Sun, Mar 18, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan in Time: Chiang Kai-shek’s last challenger

In 1954, Hsu Fu-lin ran against the KMT leader for president after his arrival in Taiwan; Chiang ran unopposed in every subsequent election until he died in 1975

By Han Cheung  /  Staff Reporter

With nobody opposing Chiang and the threshold of National Assembly members required to validate the vote lowered, this move solidified the party’s iron grip over Taiwan.

“Our compatriots across the world have requested in unison that President Chiang run for another term,” announced election chairman Chia Ching-teh (賈景德) to about 50,000 people gathered in front of Zhongshan Hall. “To respect popular opinion, the National Assembly has amended the [Temporary Provisions] so he can continue to serve as president. Judging from how jubilant you all are today, I believe that our compatriots overseas will feel the same. Especially our compatriots on the mainland who are suffering, they must be even more overjoyed to hear this news.”

“Now, chant loudly with me: Long live the Republic of China! Long live the Three Principles of the People! Long live President Chiang!”

Of course this did not sit well with many non-KMT politicians, including Lei Chen (雷震), a former KMT official who was expelled in 1954 for criticizing the party in his publication, Free China (自由中國).

A few months after Chiang was re-elected, Lei and leaders from both the China Democratic Socialist Party and the China Youth Party as well as a number of independent politicians of both Chinese and Taiwanese origin gathered at the Democratic Socialist Party headquarters to discuss how to counterbalance the KMT’s increasingly authoritarian rule.

They decided to form the a new party called the China Democracy Party (中國民主黨), and immediately began preparations.

The KMT watched carefully, but it seems that an Free China article comparing the formation of opposition parties to the Yangtze River flowing east — something that cannot be stopped — was the last straw. Three days after the article ran, Lei and three others were arrested for spreading communist propaganda and harboring communists — standard excuses for political arrests during the Martial Law era.

Chiang personally made sure that Lei would spend at least 10 years in jail with no possiblity of appeal. When a KMT politician spoke out against the verdict, his party membership was suspended for one year.

“Naturally, after the Lei Chen incident, nobody would dare to oppose Chiang when he announced that he would run for yet another term, and he easily won again in 1966,” Wang writes.

All hopes were dashed for the KMT to propagate real democracy after that. The party would reluctantly do so several decades later under the pressure of Taiwan’s democracy movement, but that’s a story for another time.

Taiwan in Time, a column about Taiwan’s history that is published every Sunday, spotlights important or interesting events around the nation that have anniversaries this week.

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