The Americans hoped for him to become a thinker, learn English and start studying again. "A lot of people in Congress urged me to learn to speak English properly, and I get their point. With better English, I would be able to speak directly, and that would leave me a lot more space. The problem is, though, that it would take at least five or six years for my English to become good enough to start working politically. If I do nothing for five years, it will all be gone."
Wei, who started driving as soon as he arrived in the US, is also famous for speeding. "The main reason I drive fast is because I'm in a hurry. Second, if I drive fast I'll see if there are any troublemakers following me, since no one else is driving that fast. It makes me feel safer. I've been in a couple of traffic accidents, all because I was driving too slow."
Two years ago, his New York driving license was revoked. He continued to drive without a license -- until he got one in Washington, where he now lives.
After completing the interview with Wei, I find myself filled with contradictory feelings. Should we judge someone who was imprisoned for a long time for political dissent by the same standards that we judge people in general? Should we demand that he be modest, that he avoid trying to seem like a monumental personality, when such behavior really would be hypocrisy?
I am also thinking of Shih, whose background is similar to Wei's. Shih was doomed to fail in the recent Kaohsiung mayoral elections. Did he wonder why this society, for which he sacrificed 25 years of his youth, is so heartless?
I don't have the answers, all I can do is put the interview on paper.
Dong Chengyu is a freelance writer based in Taipei.
Translated by Perry Svensson