The Chen Wen-Chen Memorial Foundation was established in memory of Chen Wen-Chen, a man who loved his native homeland, Taiwan. At the end of a six week visit to his native homeland, accompanied by his wife and on-year-old son, Chen Wen-Chen was held for extensive questioning by the authorities in Taiwan in regard to his statements against the totalitarian government ruling Taiwan. He never returned home that night and was found dead the next day, July 3, 1981. The Chen Wen-Chen Memorial Foundation was founded, soon afterwards, in order to promote social, economical and political justice as well as human rights for the Taiwanese people.
CHEN WEN-CHEN: HIS ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND HIS IDEAS
Chen Wen-Chen was born in Taipei, Taiwan on January 30, 1950. He was one of five boys in a family which included eight children. As a youth he was noted for being outstanding in sporting events and in scholastic endeavors. After graduation from high school in 1968, he went on to earn his Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from the National Taiwan University in 1972. After serving a mandatory two years in the Taiwanese Army, he left his native homeland in 1975 and continued his graduate studies in the United States at the University of Michigan Statistics Department. He received his Master of Science in statistics in 1976 and his Ph.D. in statistics only two years later in 1978. On June 12, 1976 he married his college sweetheart Chen Su-Jen. In September of 1978 they moved to Pittsburgh where Dr. Chen joined the faculty of Carnegie-Mellon University Statistics Department.
In a relatively short period of time Dr. Chen became one of the leading researchers in the fields of theoretical and applied probability and statistics. His work was presented at various conferences throughout the United States and was widely known through his published articles describing his advances in the field. At Carnegie-Mellon the courses he taught ranged from basic undergraduate level to advanced level seminars for Ph.D.s.
Aside from these scholastic achievements, Dr. Chen was also involved in an effort of enlightenment; an effort to understand the ruling polices of his native homeland, Taiwan.
During his time in the United States, Dr. Chen avidly read about the current state of affairs in the Far East and the overall nature and intricate complexities of foreign policy. He became involved in a realm vastly different from statistics by attending lectures, giving speeches and involving himself in the affairs of the Taiwanese community. His beliefs were straightforward. He believed that since the native Taiwanese make up 85% of the 17-18 million people on Taiwan, that they should be able to share some of the legislative responsibilities and powers of that country with the Chinese Nationalist officials. The Nationalists ruling class party (known as the Kuo Ming Tang, or KMT) which has had an uninterrupted 38 years (May 20, 1948) military rule over Taiwan, did not necessarily agree. Using campus spies, they monitored Dr. Chen's political activities, statements, and effors to change Taiwan to a more democratic system.
HIS FATEFUL TRIP TO TAIWAN
On May 20, 1981 Dr. Chen returned to Taiwan with his wife, Su-Jen, and their one-year-old son, Eric, to visit their families. This was a most important event, for it was a time to reflect on all the good things that had happened since Dr. Chen had left Taiwan in the summer of 1975. Since this time, his personal life had blossomed with a happy marriage with Su-Jen and the arrival of his new son, Eric. His professional life was increasingly successful as he had just received a second three year term as assistant professor with the Carnegie-Mellon Statistics Department. Every thing was directed in a positive direction.
After a relaxing stay of six weeks, the departure date of July 1 grew close; however, at that time Dr. Chen was denied departure status and was requested to appear for informal questioning at police headquarters. After his interview, he was told to stay home the next morning and to wait for a phone call from the Garrison Command concerning his departure permit. The next day, instead of calling, three Garrison Command officials came to his home and asked to see him for further questioning. As Su-Jen saw her husband walk away with the Garrison Command officials , she never imagined that would be the last time she ever saw him alive. On July 3, 1981, Dr. Chen was found dead. The circumstances of his death were clouded and contradictory as portrayed by the authorities in Taiwan. No clear facts could be obtained concerning the multitude of unanswerable questions that arose from the mysterious death of Dr. Chen.
Outraged that a professor from a prestigious American school could be found dead with no credible answers as to the circumstances surrounding the event, United States officials and statesmen immediately requested a complete and thorough investigation from the government leaders of Taiwan. Little, if any, action was taken by the Taiwan government. Five months later, a pathologist from the United States went to Taiwan to perform a second autopsy in an effort to resolve the issue. The account was published by the pathologist, Cyril H. Wecht, M.D., J.D., in Murder in Taiwan, in The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 6(2):97-103, June 1985, Raven Press, NY, NY. After reviewing the pathology report, it was concluded, by U.S. officials, friends, and relatives, that Dr. Chen was the victim of a murder based on his political beliefs and his actions. To this date, the authorities in Taiwan have never convincingly defended themselves in regard to these accusations. After six months with no resolution in sight, no questions truly answered, and no justice delivered for the merciless death of an innocent man, Su-Jen allowed her husband to be laid to rest in his native homeland of Taiwan on January 7, 1982.
