Freddy Lim is the lead singer of Chthonic, the former chair of Amnesty International Taiwan, and currently a legislator for the New Power Party. The following interview was conducted on March 7th, 2019.


Brian Hioe:  The first thing I wanted to ask is, how did you begin participating in Taiwanese social movements? What made you want to participate and what kind of issues did you participate in?

Freddy Lim:  It probably was in my junior year of college, when I began read some books regarding Taiwanese history. Some collections began to appear in Eslite about topics like that around that time. Reading books like that…it was probably because limitations on publication began to be more relaxed then.

Photo credit: CHTHONIC 閃靈/Facebook

That is, I had some opportunities to read about various social issues and after that, I began to be aware of social movements regarding such issues. I started to feel that I should also stand up for these causes.

Brian Hioe:  How did you begin to participate in Amnesty International or organizations like that? Or to express political views through music?

Freddy Lim:  After participating in social movement events, I would notice which organizations put together these events. That included some human rights groups, such as the Taiwan Association for Human Rights, Amnesty International, or organizations like that. And other groups which stood up for causes. So I got to know them better.

I gradually found that I could do more than just attending events put together by these organizations, that I could participate in their work. Music, of course, is my personal specialty. So when needed, if I could help out through my music, I would do that. We organized two music festivals for free Tibet. We also organized shows regarding transitional justice. Music was what I knew best, I felt that this was how I could help out.

Brian Hioe:  What were you doing at the time of the Sunflower Movement?

Freddy Lim:  At the time, I was the president of Amnesty International Taiwan. I was also the lead singer of Chthonic. I participated in the movement in both roles.

Well, it’s not so easy to divide between in which role I participated in the movement more. I was generally concerned with these issues. I knew a lot of people there, including friends, fans, and others. It was fans who messaged us initially, asking if we could go there to support the movement. Basically, from when the movement broke out, I was there all the time.

Photo credit: 林昶佐 Freddy Lim/Facebook

Different stages in the occupation site were managed by different groups. I was invited to speak and also helped to get more people to come and speak. Up until 323, during the Executive Yuan incident. Because I was the president of Amnesty International, I quickly contacted the main headquarters, so we made a statement regarding the police violence that took place then. I did what I could during that time.

Brian Hioe:  Did you have any views regarding the decisions made by the core decision-making group in the Legislative Yuan at the time? And there were various views on what took place on 324. There were a lot of splits then.

Freddy Lim:  I personally didn’t participate in their decision-making process directly. My role in the movement was still more that of a supporter. They faced many difficulties in their decision-making process. The decisions they had to make were in themselves difficult.

There would be people who had different viewpoints. There were many students from different backgrounds, concerned with different issues, and they were all in the same movement. So it’s hard for me to come to any judgment. But whether with regards to the Legislative Yuan or the Executive Yuan, either side, I felt quite supportive.

Brian Hioe:  Do you see your participation in Taiwanese social movements as linked with your sense of Taiwanese identity?

Freddy Lim:  Of course it’s connected. I believe that it was probably for most participants in the movement. If you’re not concerned with Taiwan’s existence and its survival, you probably would not concern yourself with this movement. I believe that most participants probably shared this view.

Photo credit: 林昶佐 Freddy Lim/Facebook

Brian Hioe:  What I think is quite interesting is that different participants understood the movement differently. For example, with this movement opposed to China? To the KMT? To free trade?

Freddy Lim:  I think the greatest momentum still came from the threat of China. From the increased alertness regarding the threat of China. The biggest momentum was still probably this. Of course, with an increased awareness of this, the KMT came to stand in for these threats, as the ruling party, and one which continually was aiming to reduce the distance between Taiwan and China. This led to a sense of danger and this came to constitute the core, or the bottom line of what motivated people.

In the end, that momentum was expressed in different languages and in different forms, whether people said they were opposed to the CSSTA or whatever else, but it was present in all these different views. But I still believe the core value was still that sense of danger regarding the threat of China to Taiwan’s survival, that lack of faith.

Brian Hioe:  Why do you think that Taiwanese social movements, particularly in the last few years, are more progressive or left-leaning? Many issues that Taiwanese social movements are concerned with are related to China, but they sometimes aren’t directly related. Such as gay marriage, for example.

Freddy Lim:  I think this may be related to generational differences. For many young people, China is one of many issues that they are concerned with. Other issues, which are domestic in nature, they also care about. So you see many progressive issues have many young opinion leaders that have emerged.

