Fri, Dec 10, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Chen promises rights commission

RIGHTS PROTECTION The president pledged to set up a human rights commission if the pan-green camp wins a majority of seats in tomorrow's legislative elections

By Jewel Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN KAOHISUNG

DPP supporters wave flags and celebrate at a DPP rally in Kaohsiung to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Kaohsiung Incident. Twenty-five years after the incident, which is seen as a milestone in Taiwan's democratic development, the fear and intimidation of the White Terror era has been replaced by joy and celebration.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

On the eve of the 25th anniversary of the Kaohsiung Incident (美麗島事件), President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday pledged to establish a National Human Rights Commis-sion, a National Human Rights Hall and a Taiwan Truth Investigation Committee to restore historical truth and return justice to those who suffered political oppression if the pan-green camp wins a legislative majority tomorrow.

Chen made the statements at a large-scale campaign rally held in Kaohsiung City after another massive rally held earlier in the day.

In the rally, Chen said that Kaohsiung Incident in 1979 was not only a milestone but also a watershed for Taiwan's democracy, and the political incident that had influenced Taiwan's society most profoundly.

"Our democratic pioneers sacrificed their youth, freedom and even lives in that period of time. Without them, we could never enjoy the democratic accomplishments of today."

Chen also said he felt proud to have served as defense counsel for former DPP chairman Huang Hsin-chieh (黃信介), adding that the Kaohsiung Incident was the most important event in his life, leading him into politics.

"I believe our best plea for democracy is not the debate we had in the military court 25 years ago, but to continue forward on the democratic road that our democratic forerunners haven't finished," Chen said.

"Our efforts to contend for freedom and democracy for Taiwan have finally blossomed and borne fruit," Chen said.

He asked people to rewrite history once again with their votes and help the pan-green camp reach a majority in the legislature so the government can push through bills to help restore truth for those who had been wrongly accused.

Vice President Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), who was imprisoned for six years for the Kaohsiung Incident, said one of the bills she would propose as a priority for the legislature to pass would be a national human rights commission institutional law (國家人權委員會組織法).

Earlier in the day, victims of the Kaohsiung Incident and the attorneys who defended them -- many of whom have now become governmental officials -- took to the streets in Kaohsiung to commemorate the incident's anniversary, and boost the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) election campaign only two days before the vote.

The march, dubbed "Forever Formosa," was launched by the DPP to commemorate the incident.

After the march, leaders including DPP Secretary-General Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄), Presidential Office Secretary-General Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and Kaohsiung Mayor Frank Hsieh (謝長廷), lit torches symbolizing democracy. The long procession set out at 5pm and headed for a large campaign rally held by the DPP.

Yu, Chang, Su and Hsieh were volunteer attorneys who defended the victims accused of being "insurrectionists" during the Kaohsiung Incident because they made speeches asking the government to end martial law.

Organized by Formosa magazine, a magazine advocating democratic reforms and criticizing the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) high-handed methods of governance, the incident occurred on Dec. 10, 1979, as the KMT government arrested and prosecuted participants in a march protesting the KMT's totalitarian state. Many of those involved in the incident later helped to found the DPP in 1986.

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