Taiwanese pioneer of reportage
The late Taiwanese writer and activist Chen Ying-zhen (陳映真) was best known for documenting the human rights history of Taiwan with his iconic left-wing magazine “Ren Jian (人間).”
“Ren Jian,” which refers to the earthly mortal world above hell and below the heavens in Chinese, was founded by Chen in 1985. The magazine aimed to explore the truth and pursue justice, reflecting issues faced by working class people, aboriginal tribes, women and children, and the environment through reportage and realistic photography.
Chen was a leftist author and social activist who promoted literary realism in Taiwan. As a political prisoner during the martial law era (1949 – 1987), Chen opposed the ruling party’s political oppression and expressed his concerns on social issues through literary outlets.
The social compassion championed by “Ren Jian” over 31 years ago can be see through the five main areas of Taiwan society that Chen actively sought to highlight and care for – Taiwan’s indigenous peoples, women and children, laborers, environment, and his colleagues at “Ren Jian.”
The now-defunct magazine also showcased a series of photo essays that drew attention to several sensational events in Taiwan history, including the murder of Tsou tribal youth Tang Ying-shen (湯英伸) and the Lukang Anti-DuPont Movement (鹿港反杜邦運動).
“Ren Jian” journalists also documented the hardship of indigenous Amis peoples fighting for their right to live at Keelung’s Bachimen Harbor (基隆八尺門) and the coal-mining accidents in northern Taiwan to reflect the human rights development in Taiwan before and after the lifting of martial law in 1987.
Chen hoped to promote human rights by combining the educational functions of reportage with social compassion for political and human rights to pass the torch of democracy to the next generation of Taiwan. The esteemed publisher and educator passed away at the age of 79 on Nov. 22, 2016.
More information on his life story can be found here.