The previous generation may have focused on pursuing democratization and self-determination as their most important aim. In resisting dictatorial power.

Photo credit: 林昶佐 Freddy Lim/Facebook

Brian Hioe:  How do you think this movement has affected Taiwan, close to five years later? How has it affected Taiwan, whether in terms of politics, society, culture, and identification? We’ve seen the emergence of the New Power Party in the since then, as well, going from occupying the Legislative Yuan to being elected in the Legislative Yuan.

Freddy Lim:  Regarding Taiwanese identification, I believe that Taiwanese identification has become more and more clear over time, viewing one’s self as Taiwanese and not Chinese. This is increasingly natural for young people.

The movement likely temporarily increased Taiwanese identification, but it has now returned to gradually increasing. You may see shifts over time, but as a whole, that trend won’t stop or even necessarily increase because of a movement. We did see a spike, but it’s gone back to slowly increasing.

I think that the force of social opposition that was brought out by the movement has become formalized. This opposition to the system hasn’t faded away in these past few years either. Whether with regards to 2014 elections, 2016 elections, or last year’s elections. Expressions of this sense of opposition could even be said to include the rise of Han Kuo-yu.

Of course, I don’t believe that the Han phenomenon is a healthy phenomenon, at least for hopes to change the system. Han Kuo-yu is not a politician that can live up to these expectations. But with the appearance of a politician who cannot live up these expectations, this opposition will find other forms of expression. Such a politician appeared because the DPP couldn’t live up to these expectations that it would enact change and so this opposition found another means of expression.

From occupying the Legislative Yuan, or attempting to occupy the Executive Yuan, this gave society a very large shock. This showed that the system could be overcome through resistance. That view has lasted until now.

Photo credit: 林昶佐 Freddy Lim/Facebook

Brian Hioe:  How do you look at what you have been through in the last few years? You’ve gone from being outside of the system to being within it. What’s left the deepest impression on you in this process?

Freddy Lim:  In the past few years, there are still many things we’ve seen progress in. Included gay marriage, which will pass in some form in the next few months. I believe so, anyway. What’s left the deepest impression is the belief that politics needs more people to be involved, as well as more patience, in order to observe changes. I say this because I feel that this society has gone from the KMT’s China-centric view to the DPP’s view of a four hundred years of Taiwanese historical resistance. And for the perspective of the next generation, whether this in terms of “natural independence” or etc., it’s not like how the DPP grew from the dangwai movement into the political force it is now. It’s a new situation.

This situation is still changing.  It’s still advancing. But I feel that politicians now have not been able to adjust to these new changes. In this process of push and pull, the patience and openness that each side has, in facing these calls for change, I believe is not enough at present. So what’s left the deepest impression is knowing that we might be in a critical point in history, but that many people do not realize this. Some opportunities are being lost.

Brian Hioe:  Do you think that what has happened in Taiwan is related to phenomenon in the international world? It’s quite interesting to me that you have similar phenomenon across the world with the emergence of progressive young people.

Like, say, the support for Bernie Sanders in the United States from many young people, who are not unlike progressive young people in Taiwan. But you also have the appearance of, say, a Han Kuo-yu, just as you have the appearance of a Donald Trump.

Photo credit: CHTHONIC 閃靈/Facebook

Freddy Lim:  I believe that many countries in the world currently have this atmosphere of opposition to the system. That atmosphere is looking for a form of expression. So whether with regards to a M-shaped society, for those have no way of escaping this social structure, they are seeking a way to express themselves. Young people are looking for a way to express themselves and make themselves heard.

It’s not just Taiwan, but the world as a whole which is in the middle of this process. That’s why you’ll have these sorts of phenomenon, with unexpected election results across the world.

1 Comment

  • Phil
    March 21, 2019 7:32 am

    I’ve admired Freddy Lim for years, as both a Chthonic fan and supporter of Taiwan independence. I’m particularly impressed with Mr. Lim’s pro gay rights views. This is not to be taken lightly. Taiwanese society has of course struggled with this issue. Moreover, as I’m sure Mr. Lim has observed, the heavy music world is not exactly, shall we say, gay-friendly. As such, the significance of Chthonic performing at an LGBTQ rally on Ketagalan Boulevard is extraordinary. I commend Mr. Lim, the New Power Party, and the Sunflower Movement in general for supporting LGBTQ rights.