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Real heroes of democracy

Friday, Apr 17, 2009, Page 8

During recent activities commemorating the 100th anniversary of the birth of former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), news media quoted President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) as saying the events honored Chiang’s contribution to Taiwan’s political and democratic reforms. These events staged by Ma and his diehard KMT followers give the impression they wish they could rewrite history.

My reading of history and perhaps that of many other Taiwanese are quite different from Ma’s account. It is easy for us to see why Ma has been and still is so grateful to Chiang, who groomed Ma to be a future leader. Who wouldn’t be grateful to their benefactors?

But history shows that Chiang and his father, Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), imposed martial law for nearly four decades to silence critics and political opponents. It was during Chiang Ching-kuo’s presidency in 1984 that Henry Liu (劉宜良), a journalist critical of the Chiang Ching-kuo regime, was assassinated in his home in Daly City, California. It appears that Ma was a silent witness who made no protest.

In fact, Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Ching-kuo were the most ruthless and monstrous dictators the nation has ever experienced. In my opinion, they are just as evil as former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, if not more so.

He killed his own people in peacetime, but Saddam’s Baath party is no more, while Chiang Ching-kuo’s Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) continues to prosper.

During the Martial Law era, Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Ching-kuo kept Taiwan in line through a policy of terror, systematic arrest, imprisonment and execution of prominent intellectuals and professionals who were the potential leaders for a democratic movement.

The democratic aspirations of Taiwanese were held back for more than four decades until former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) took power. I consider him to be the true reformer that led Taiwan to become a democratic country.

The recent unexpected discovery of files related to political persecution during the White Terror era at the Ankang Guesthouse is quite an eye opener for the whole world to see. I am sure many KMT members, Ma included perhaps, wish these files were long gone so they could continue to deny political persecution during this period ever happened. (“Ankang files should be archived,” April 6, page 8)

If Ma is truly committed to democratic principles, he should appoint an independent commission to find out the truth behind his party’s past sins, and safeguard and preserve the files, so the people who sacrificed their lives for democracy get some comfort in their death.

Ankang Guesthouse should also be turned into some kind of memorial museum to house the files and other personal items, so the public has a chance to visit and learn about the history of Taiwan’s struggle for democracy.

San Francisco, California


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