從重金屬主唱到台灣國會議員 Freddy Lim(林昶佐) ◎紐約時報(英文報導) 2017-05-26


TAIPEI, Taiwan — In a land renowned for its singalong pop songs and bubble milk tea, Freddy Lim has always been something of a black sheep.

A prominent figure in Taiwan’s underground music circles, Mr. Lim, 41, was until recently best known as the head-bashing frontman of the heavy metal band Chthonic, sometimes called the “Black Sabbath of Asia.”

But for the past year, Mr. Lim has put his music career of more than two decades on pause to redirect his energy to a more buttoned-up pursuit: serving as a member in Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, or Parliament.


“My fans keep asking when I’m going to do a metal scream in Parliament,” said Mr. Lim, smiling mischievously.

Mr. Lim was at ease alternating between Chinese and English in a recent interview in his office, a creative’s sanctuary in an otherwise drab, florescent-lit government building in central Taipei. While Mr. Lim has lately traded in his black leather and face paint for more traditional bureaucrat attire, echoes of his musician alter ego remain on display in his office.

The electronic drum set. A black-and-white poster of David Bowie. A photo taken during a packed outdoor Chthonic concert and campaign rally in Taipei’s Liberty Square in 2015. And, displayed behind Mr. Lim’s desk, a floor-to-ceiling portrait of the Dalai Lama — “one of my life mentors,” he says.

Another holdover from his rocker life is the long mane of hair, which he has made a point of keeping ever since a politician from the rival Nationalist Party urged voters at a campaign rally not to vote for Mr. Lim, whose hair, said the opponent, “is longer than a woman’s.”

Fast-forward a little over a year. That ponytail is now the trademark feature of a man who has emerged as one of the leaders of a growing youth-driven movement pushing for progressive change and independence for Taiwan.

“Freddy is a rock star, and he’s very charismatic,” said Huang Kuo-chang, a fellow lawmaker and chairman of the New Power Party, the left-wing political party that Mr. Lim helped start in 2015. “He has helped us attract people who did not care about politics at all in the past.”

Mr. Lim’s recent turn toward politics began in the spring of 2014, when hundreds of students occupied Taiwan’s Parliament to protest a trade deal with China that they feared would make Taiwan more vulnerable to Beijing’s influence. For nearly a month, thousands of supporters joined students in the streets in a remarkable display of resistance that became known as the Sunflower Movement.

As the lead vocalist of Chthonic and chairman of Amnesty International Taiwan at the time, Mr. Lim was among the best-known figures at the demonstrations.

At the heart of the protests was an issue that has long formed the axis around which Taiwanese politics revolves: Taiwan’s uncertain relationship with mainland China. Cross-strait relations have been tense since the Nationalist government, led by Chiang Kai-shek, fled to Taiwan after the Communist Revolution in 1949. Both sides claim to be the legitimate government of China, and China still claims Taiwan as part of its territory.

As time passed, however, Taiwan, spurred on by its peaceful transition to democracy in the late 1980s, began to forge a separate political and national identity. Today, while many in Taiwan still hope for reunification with China, surveys show that a growing number of Taiwanese feel little to no connection with the mainland. According to a 2016 survey by the Election Study Center at National Chengchi University in Taipei, over 58 percent of people now identify as Taiwanese, up from 17.6 percent in 1992.

The trend is especially evident among young people in Taiwan.

“The younger generation is totally different from their parents,” Mr. Lim said. “We call them the ‘tianran du’ or ‘natural supporters of Taiwanese independence.’ They were born in a country of democracy and freedom. To them, it’s not even a question: Taiwan is independent.”

Despite his youthful demeanor and boyish looks, Mr. Lim does not fall into the “tianran du” category. Born in 1976, the Taipei native came of age during the martial law years, a dark period of history during which Taiwan was subject to repressive one-party rule by the Nationalist Party.

Under martial law, the Nationalist government sought to create a unified Chinese identity — even if that meant using force. In classrooms, teachers taught mainland Chinese history instead of the history of Taiwan. Children were punished for speaking Taiwanese Hokkien — then the native language of more than half of Taiwan’s population — instead of Mandarin.

Looking back, Mr. Lim said, those years were a period of “great self-struggle.”

“As a child I was close to my grandmother, who spoke Taiwanese and Japanese at home,” he said. “But in school we were taught that this was wrong. I began to look down on my grandmother and my own family.”

That changed as Mr. Lim grew older. His small island home, he discovered, had a distinct history. It was home mostly to people who had migrated over the centuries from southern China as well as a number of aboriginal groups. It had also been a strategic trading post for the Dutch and the Spanish in the 17th century and, in the early 20th century, a Japanese colony.

To be Taiwanese, he realized, meant much more than being Chinese. That belief in a separate Taiwanese identity later became a constant thread woven throughout Mr. Lim’s music.

“As a Taiwanese person, I felt strange singing about the typical extreme metal themes like vampires and Satan,” said Mr. Lim. “Instead, we used Taiwanese mythology and folk stories as source material. It became a way to build up my identity and go deeper into Taiwanese history.”

With his band, Mr. Lim toured the world for years, introducing heavy metal fans to what the band called “orient metal.” (Think screaming vocals overlaid with traditional Asian instruments.) In 2007, Chthonic snagged a rookie slot on Ozzfest, Ozzy Osbourne’s annual tour of hard-rock and metal bands, becoming one of the first Taiwanese metal bands to tour the United States.

Randy Blythe, lead singer of the metal band Lamb of God, recalled seeing Taiwanese-Americans — some in their 60s and 70s, and often wearing black Chthonic T-shirts — at almost every stop on the tour.

“I think for Taiwanese-Americans, it was a real source of pride,” Mr. Blythe said in a telephone interview.

“In our world, a lot of people can yell and make angry music and be like, ‘The system sucks,’ ” Mr. Blythe added. “But Freddy did something. He took a concrete step to try and change things for the better.”

Just over a year in office, Mr. Lim and the New Power Party are still in the process of making the transition from activists to politicians. With only five legislators in Taiwan’s 113-seat Parliament, the party is still a long way from its stated goal of displacing the Nationalist Party and becoming one of Taiwan’s two major political parties along with the Democratic Progressive Party.

In addition to party recruitment, Mr. Lim said that for now, he was focusing on his party’s domestic priorities, which include changing Taiwan’s referendum and impeachment processes.

Just this week, the New Power Party celebrated along with local L.G.B.T. groups after the constitutional court issued a ruling paving the way for Taiwan to become the first place in Asia to recognize same-sex marriage.

“I’m so, so happy,” said Mr. Lim. “This was such an important step for Taiwan.”

There is another item at the top of his political agenda: gaining greater international recognition for Taiwan.

And so, on the cloudy morning of Jan. 20, Mr. Lim found himself on the Washington Mall, cheering alongside throngs of Donald J. Trump supporters as they watched the maverick businessman take the oath of office to become the nation’s 45th president. Back in December, Mr. Trump became an unlikely partner for many Taiwanese when he broke with decades of precedent by accepting a congratulatory phone call from Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen.

But much has happened since then, not the least a chummy meeting between Mr. Trump and the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, by which time Mr. Trump had already shifted his position to embrace the “one China” policy.

Many politicians in Taiwan, including Mr. Lim, are now approaching Mr. Trump’s administration with what they call “cautious optimism.”

“Improving Taiwan’s relations with America doesn’t mean the U.S. and China can’t have good relations,” he said. “We just want to have relations with everyone on our own terms. It’s not a zero sum situation.”

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