Sun, Dec 02, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Kaohsiung elections of the past

By Dong Gow-ming 唐國銘

The heated campaigning for the Nov. 24 mayoral election in Kaohsiung reminded me of something that happened 50 years ago.

The 1968 Kaohsiung mayoral election was another battle between two strong candidates and was no less fiercely contested than the one we have just seen.

That year the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) put forward Chen Wu-chang (陳武璋) as its candidate to compete with the China Democratic Socialist Party’s Yang Chin-hu (楊金虎).

The guidance counselor in my elementary school was concerned about the election outlook, so she held a mock election in class and asked the students to say who they supported. Only two students in our class — myself and one other — said they supported Yang.

Over the next few days I was called in to the school office every day and asked why I supported Yang, and whether I would not rather support Chen instead and go home and tell my father.

I was too scared to say anything and I did not tell my father, either. Consequently, I was repeatedly reprimanded or quizzed, supposedly out of “concern.”

The day before the election, the counselor asked me the same questions again and then told me to tell my family that they need not go out and vote. After all that fuss, the result was that Yang won the election.

That was my first political enlightenment. Although these things happened 50 years ago, the memories are still fresh in my mind.

To think that even a third-grader at elementary school could be put under surveillance — the very thought of it still gives me the creeps — but I cannot blame my teacher, because it was not her fault alone. In those days, the whole system was wrong.

A decade later, in 1978, I was in my first year at university. Each department had a different T-shirt for its students, ours being blue with red, green and yellow hems.

A military training instructor told us to remove the tri-colored borders, because they were the same colors as those used by Shih Ming-te (施明德), one of the leading figures of the dangwai (黨外, outside the party) opposition’s Formosa faction.

I asked the instructor whether all the red, yellow and green traffic lights should be taken down for the same reason.

In my second year at university, some students who were keen on literature spontaneously set up an underground book-reading society to research Taiwanese nativist literature, with students meeting in a classroom discuss their impressions and views about whatever we were reading. A military training instructor came in while patrolling the campus and said that our meeting was an illegal gathering, because we had not applied for permission.

I suppose that my long hair and beard must have made me look older than I really was, because the instructor came over and asked very politely: “May I ask what class you teach, professor?”

These events took place 40 years ago, when Taiwan was under martial law and it was said that everyone had a little Taiwan Garrison Command in their heart. In those days, the shadow of politics loomed everywhere, even in schools and colleges.

From 1986 to 1988, I studied in the US state of Kansas.

On one occasion, in front of some Taiwanese and Chinese fellow students, I said that the relationship between Taiwan and China was comparable to that between the US and the UK.

Simply because of that remark, apparently, my monthly letters to my family and their letters to me started taking a month to reach their destination.

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