THE DAYS THAT FOLLOWED
Literally hundreds of news articles and reports were filed in the United States on this international event. Sympathy, concern, and outrage were just a few of the many emotions that were felt by all. Many letters were received by Su-Jen asking if there was anything they could do to help. Contributions were made in his honor. A conscious effort was underway to not let this event fade into the past as so many had before. Some outward recognition had to be made for the untimely death of such an innocent, gifted man. In April of 1982 the Chen Wen-Chen Memorial Foundation (CWCMF) was founded by Su-Jen and a few close friends. Its immediate goal was to make use of the generous monetary contributions that were made to Su-Jen and Eric that would in some way benefit the Taiwanese community, both in the United States and in Taiwan.
The by-laws of the CWCMF outlined the general directive of the Foundation as the following:
- To support the study and the documentation of Taiwanese history and culture.
- To promote social, economic and political justice and human rights for the Taiwanese.
- For these purposes there will be a yearly financial award to individuals who make significant contributions in these areas. There will also be scholarships available to needy Taiwanese Americans.
- To raise funds for these awards through fund raising activities.
Each of these general directives were consistent with Dr. Chen's original beliefs and outward initiatives in trying to create a more enlightened, democratic and truth seeking Taiwanese society.
Since these guidelines have been set forth, great progress had been made in many of the areas. This progress can best be described by briefly summarizing the various activities of the CWCMF and its related organizations.
VARIOUS PROGRAMS INITIATED BY THE CWCMF
In an effort to support the study and the documentation of Taiwanese history and culture, a magazine, published bimonthly, was created. The magazine, Taiwan Culture, was a means by which a variety of subjects can be discussed; for example, one article may describe the earliest historical activities on the island of Taiwan while another article may present the most recent socioeconomic and political events in Taiwan along with a critical reviews of those events. Essays, short stories and other community events related to the Taiwanese society were also part of the magazine. Prominent writers in the community contributed regularly as the magazine grew in circulation. The magazine is no longer published in the United States, yet the influence of it was enormous. It brought about public attention to Taiwanese culture and language, and various political and social issues.
In an effort for cultural, social and economic ideas to be efficiently transferred back and forth between the United States and Taiwan, a project denoted as the Taiwan-United States Cultural Exchange, TUSCE, had been developed. The goal of the project was to promote educational programs concerned with the arts, culture, social sciences and peoples of both countries. Programs included music performances, poetry readings, art exhibits, lectures in history, and film showings. This program enabled artists and educators to meet with their counterparts in the other country. TUSCE is also supported by the Taiwanese Association of America and the Taiwanese Professors Association of North America. Events were held throughout the United States and Taiwan.
As a result of the foundation of the TUSCE program, the construction of the Taiwan-United States Cultural Exchange Center, dedicated to the memory of the efforts of Dr. Chen Wen-Chen, has been initiated in Taipei, Taiwan. The TUSCE Center provides facilities for public events as well as cultural seminars and informal meetings. Exhibitions, music performances, films and lectures are among the many events in the past. The facility will also house offices for those involved in the various projects underway.
In an effort to recognize outstanding scholastic efforts in the Taiwanese and Taiwanese American student community (particularly those high school students interested in going to college and those students currently enrolled in college), four to six CWCMF scholarships, $1,000 to $1,500 each, are awarded each year. The selection is based upon character, scholastic ability, financial need, and participation in Taiwanese American community affairs. Traditionally, these scholarships are awarded at the annual Taiwanese American Conference / East Coast Region (TAC/EC), which takes place on or around the Fourth of July. It is these types of fresh perspectives that keep the very nature of the CWCMF on course towards achieving its broad spectrum of directives.
In addition to these programs, CWCMF also supported Taiwanese Organizations such as ITASA and Taiwanese Collegian in the United States, and publications such as Taiwan Tribune, Pacific Times, and Taiwan Communiqué. There are other notable events such as the CWCMF Cup Tennis Team Tournament, which is held in various cities throughout the United States each year. Sport events such as this help to promote sportsmanship and the spirit of teamwork.