From dictatorial to democratic, Taiwan's democracy was been hard-won through the sacrifices of brave individuals, many of whom paid with their freedom, and some, with their lives.
From the 1980s up to the first peaceful transition of power in 2000, street protests in Taiwan surged. Numerous grassroots organizations devoted themselves to advocating for democracy, despite the inherent dangers of doing so under the yoke of authoritarianism. In order to pursue democracy, freedom, and justice, they bravely challenged dictatorship. They did this despite threats from Taiwan Garrison Command and the state security forces, as well as being blocked by barbed wire and barricades when confronting the police on the ground. Oftentimes dispersed by water cannons or ruthlessly beaten by the riot police, many ended up injured or hospitalized, but still undeterred. The passion and courage of these selfless unsung heroes who helped shape Taiwan's democratization will not be forgotten.
The zenith of Taiwan's movement for democratization saw people from across societal lines take to the streets. This exhibition is focused on the protest movements of the Changhua Plain, with a display of images of their demonstrations as well as oral testimonies and publications that give the stories behind the pictures. The people of Changhua are famous for their defiant attitude against injustice and inequality. From the Battle of Bagua Mountain (1895) and Erlin Sugarcane Farmers Incident (1924-1924) during the Japanese colonial period to the February 28 Incident (1947) after World War II, the people of Changhua have boldly stood up to the authorities. In the Anti-Dupont Movement (1986) before the lifting of martial law, the efforts of Lukang residents gave impetus to the establishment of the Environmental Protection Administration. As the protest procession of the February 28 Peace Day Promotion Association marched into Changhua in 1987, the fearless locals came out in droves, only to be beaten mercilessly by police batons. After the era of the KMT's unchallenged rule was brought to an end, these protesters returned to their daily lives. Some carved out successful professional careers, others enjoyed their remaining years with their families, while some left this world old and sick or spent their remaining years enmeshed in solitude. Regardless, their devotion to just causes will live long in the collective memory.
The exhibition design uses "fists" and "barbed wire" as its main elements to show how the participants in early street protesters confronted the police with extreme courage, by waving their bare hands against the shield, batons, and barricades of the riot police, backed by a resolute dedication and faith in democracy. The composer Liu Shueh-shuan brings together photos that record key social movements in Taiwan from 1987 to 2000 with his original music Symphony for the Unsung Heroes, which premiered at this special exhibition and pays homage to the millions of the unsung heroes who fought for Taiwan's democracy.