Fri, Apr 25, 2014 - Page 8 News List

Democratization linked to feminism

By Annette Lu 呂秀蓮

Taiwan is famous for its advanced high-technology, but it has received even more fame for the Sunflower movement against President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) for the secretive operation to negotiate the cross-strait service trade agreement. Protesters occupied the legislative chamber for 585 hours, or 24 days. The highlight was a huge rally with 300,000 to 500,000 participants.

As founder of the nation’s feminist movement and one of the leaders of the democratic movement, I cannot help but reflect on the past.

In 1951, the San Francisco Peace Treaty was signed by 51 countries. Under Article 2 of the treaty, Japan relinquished Formosa. In 1945, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Command in the Pacific authorized Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) to accept Taiwan from the Japanese.

With the arrival of Chiang’s troops, there began a period of pillage, rape, murder and economic depression in Taiwan. At dawn on March 9 1947, a week of naked terror began, when 13,000 troops sent by Chiang arrived in Taiwan following the 228 Incident. In all, an estimated 10,000 people were killed and 10,000 were arrested and executed. A whole generation of Taiwanese leadership was virtually wiped out.

Two years later, Chiang was expelled by Mao Zedong (毛澤東) and fled to Taiwan with 2 million followers. Prior to his arrival, he declared a regime of martial law, on May 19, 1949. The military police, special agents and secret informers were used to monitor meetings, tap telephones, inspect mail and carry out surveillance. Provocateurs were also recruited to break up meetings or create disturbances.

As gloomy as the political climate was on Taiwan, intellectuals attempted to fight the repression and censorship of thought. While radio, newspapers and TV were entirely controlled by the government, the opposition published magazines and ran for public office as vehicles for their advocacy of democracy.

The Free China in 1960 and the Taiwan Political Review in 1975 were the two prominent examples, both ending up with the same fate — the magazines were banned; their publishers and editors imprisoned.

Elections in Taiwan have never been clean, as bribery and fraud were general practices of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) candidates. On November 19, 1978, a massive protest against the party took place in my hometown, after election officials were caught ballot-stuffing. It was the first time that the unfairness in elections was challenged by the people’s power.

Most astonishingly, no one would have dreamed that 20 years after the military trial following the Kaohsiung Incident on Dec. 10, 1979, a defense lawyer, Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), and a defendant, me, would be elected in March 2000 as the president and vice president at the crowning moment of Taiwan’s struggle for democracy.

The half-century-long one-party autocracy was thus peacefully overthrown … in the election that led to the first transfer of power at the highest level of government in 55 years. Autocracy had ended.

It was tough to win the election, but much tougher to take over power to govern the nation, especially when the old regime still controlled the majority in the legislature and branches of government. Indeed, Chen went through a really hard time during his eight years as president. It can be imagined that I, as the first woman elected to be vice president from an opposition party, endured many challenges and difficulties.

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