Imagine not being allowed to vote for those that govern you, your liberties and rights restricted because martial law had been declared and the country ruled by an evil dictatorship that had secret police watching the entire populations every move. A place where even simply giving your opinion on current politics could get you jailed, with the possibility of torture. Government spies have the potential to be anywhere at anytime, ready to turn you in at the slightest hint of rebellion in your demeanor.
Dr. Lena Hsieh, the lone political science professor at Yuba College, has lived through such an ordeal. Because of Taiwan’s previous government, and their gross restrictions on her liberties and rights, Hsieh eventually became a big part of the movement that helped bring down the repressive government and put in its place, a democratic government the people chose. Hsieh wraps it up nicely by just saying, “our government was lying to us.”
Hsieh began her political science career as a student during her last year of high school in Taiwan. By becoming a part of the student social movement that had the intention of getting the control of their country returned to its citizens, Hsieh said, “It changed my life.” This was just the warm up to bigger, better, and more exciting politics, all first hand experience.
Hsieh met more and more students with the same desire for democracy that she carried when she first began college in Taiwan. Majoring in comparative politics, Hsieh found herself involved in the student movement further and further until she was fully enveloped by the movement.
This is where Hsieh met secret police that would follow those in opposition of the government, appear at every protest rally, and even go as far as assassinating those who held top positions within the movement.
Because of her intense involvement with the student movement for democracy, Hsieh also had the opportunity to meet some of those that would later hold key positions in the new democratic government, as well as those in the media, getting her foot in the door of politics early in her career.
By helping to get local politicians elected after earning her Bachelor degree, Hsieh was hired as an aide to a congressman she supported, who was later elected to the Taiwanese senate.
Hsieh is still a large part of the movement for a free Taiwan as a member of the international organization, “World United Formosans for Independence”, also known as WUFI, where diplomats, international students, professors, and intellectuals throughout the world push for a Taiwan free from China’s influence. Hsieh calls WUFI, “a big family,” where she “has not met so many wonderful leaders in one room or building.”
This shows the bonds and lifetime relationships that can develop when you have the opportunity to unite for a common goal or cause with like-minded individuals.
Hsieh said that she chose to study international relations because she would like to find the best future for Taiwan against a rising China, both economically and politically. Saying, “I would like to find a peaceful exit for Taiwan and get Taiwan through the complicated international setting. Deliver the birth of a new Taiwan.” With the freedom and democracy of her homeland always on her mind, Hsieh will continue the fight for a free and independent Taiwan. Saying,“we will not give up,” even though countries like the United States are not being very helpful and continue to side with China when the policy on Taiwan and Taiwan’s independence comes up between the two countries.
When asked what advice she would give to the students of Yuba College, Hsieh said, “dream big, work hard to pursue your dream by planning it and make little efforts everyday.” She said that students should not feel trapped by being in a small town and that by working hard, acting responsible and reliable, you have the opportunity to “pursue your dreams.”
Hopefully, the next time you’re sitting in American Politics with Professor Hsieh you will remember that she not only teaches about rights and liberties, she has actually fought for them.