Sun, Apr 29, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan in Time: F-bomb on the front page

Already known for its outspoken views, the short-lived ‘Capital Morning Post’ is probably best remembered for printing a huge swear word to express its anger against president Lee Teng-hui’s choice for premier

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

The Capital Morning Post caused a commotion when it printed the swear word gan (upper left corner in red brush letters), which means “fuck,” on its front page in May 1990.

Photo courtesy of National Central Library

April 30 to May 6

With “Fuck, we oppose a military man forming the cabinet!” plastered over its front page in angry bold print, the Capital Morning Post (首都早報) secured its place in Taiwanese media history despite only lasting for 15 months.

Hitting the stands on May 3, 1990, that day’s edition spent six full pages slamming newly inaugurated President Lee Teng-hui’s (李登輝) nomination of four-star general and then-minister of national defense Hau Pei-tsun (郝柏村) for his new administration’s premier.

Above the bright red curse word, the paper printed “During the Martial Law era, [former president] Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) forbade the military from intervening in politics. After the Martial Law era, Lee Teng-hui appoints a military man to form his cabinet.”

While most major papers reported the story in a neutral or positive tone, two newspapers expressed their opposition to Lee’s decision. The Independence Evening Post (自立晚報) printed in large characters on its front page: “We feel great heartache and headache toward President Lee Teng-hui’s decision to nominate Hau Pei-tsun as premier,” alongside an article with the headline, “White Terror will enshroud Taiwan again.”

That day’s editorial in the paper consisted only of two large characters: wuyan (無言, or “speechless”).

Over the rest of the month, the Capital Morning Post continued to use strong language (but no more curse words) to bash the decision and prominently featured the resulting student protests and later violent clashes leading up to Hau’s formal appointment on June 1.

DARE TO SPEAK

The fury shown in both papers is not surprising — they were both founded by former dangwai (黨外, “outside the party”) politicians who opposed the ruling Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) during its authoritarian era.

In May 1989, just over a year removed from the lifting of the newspaper ban, legislator Kang Ning-hsiang (康寧祥) took a break from politics to give the newly-liberated media industry a try.

With the headline “A newspaper that truly belongs to Taiwanese society is born today,” The Capital Morning Post debuted on May 4 with National Taiwan University history professor Cheng Chin-jen (鄭欽仁) as managing editor and Rong Fu-tian (戎撫天), a veteran newsman poached from the United Daily News (聯合報), as editor in chief.

Many staff members went on to have successful careers in the media industry or politics. Rong, for example, is the managing editor of Want Daily; deputy editor in chief Yang Hsien-hung (楊憲宏) is a well-known political commentator; and reporter Chen Sheng-shan (陳盛山) serves as director of the Taichung City Tourism Bureau. US correspondent Michael Fonte is the current liaison of the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) Mission in Washington.

This would be Kang’s only foray into the media world as he quickly returned to politics. His many positions included National Assembly and Control Yuan member as well as deputy minister of national defense.

Former reporter Tseng Ming-tsai (曾明財) fondly recalls his time at the Capital Morning Post as the most memorable of his career.

In an article written for a blog commemorating the 20th anniversary of the lifting of the newspaper ban, Tseng writes, “It was the most glorious, most romantic, most meaningful year for an idealistic young man.”

Tseng was feeling complacent at his former job at the Taiwan Times when he heard that Kang was recruiting for a new publication that would “dare to speak up.” He had planned to refuse the offer if they approached him, but their pitch was so strong that he surrendered within minutes.

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