The lifting of martial law was a reaction to public demand to exercise their rights rather than the benevolent gesture of a particular individual, President Chen Shui-bian (
Martial law was implemented on May 20, 1949, and was not lifted until July 15, 1987.
"Ending martial law not only meant we wanted to fight for the freedom to organize political parties and the right to vote, but also to tell the dictator that the people were the real masters of the nation and all rights that had been taken from the people should be returned in full to the people," Chen, wearing a green protest headband, said at a rally at Taipei's Lungshan Temple to mark the occasion.
The rally, sponsored by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), reached a climax when Chen, Vice President Annette Lu (
They then recreated a sit-in that Chen, Hsieh, Chang and other democracy activists had staged inside the temple on May 19, 1986, to demand the lifting of martial law. A group of DPP staffers were dressed in police uniforms, acting as riot cops from the martial law period to stop the protesters.
Hundreds of onlookers waved flags and chanted slogans.
Calling the martial law period "a dark era without right and wrong and justice," Chen said every Taiwanese had been "victimized" under the rule.
Commemorating the hardships that the public went through, martial law is a "a reminder that we should not make the same mistake again," he said.
Addressing the pan-blue camp's accusations that the DPP was seeking political gains by playing up the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) past ills, Chen said such criticism was a "total denial of the efforts Taiwanese have made over the past 100 years or so."
Chen said that the mindset and ideals of people who had made such accusations were trapped in the martial law era, adding that they continued to look back and long for a time when they occupied a "prom-inent position and were alienated from the common people."
Hsieh said that although he has advocated "reconciliation and coexistence" and that it is right to forgive those who inflicted harm through martial law, "we can never allow the party that inflicted this harm to rule us again."
"We can forgive a `caretaker' who harmed our people, raped our daughters and stole our property, but we can never allow him to be the caretaker again," he said. "It is not a matter of right and wrong. It is a matter of defending the character of Taiwanese people."
Meanwhile, the Government Information Office and the Kaohsiung City Government will sponsor a concert today in Kaohsiung to mark the 20th anniversary of the end of martial law.
The concert, to be held at Jungkuang pier in Kaohsiung, will feature songs and melodies banned during the martial law era.
It is expected to attract more than 20,000 people, a Kaohsiung official said.
For safety concerns, it is suggested that participants use public transportation in order to avoid traffic jams.
Traffic controls will be imposed in the nearby region beginning at 2pm. The concert will take place from 7pm to 10pm.