SOAS University of London

Centre of Taiwan Studies

Wuqiu Island Lighthouse: A Woman’s Battlefield in Life 一個女人的生命戰場 - 烏坵燈塔

Danhua Gao
Kao Dan-Hua 高丹華

Date: 16 November 2017Time: 7:00 PM

Finishes: 16 November 2017Time: 9:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: B102

Type of Event: Talk


Wuqiu 烏坵 Island (aka. Ockseu, Wuchiu, Wuchiou) is on Taiwan’s most remote border. Wuqiu is small, only 1.2 square kilometres, and it is the smallest island in Taiwan. Under martial law, for most people, it was almost impossible to reach. When all of the islands around it were demilitarized and turned to the ‘cross-strait’ sightseeing, Wuqiu was the last ‘war orphan’, forgotten by the government deliberately.

The island is isolated and poor, but it plays an important role as a microcosm of the modern internal, ‘cross-strait’, international political history of Taiwan. The British engineer built an advanced lighthouse there in 1874, these foreigners and their assistants became the first residential islanders.

In 1899, a Norwegian died there. In 1943, the Japanese invaded it. In 1949, the island became the frontier of the ‘cross-strait’ cold war. After that, military took over the island for decades, the lighthouse was decommissioned; the fisherman had to give up their careers, the children had to travel a long way off island for school. The island was cut off from mainstream society and civilization. The local community were allowed to play their roles in everyday life, but their rights were left behind with the freedom and human rights of democratic Taiwan.

Only in 1997, was Wuqiu Island in the news, because it was the location for a proposed nuclear waste disposal site. At this moment, Dan-hua Gao stood up and said ‘NO’. She started talking about Wuqiu everyday and to everybody she could, because she wanted the voice of the island to be heard; the history of it to be seen; the islanders to be respected and the lighthouse to be recommissioned. Now, for the first time in over a hundred years, Wuqiu is ready to make the first decision for itself and its future.

In 2002, Dan-hua challenged the then president, Shuibian Chen to ‘Save Wuqiu’. She also organizedthe ‘100 Men Arrive on the Island’ event in 2007, to make a voice of the offshore community human rights.

Today, after all Dan-hua and her friends and supporters hard work, the lighthouse has been recommissioned. But under martial law, the offshore community’s human rights and future are uncertain; the island is still under a Democratic ‘Iron Curtain’.

  Danhua Gao  

Speaker Bio


Kao Dan-Hua, born in 1961, Wuqiu islander. She is a writer, social activist and former civil servant. She was a trustee of the Taiwanese Community Empowering Society and Taipei Awaking Association. She was the first female counsellor of Fujian Province, and the only counsellor from offshore community. Kao Dan-Hua is an advocate for Taiwanese offshore community’s human rights for over 20 years. She is the daughter of the last lighthouse keeper of Taiwanese Island, Wuqiu, occupied by the military and the lighthouse has been shut down for 66 years; no Taiwanese have been allowed to visit the island without special permission for decades. Dan-Hua's social activitism for Wuqiu Island began in 1997, when she and her supporters protested against the government’s proposal to use the island as nuclear waste disposal site. At a cabinet meeting in 2002, she challenged the then president, Shuibian Chen to ‘Save Wuqiu’. Dan-Hua also organized the ‘100 Men Arrive on the Island’ event in 2007, to support the citizens who remain, many of whom have been separated from their families. She is the founder of ‘Restore the Lighthouse of Wuqiu’ movement, which was successfully recommissioned in 2017. She has represented the ‘invisible’ and ‘silenced’ local people for many years, lobbying for the lighthouse to be a listed national historic site, a symbol of the island’s inhabitants, while working to reunite the community. She is also the writer of ‘Finding Wuqiu Island’, (Taibei, 2001) and many articles about Wuqiu Island’s history and culture in the late 1990s to early 2000s. She has played an important role in many Taiwanese documentaries about Wuqiu Island and the offshore community, and followers of Mazu (the Chinese Sea Goddess) on Meizhou Island facilitating a cultural exchange between Taiwan and the mainland. From 2005-2009, she co-organized events urging the Penghu local government to build a monument for victims of the ‘Penghu Island 7.13 event’ when, on July 13 th 1949, the military shot and killed exiled students who protested against forced enrolment in the army, the tragedy was also as known as the start of the ‘white terror’ era of Taiwan. Dan-Hua made a documentary about one family embroiled in this terrible event. From 2008-2015, she was involved in the moment to save the Huwei Military Dependents’ Village of Yunlin County who were being threatened with eviction for land redevelopment.

Translator: Dr Huili MENG 

Dr. Meng is a journalist, translator and independent filmmaker. Her research focus is on contemporary Chinese social issues of gender and feminism, the LGBT community and multi-generation family research. She will be teaching Media and Communications at Nottingham Trent University from 2018.

Organiser: Centre of Tawain Studies

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