Starting in the early 1970s, thousands of Taiwanese immigrants came to the United States each year, in pursuit of higher education and better lives for their families. Yet, mostly untold, is the story of how hundreds of these Taiwanese in America were put on a blacklist by the government in Taiwan, for speaking out for democracy and human rights in Taiwan while they were in the United States. Once outside of Taiwan, that generation of Taiwanese graduate students were exposed to the values of freedom and human rights. They saw that their beloved homeland of Taiwan was a far cry from democratic principles. As a result, they voiced critical opinions of the KMT regime and Taiwan’s martial law.
Created by the Kuomingtang (KMT) party ruling over Taiwan, the “blacklist” is believed to have started in the 1950s. According to some documents, 350 names were blacklisted, most of them overseas Taiwanese citizens, and the blacklist denied them the right to return to their homeland. Due to the secrecy of Taiwan’s security and operational agencies at the time, no one knows exactly how long the system existed, or the actual details of the operation. However, it is known that the KMT regime used spies on college campuses to collect names of overseas Taiwanese to add to the blacklist.
Christina Hu’s documentary,
Blacklist, gives us a glimpse of three fearless Taiwanese American leaders who were blacklisted, and the struggles they encountered. Hong-Tien Lai, Patrick Huang, and Mark Kao arrived in the U.S. as graduate students and were exposed to political writings that were forbidden under the KMT Martial Law regime. They founded Taiwanese student organizations on college campuses, and advocated for democratic rule and independence in Taiwan.
Working tirelessly, they dedicated their lives for their vision of a democratic Taiwan. In response to their activities, the government in Taiwan blocked them from returning home to Taiwan for almost two decades, denying them the basic human right of visiting their families in Taiwan. Taiwanese who were on the blacklist suffered injustices, and were even denied the chance to attend family weddings, or to pay final respects to their parents when they passed away. Yet, the brave people on the blacklist never lost faith in their vision of a democratic Taiwan.
The blacklist was officially lifted in 1992, and after that people on the blacklist were able to return to Taiwan. Yet, their dedication for a free Taiwan has not wavered. To this day, these fearless leaders from the Taiwanese American community continue to serve the Taiwan, and Taiwanese people, that they love so dearly.
Watch Christina Hu’s Blacklist: About the filmmaker: Christina Hu is a Certified Community Producer with BRIC, and finds her inspirations from journalists like Bill Moyers and Christiane Amanpour. She is a Returned U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer and holds a B.A. in Foreign Affairs from UVA and a Master’s degree from Harvard Kennedy School. Blacklist is her second documentary film that follows Taiwan’s journey toward democratization through the experiences of Taiwanese political activists who were blacklisted by the ruling party KMT.