Wed, Aug 03, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Remembering a political pioneer

Over the past few days, those who have dedicated themselves to the nation's democratization have commemorated the 20th anniversary of the passing of one of Taiwan's most revered democracy activists, Kuo Yu-hsin (郭雨新). Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) members, including President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), have described Kuo as a "democracy pioneer."

Kuo deserves this accolade. Although troubled by numerous misfortunes, Kuo's beliefs and perseverance kindled the torch of democracy among Taiwanese during the Japanese colonial period and passed it on to a younger generation of activists in the days before the founding of the DPP. Although he suffered for his political ideals, Kuo brightened the prospects for Taiwanese democracy.

Born in Ilan, Kuo was elected to the Taiwan Provincial Assembly five times between 1949 and 1975. Thanks to his eloquence and his fearless drive to challenge the government, Kuo was dubbed one of the assembly's "Five Tigers." However, aware of the growing dissent, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government put tight restrictions on these political dissidents' speech. They could only voice their opposition to the government in the assembly's hall in Taichung County, far away from the political center in Taipei.

In 1975, Kuo decided to run in the legislative elections in a direct challenge to the KMT. But the vote was rigged and Kuo's bid failed. The final count included more than 80,000 invalid ballots.

In 1977, Kuo was forced into exile in the US. In 1978, when Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) took over the presidency, Kuo announced his decision to run for president to highlight the nepotism of the Chiang regime. On Aug. 2, 1985, Kuo passed away in Virginia. Twenty years later, we would all do well to honor a man who never let himself be cowed by a brutal, authoritarian regime.

To keep a tight hold on power, whenever elections came around, the KMT would wheel out its considerable arsenal of election-rigging and vote-buying techniques, producing a long and ignominious record of electoral misdeeds. But this skulduggery was no match for Taiwan's democratic awakening. In 2000, power transferred peacefully to the DPP. Although democratization has not been without pain, a democratic system allowing for peaceful, bloodless transitions of power was firmly established.

Looking back, we can now see how Kuo -- and others who sought to reform the system from the inside rather than through violence -- greatly reduced the cost that the people of Taiwan had to pay for their democracy.

Now, as a new generation of politicians enjoys the fruits of the democracy that Kuo and others fought for, how can they bear to see the legislature's state of paralysis? How can the legislature withhold the joys of democracy from the people?

The pan-blue camp's policies of allying with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to stop Taiwan independence and establishing a platform for communication between the CCP and the KMT inject the poison of one of the world's most anti-democratic parties directly into the veins of this young democracy. This cannot benefit the nation's political development.

The opposition KMT and People First Party -- and even the ruling DPP -- should take a page from the book of early democracy pioneers such as Kuo, Lei Chen (雷震), Kuo Kuo-chi (郭國基), Cheng Nan-jung (鄭南榕), Yu Teng-fa (余登發) and Huang Hsin-chieh (黃信介). They remain an inspiration for the nation and a reminder of its long struggle toward democracy.

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