintered the center.”
Su Beng says that whatever guilt Chen Shui-bian may or may not have is overshadowed by Chen’s treatment: “Human rights are part of the law but not in Abian’s case. The lack of a jury system is totally unfair. It is so the Kuomintang can decide, totally dishonest.”
“Ma Ying-jeou says one country, two systems. He wants to use this slogan to cope with China’s “one China” policy. Ma’s country is the Republic of China, but the Republic of China is not our country, there is no room for Taiwan. My views are different from the standard views, my views are for Taiwan,” said Su Beng.
“Taiwan is not China. Maybe the story is different from outside, but inside the people agree with us. The more knowledgeable people understand our history better and they do not agree with Ma Ying-jeou,” asserted Su Beng. “An example is the talk about sovereignty of Taiwan. People accept “Chinese Taipei” but it is not the feeling in their heart. People are very bitter about Chinese Taipei. People do not want Taiwan to be a colony.”
Su Beng warned: “The United States doesn’t agree with clear answers about independence for Taiwan for many years. When President Chen visited Central America he insisted on returning to Taiwan from Washington, D.C. but they made the airplane fly around. The U.S. Defense Secretary was eager to visit China. They asked Chen how is Taiwan? He answered we support Taiwan independence. That is the first time the United States clearly heard what we want. But the United States needs China more than Taiwan. I think this is a dangerous time for Taiwan.”
“Taiwan is in deep danger. The Taiwanese people believe that if there is an emergency the United States government will help Taiwan. Taiwan does not have a good defense,” said Su Beng.
“One thing you have to know about China, if they think you have good self-defense they won’t do anything. If we can learn to help ourselves China will not invade.”
“China has always wanted to control the Taiwan Strait. The United States hasn’t done anything about Taiwan status because they want good relations with China.” Su Beng expressed hope, “But I still believe that if something happens the United States would help Taiwan. Our history is always fighting to be a country but now is a special time. The time now is favoring Taiwan. The Taiwanese don’t have to say the ROC is our country.”
“We Taiwanese do not want to be unified with China and the United States doesn’t want Taiwan and China to be unified because it would lose many benefits. The Taiwanese have not been on their own for four hundred years,” declared Su Beng.
“Chiang Kai-shek’s fascism hangs like a shadow over Taiwan.”
Su Beng talked about the Taipei shrine to Chiang Kai-shek: “The statue is still there because about that the Taiwanese don’t have much sense. It should not be there.”
“Martial law ended by 1988, but not totally. There are still remnants of behavior. Fifty years ago when I had to go to Japan, things were very different than now. There were many supporters of Taiwan independence.”
Su Beng is friends with Aquia Tsay of the Taiwan Justice Rescue Force, currently engaged in street protests, and has some advice: “I think that as long as the demonstrators use non-violence as their slogan they will be seen as not fighting against Ma, so that is not a good idea. Aquia Tsay is still inexperienced with demonstrations, so the police use his inexperience to attack him. When you protest, you must have a lot of supporters around for protection.”
“When people are afraid of violence they will be scared away. With the Kuomintang in charge people are still frightened,” said Su Beng. Many would like to move to America where they have everything.”
To Su Beng, the so-called “one China” policy means that Taiwan has two Chinese enemies, one on the mainland and one entrenched in Taiwan: “For the past thirty years China has been trying to harness Taiwan. People still follow or pay attention to what they write. So, common people still do not have the power to say something. The government officers, the professionals, they don’t say anything. The Chinese, they can win elections because they can pay to influence the election. Enough to support a whole family for a month for a vote, so the public accepts that.”
“Everyone says please America, help Taiwan,” said Su Beng. “The Taiwanese must first learn to help themselves. But America will still need to help the Taiwanese with its danger so it doesn’t become a Pearl Harbor,”
“My book 400 Years of Taiwan History is written according to the facts of Taiwan’s history. What China and Ma Ying-jeou say is not true. Most of the book is about the controllers. But what the book really is about is the people,” said Su Beng.
“In revolutions there are martyrs. In the western world there are martyrs in the revolutions but in Taiwan we don’t have that idea or experience. Taiwan needs a revolution but it is hard, there are too many fears. So we need economic education so we can have an economic revolution, that way we can have part of a revolution,” said Su Beng.
Su Beng concluded the interview: “We are very thankful for your work. There are not many foreign people with dedication like you. We agree that the work of a democracy belongs to the citizens. Many people scold the KMT but the KMT is powerful.”
“Taiwan has many problems, not only President Chen. The Kuomintang is mean to many dissidents so Taiwan is speechless.”