In 1949, as a precursor of the White Terror in what became known as the April 6 Incident, military and police officers entered campus grounds and arrested students of National Taiwan University (NTU) and Taiwan Provincial Teachers College (now National Taiwan Normal University).

Youthful passion is a hallmark of university campuses. In every era since its founding, students at National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) had periodically protested for civil rights. After the April 6 Incident, order was imposed on campus. However, during the period of martial law, students still showed their patriotism as intellectuals and participated in the Defending Diaoyu Islands Movement in 1971, which triggered the NTU Philosophy Department Incident in 1972.

After martial law was lifted in 1987, Taiwan’s political climate drastically changed and students started to challenge the traditional system. The Wild Lily Student Movement in 1990 brought freedom and democracy to university campuses. This exhibition aims to present the history of democratic movements on college campuses in Taiwan with relevant files, historical documents, and data and cultural relics so that future generations will carry on the spirit of democracy and freedom..

Student Movements on Campus

NTNU started out as Taihoku Higher School under the Taiwanese Governor-General (later changed to Taiwan Provincial Taipei High School). Students at the school once boycotted classes to push back against what they considered to be unjust punishments and on the issue of educational reform, which startled the authorities.

Panorama of Taihoku Higher School during the Japanese colonial period

In 1948, the continuous enrollment of transfer students by NTU was opposed by the Student Association. Members of the Association persuaded candidates taking the transfer examination to leave the test site mid-exam so that the examination could not be completed. The fallout resulted in the forced resignation of NTU’s President and Dean of Academic Affairs.

On March 20, 1949, two students from NTU and Taiwan Provincial Teachers College respectively were apprehended and severely beaten by the police for riding together on one bike. Subsequently, classmates angered on their behalf besieged the police station to protest police brutality and attracted the attention of the authorities. Cheng Chen (陳誠), then-Chairman of the Taiwan Provincial Government, was afraid that the issue would continue to spread and impact Taiwan’s social order, which led him to order the arrests of students involved in the protest. When the student bodies of both schools refused to turn over those to be arrested, the ensuing chain of events became part of the April 6 Incident.

News Coverage reported by Central Daily News on April 7, 1949

White Terror in the 1950s

With the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, America turned to support the Kuomingtang-controlled government in Taiwan. To stabilize its power, the government stipulated the Temporary Anti-Espionage Provisions Effective During the Period of Communist Rebellion (戡亂時期檢肅匪諜條例), Betrayers Punishment Act (懲治叛亂條例) and other acts to purge dissidents, resulting in the arrests of a large number of intellectuals. Eight NTU and Taiwan Provincial Teachers College students were arrested and executed by firing squad in the case of Student Work Committee of CCP’s Taiwan Province Work Committee alone, and the severity of court sentences was much greater than those for the April 6 Incident.

Students of Taiwan Provincial Teachers College sentenced to death in the case of Student Work Committee of CCP’s Taiwan Province Work Committee.

Campus during Martial Law

After Taiwan’s government declared the imposition of martial law, Liu Zhen (劉真) was designated for the post of Dean of Taiwan Provincial Teachers College. To manage students on campus, he formulated the Regulations Governing Students Attending Flag Raising and Lowering Ceremonies, Morning Exercises and Assemblies on and off Campus (學生升降旗早操及校內外集會管理辦法), making it mandatory for students to attend morning assemblies and flag-raising ceremonies. Meanwhile, Intellectual Youths Party Headquarters (知識青年黨部) and Chinese Youth Anti-Communist National Salvation Corps (青年反共救國團) were established on campus to manage students’ activities.

In 1970, to protest the US transfer of jurisdiction over the Ryukyu Islands and the Diaoyutai Islets to Japan, Taiwanese students studying in the United States launched the Defending Diaoyu Islands Movement. In attempting to ease the conflict, the government triggered the NTU Philosophy Department Incident. However, after the USA terminated diplomatic relations with Taiwan in 1978, student movements were pushed to another climax.

Flag raising ceremony at NTNU (1975)

Campus Democratization

On July 14, 1987, Taiwan’s government announced the lifting of martial law, which led to the acceleration of a democratic transition and an open and diverse society. After the Wild Lily Student Movement successfully brought about the reelection of Congress, colleges and universities also began moving toward democracy. In addition to promoting the transparent selection of the university president, students established self-governing student associations. Moreover, the student body redressed grievances against political cases that occurred during the martial law period in an effort to uphold the value of human rights.

NTNU removed the bronze statue of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣中正) in front of the Administration Building in 2011.

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