Sun, Jun 05, 2016 - Page 8 News List

Revolution in ideals is lacking in Taiwan

By Lee Min-yung 李敏勇

Reform never took hold in the Republic of China (ROC) in Taiwan after the war, although Lei Chen (雷震) and others tried to set up a new political party and initiate reform during the 1960s, and Peng Ming-min (彭明敏) and others issued the Declaration of Self-Salvation of the Taiwanese People.

Martial law lasted for about 39 years. From the 1980s onward, the political changes in reaction to the Kaohsiung Incident truly changed the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) long-standing regime.

The ROC regime that exists in exile in Taiwan and that was chased out of the UN in 1971 still has not become Taiwanese. Using slogans to call for the renewal and protection of Taiwan, former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) stabilized the KMT regime, co-opting Taiwanese by claiming that he himself was Taiwanese. Despite that, he held on to power and left the political situation to his then-deputy, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), who later initiated change.

Allowing direct popular presidential elections was perhaps the crucial factor that changed the ROC’s character. During the presidencies of Lee, from 1996 to 2000; Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), from 2000 to 2008; Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), from 2008 to this year; and President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) — six terms and four presidents — Taiwanese have seen the essential “Chineseness” of pro-China Ma and Taiwanese Lee, Chen and Tsai, which highlights the changes in the nature of the ROC.

Although there were other KMT members running in the 1996 presidential election, the main contestants were Lee from the KMT and Peng from the DPP. Peng, who has left his mark with the declaration, could not stand up to Lee, who was expected to bring about reform from a more realistic political perspective. The two received 75 percent of the vote and that was the beginning of Lee’s peaceful revolution.

Lin I-hsiung (林義雄), who was part of the Kaohsiung Incident, ran in the DPP’s primary elections, but he could not compete with Peng’s historical legacy.

During the presidential election in 2000, none of the heroes of the Kaohsiung Incident could challenge their defender at the trials that followed the incident, former president Chen Shui-bian. The main reason for this was that Chen was not re-elected mayor of Taipei in 1998 and that people, in addition to his popularity, felt sorry for him. Lin had a vision for a new nation, but could not fulfill his aspirations and was reduced to supporting Chen in his capacity as chairman of the DPP.

This year, Tsai, who has gone down the road of politics despite her lack of interest, inherited the legacy of Lee and Chen as she ended Ma’s reinstatement of the KMT regime, and is now seen as leading the third stage of the transformation of the ROC into Taiwan. She has taken the burden left behind by Chen on her shoulders and will also have to clean up Ma’s mess.

The Kaohsiung Incident has had a profound influence on Taiwan’s political development, but its leaders have not been picked to lead the nation and oversee the transformation of the ROC into Taiwan. Some of them became resentful and left the party or complained about Tsai being chosen to represent the party, but in doing so, they have only managed to highlight their own narrow-mindedness and belittled themselves.

There has been a lack of revolutionary change in ideals and realities in the history of political reform in Taiwan.

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