Taiwanese Americans had back-to-back reasons to gather this weekend in the Bay Area.
A Tale of Two Islands: Hong Kong x Taiwan Fair
In San Leandro, Formosan United Methodist Church, one of the most longstanding Taiwanese churches in the United States, played host to the Hong Kong x Taiwan Fair 台港交流日, named 雙島: A Tale of Two Islands. This was the inaugural collaboration between the Taiwanese American Federation of Northern California, a primary first-gen coalition of organizations like the North America Taiwanese Women’s Association – Northern California Chapter; the Hong Kong Affairs Association of Berkeley (HKAAB); the US Hong Kongers Club; Hong Konger Community Center (HKCC); Hong Kongers in the SF Bay Area; and Artual Club.
The event opened with a roundtable discussion among local community leaders: Jim Chang, President of the Taiwanese American Federation of Northern California (celebrating its 50th anniversary this year); Pastor William Chou of the Formosan United Methodist Church; Pam Tsai, President of the Senior Taiwanese Association of Northern California; and Alex Woo, co-founder of the recently opened Hong Konger Community Center. The Taiwanese speakers shared their experiences of coming to the United States as graduate students and becoming political exiles while Taiwan was under martial law. They reflected on the comfort they found in other Taiwanese students and young adults, and how the basis of these friendships became the foundation of flourishing Taiwanese American organizations and community institutions around the United States.
They also emphasized the importance of physical spaces to gather and see each other “eye to eye.” Both Pastor Chou and Pastor Huang of East Bay Formosan United Methodist Church readily offered up their facilities to local Hong Kongers for future community collaboration, citing the Taiwanese Presbyterian Church’s historical significance in the Taiwanese Independence movement.
Woo shared his vision for the HKCC to become a comprehensive support system for multi-generational Hong Konger families and individuals, connecting them to the resources and relationships they might need to flourish here. They share a similar mission to TAFNC and many other first-gen Taiwanese American organizations: to serve each other and our hopes of finding dignity, meaning, and belonging in the United States. Moderator Leona Chen remarked that their work would resonate for future generations: “as a second-generation Taiwanese American, I have confidence that I belong because my elders built this community for me. As much as you are serving new immigrants to the United States, you are doing something special for your children and grandchildren, too.”
In the main hall, attendees worked on a collaborative art project. A group of Hong Kongers and Taiwanese had designed a mural together, each contributing a drawing of food, attractions, scenarios, events, and other elements that were meaningful and evocative for them. Attendees were then invited to color in a piece of the mural before they would be arranged together. Aggregated, the drawings reveal the spirit of the community members and attendees and gesture at the solidarity between us.
The Artual Club was organized by local Hong Kong creatives and artists to “reflect to ourselves our lives, values, and feelings.” After the 2019 protests in Hong Kong, these artists wanted to form a space and community to encourage each other’s creative pursuits. Throughout the year, their projects have ranged from refurbished/repurposed art – turning everyday items into extraordinary declarations of creative spirit – to inspiring painted tin boxes and leather keychains. They brought a greeting card mini-workshop to the event, featuring block print stamps and handcrafted felt apples with Taiwan and umbrella motifs as an homage to Hong Kong’s “Apple Daily.”
Our second session of the day featured Chieh-Ting Yeh for a candid discussion on developments in US-Taiwan relations (we later found that growing up on the East Coast he had attended a church led by, and been inspired by, Pastor William Chou, who’d spoken in a roundtable earlier – we love how tight-knit the Taiwanese American community is!).
Chieh-Ting Yeh is a venture partner for Farron, Augustine and Alexander in Silicon Valley, and a director of US Taiwan Watch, an international think tank focusing on US-Taiwan relations. He grew up in Taiwan and New York and graduated with a BA in chemistry from Harvard and a JD from Harvard Law School. He was the Co-President of the Harvard Asia Law Society. He worked on international affairs and strategy at the DPP, London’s Demos think tank and the Third Society Party. He founded Ketagalan Media, a media brand for contemporary Taiwan politics, business, and culture. He also co-founded the Global Taiwan Institute, a DC-based think tank, was its Vice Chairman and serves as an Advisor. He serves on the Standing Committee of the Board of Directors of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) and was its young professionals’ coordinator. He is also an advisor for National Taiwan Normal University’s International Taiwan Studies Center.
He then joined Kennedy Wong and Christopher Lee for a roundtable discussion on diasporic community building and advocacy.
Kennedy Wong is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of Southern California. He is an editorial board member and contributing writer for Flow HK, a diasporic Hong Kong magazine. He is also a diaspora and research fellow with Hong Kong Democracy Council, a DC-based advocacy organization. As an international student born and raised in Hong Kong, Wong is deeply interested in how immigrants engage in anti-authoritarianism politics as a form of homeland and global activism. His research focuses on how exiled Hong Konger activists build a political community of Hong Konger immigrants and form coalitions with Thai, Burmese, Taiwanese, Uyghurs, Tibetans, and others in the United States and Canada.
