Citizen 1985: The mysterious group behind Taiwan's dead army corporal protests

Mother of Hung Chung-chiu speaks next to his portrait during a press conference.

TAIPEI - On Saturday, at least 100,000 people all dressed in white packed Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office to "bid farewell" to Army Corporal Hung Chung-chiu (洪仲丘) and to demand truth and justice over his death.

Citizen 1985, an activist group made up of 39 members who did not know each other before Hung's death, organised the demonstration, one of the largest in years.

Members of Citizen 1985 insist on keeping a low profile even after the group has organised two strikingly well-attended rallies over the Hung case in a short time.

Two members, who would only give their surnames of Hsiao and Chen, were quoted by the United Evening News as saying that even though Citizen 1985 was the organizer, "attracting some 250,000 people to attend the event is an expression of the public's power."

A member of the activist group said that among the 39 members are white-collar workers, students, housewives, doctors, teachers, lawyers, designers and former legislative assistants. Membership is increasing, the source said, adding that the current average age is 30.

Hsiao said Citizen 1985 is "the epitome of a civilized society," noting that the group is divided into various teams and does not have its own office; instead, meetings are held every night over the Internet. "It is a social movement organised on the Internet," Hsiao said.

A group spokesperson surnamed Liu was quoted as saying that the organisation has no desire to establish an office or form a political party, noting that it will keep organising social movements online.

The Origin of '1985'

The organisation said the number in its name is the Ministry of National Defence's hotline number for filing complaints in the military. Using the line, however, requires a caller to reveal his or her identity, which the organisation believes is not in the interests of mistreated military personnel.

Citizen 1985 said the logo of Saturday's rally - a bleeding eye - symbolizes "the eye of the citizens." The idea was inspired by the famous line "Big Brother is watching you" from British author George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty-Four," turning the concept on its head as "Big Citizen is watching you."