President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) must engage in dialogue with opposition leaders and representatives of civil society to work out a solution to the decades-long controversy over the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮).
Chilin Education Foundation founder Lin I-hsiung (林義雄), who led the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to end more than half a century of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) rule in Taiwan in 2000, is to go on an indefinite hunger strike at Gikong Presbyterian Church from 10am on Tuesday until the power plant is halted by the government.
Anyone who, at Lin’s age of 72, decides to endure such physical hardship to communicate the seriousness of an injustice deserves an answer from the authorities, because this dramatic method of protest is a strong statement of the individual’s morality, resolution and commitment to their cause.
Those who know Lin believe nothing can stop his hunger strike except the Ma administration agreeing to respect mainstream public opinion and being honest about the potential dangers of operating the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.
His adherence to democratic ideals and refusal to compromise have been tested many times before.
On Feb. 28, 1980, Lin was in prison for his involvement in the 1979 Kaohsiung Incident — a massive pro-democracy rally often regarded as the beginning of Taiwan’s democratic evolution. While he was in jail, his seven-year-old twin daughters and his 60-year-old mother were murdered at their home, while under 24-hour surveillance by secret police. His eldest daughter survived that incident despite being stabbed several times. Their house later became the Gikong Presbyterian Church.
The crime remains unsolved and the murder continues to be a painful chapter in the history of the Taiwanese fight for democracy.
Despite this hardship, Lin, a practitioner of Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy, always kept faith in the inherent goodness of human nature and before entering politics dedicated himself to using his humanitarian ideals to help ordinary people by working as a lawyer.
Lin’s plan to stage a hunger strike was announced on April 15. It has resonated strongly with the opposition camp and civic society. A series of protests is getting under way this week, including a call for a siege of the legislature on Tuesday launched by the Alliance of Referendum for Taiwan, a sit-in involving DPP officials outside the legislature, followed by a rally on Saturday and a sit-in on Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office Building in Taipei organized by environmental groups.
In addition, the DPP plans to initiate a referendum without being subject to the Referendum Act (公民投票法), which it says requires an unreasonably high threshold for allowing a referendum.
Meanwhile, people in arts and culture circles have spoken about their concerns on social networking sites for Lin’s health and solicited support to ratchet up pressure on the government to avoid a terrible outcome.
Public concerns about the plant, mainly over its safety, have risen significantly since March 11, 2011, when the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant in Japan suffered a nuclear meltdown as a result of a massive earthquake that triggered a tsunami. Several polls have shown that more than 70 percent of Taiwanese are against the plant.