Christopher Lee is a volunteer and member of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs and the HongKonger Community Center. A native New Yorker turned Californian and the son of Hong Kong immigrants, he currently resides in San Jose. He speaks Mandarin, Hong Kong Cantonese, and elementary Taiwanese. As an activist, Chris advocates for Hong Kong and Taiwanese legislation with Congressional and Senate staff. He also volunteers on strategy in Asian American voter turnout for the elections in the US.
Kennedy’s session focused on his work with Flow HK, a diasporic Hong Kong magazine.
Candia Tong also joined virtually. Candia is a Hong Kong human rights defender, co-founder of Healing for HK, and Vice Secretary General of Flow HK. She has been helping asylum seekers from Hong Kong in Taiwan since 2019 with local Taiwan human rights organizations. Taiwan doesn’t have a refugee law due to national security concerns, but Candia and Taiwan civic groups have organized campaigns, developed a network of humanitarian assistance and advocated for the legislation of the asylum system. She hopes that Taiwan can become a country that espouses human rights, respects the rule of law and welcomes those forcibly displaced.
HISTORY OF SOCIAL MOVEMENTS
People in Hong Kong and Taiwan have been resilient as shown in the many social movements in modern history. While this timeline focused primarily on incidents occurring in the last few decades to highlight political solidarity between Taiwan and Hong Kong, organizers acknowledged that Taiwan’s modern history of social movements can be traced back to the Japanese occupation. Taiwan’s long history of civil resistance reminds us that the democratic system and freedoms we enjoy now are fragile and require constant vigilance to defend.
“We stand in solidarity with and learn from each other; we always stand on the side of the egg against the wall,” writes co-organizer Winnie Lau. “Amidst political turmoils happening in Hong Kong, our hearts are with our people and those under oppression. We need to continue to engage in conversations to build alliances and take back our futures. “The History of Social Movements interactive timeline exhibit invited participants to use sticky notes to share their thoughts, questions, and insights on this timeline.
Social movements, after all, offer us a framework within which to understand how ‘individual efforts accumulate into a collective force capable of generating social changes’ (Ho, 2019: 211). These are our – and your – stories. How does each of us feel? What will each of us say?
Another classroom featured books by Taiwanese American authors (presented by TaiwaneseAmerican.org) and books on Contemporary Hong Kong (presented by HKCC).
Organizers and supporting organizations of this event:
北加州台灣同鄉聯合會 Taiwanese American Federation of Northern California (TAFNC) @tafnc1
柏克萊加州大學香港事務組織 Hong Kong Affairs Association of Berkeley (HKAAB) @hkaaberk
美國香港人會館 US HongKongers Club @ushongkongersclub
香港人社區中心 Hongkonger Community Center @hkercommunitycenter
Hong Kongers in SF Bay Area @hksfbayarea
Artual Club @artualclub
Yelo 野舖 @imyelo1314
北美洲臺灣婦女會 – 北加州分會 North America Taiwanese Women’s Association – Northern California (NATWA-NC)
中華民國僑務委員會 Taiwan Overseas Community Affairs Council @ocac_taiwan
雲海 Yun Hai @yunhaishop
HK x TW Fair also received generous sponsorship from Yun Hai Taiwanese Pantry. Yun Hai is dedicated to sharing the culture of Taiwan through food, working directly with artisans, farmers, and soy sauce brewers in Taiwan. When China banned Taiwanese pineapples in 2021, Yun Hai launched a crowdfunding campaign to import dried fruits from Taiwanese farmers to the US; these fruits continue to provide an alternative export option for independent farmers today. Volunteers and attendees were able to enjoy Yun Hai’s lineup of Taiwanese dried fruits.
Fire EX: Bay Area Concert
“Formed in the southern port city of Kaohsiung, Taiwan’s Second City, Fire Ex. has for two straight decades gone from strength to strength, penning one hooky, politically charged anthem after another. Known as much for their social activism as they are for their soaring, anthemic take on the pop punk genre, Fire Ex. band members Sam Yang (vocals, guitar), ORio (guitar), JC(bass) and KG (drums) have since forming in the year 2000 championed causes near and dear to the millennial generation of Taiwanese.
Over the course of five full-length albums, the band has never shied from those themes both personal and political. When the Sunflower Movement kicked off in in March of 2014, Fire Ex. penned what would come to be known as the anthem of the tens of thousands of protesters. That anthem, “Island’s Sunrise,” further cemented Fire Ex.’s already unassailable reputation as a “band of the Taiwanese people.”
Fast forward to 2019 and Fire Ex. is at it again with their latest socio-political power anthem “Stand Up Like a Taiwanese,” taken from their latest album, their fifth, of the same name. 2019 also saw the return of the band’s own personally curated Fireball Fest, a two-day rock, punk and metal extravaganza at Taoyuan International Baseball Stadium.
It’s not many bands that can claim to be at their strongest nearly two decades into their career. But Fire Ex. are one of those few who can pull it off.” (Source)