Sun, Sep 26, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Democracy icon suggests protesters try out Beijing

LIFELONG CAMPAIGN Chen Shui-bian honored Peng Ming-min for his contribution to democracy and said constitutional reform follows his example

By Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) continued his push to change the Constitution yesterday during a celebration of one of the nation's democratic pioneers.

"The most important task at hand is reforming the Constitution to consolidate our democracy and the foundations for Taiwan's future and long-term development," Chen said at a banquet last night at the Grand Hotel in Taipei, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Declaration of Formosan Self-Salvation written by Peng Ming-min (彭明敏).

Peng, a senior presidential advisor and widely regarded as the godfather of the nation's independence movement, was joined by around 550 guests, including Deputy Premier Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭), Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) secretary-general Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄), presidential advisor Koo Kuan-min (辜寬敏) and Ketagalan Academy president Lee Hung-hsi (李鴻禧).

The fundraising banquet was also held to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Peng Ming-min Foundation.

Chen said the occasion recognized and honored Peng's lifelong devotion to Taiwan. He described Peng as "Taiwan's warrior" and likened Peng to a "beacon" in the nation's slow walk to democracy.

"The declaration drafted by Peng and his allies said something that no one else dared to say ... We respect and are in awe of their courage," Chen said.

At the time, Peng was director of the Department of Political Science at National Taiwan University. He drafted the declaration with two students, Hsieh Tsung-min (謝聰敏) and Wei Ting-chao (魏廷朝), but was secretly arrested before the document was made public.

The document declared that China and Taiwan should be recognized as separate legal entities; that it was impossible to "retake the mainland" as one popular Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) slogan used to say, for the ideology served only to perpetuate the KMT regime; and that the KMT government represented neither China nor Taiwan.

The declaration also set three basic objectives: establish a new state with a new government, create a new constitution and join the UN as a new nation.

While acknowledging Taiwan's achievements in democratization, Chen drew a comparison with the US and other democratic countries, and said that there was still some room for improvement.

Peng expressed gratitude to those who helped him throughout the decades, and spoke also of the challenge that the country faces today.

"Everyone knows about Tai-wan's democracy now, but the main issue facing us is this: Are we willing to work and sacrifice to uphold and consolidate Taiwan's democracy?" Peng said.

Turning to the heated debate on the DPP government's NT$610.8 billion arms package, Peng showed little patience with those who opposed it.

"If these people dare to claim -- and really are -- lovers of peace as they say, then they should go to Beijing and promote their message of peace there," Peng said. "In view of the threat faced by the nation, we need to protect ourselves."

Peng, a native of Taichung County, said that the Feb. 28 Incident in 1947 aroused within him an abhorrence of the undemocratic and heavy-handed KMT regime, which led him, as a political scientist, to issue a public statement urging people to challenge it.

The Feb. 28 Incident saw clashes between Taiwanese and the newly-installed KMT government lead to the killing of tens of thousands of people.

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