A country will not move forward with a “silent generation” of young people, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) said in Changhua County yesterday, voicing his support for young students protesting against a major media merger deal.
Responding to media inquiries, Lee said he did not understand all the details of the Want Want China Times Group’s (旺旺中時媒體集團) acquisition of cable TV services owned by China Network Systems (CNS, 中嘉網路), but he supported young students speaking up for media freedom.
About 700 people, most of them students, protested on Tuesday against the deal, which they said would create a media monopoly, and the media group’s sustained attacks on Academia Sinica associate research fellow Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌), an outspoken media expert who opposes the merger.
Freedom of speech should never be monopolized, Lee said on the second day of his three-day visit to central Taiwan, adding that media freedom is essential for a healthy society because people need adequate information to be able to pass judgements and make assessments.
Lee said he participated in protests before going into politics.
As a 40-year-old university professor, Lee and five academics launched a protest against private businesses’ planned purchase of 4,000 hectares of land in Yunlin County’s Sihhu (四湖) and Kouhu (口湖) townships, the former president said.
The protest stopped the land deal.
“A country cannot move forward without young people who have a sense of justice and fairness,” Lee said.
The former president, who was given the nickname “Mr Democracy,” also addressed several political issues.
On the disputed Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台), Lee, who holds that the islands are Japanese territory, said Taiwanese and Chinese leaders had failed to demonstrate through historical fact or international law how the islands could be considered their territory.
Territory cannot be transferred without an act of war or a signature on a treaty, Lee said.
“China always loves to say this place or that place is its ‘traditional territory.’ But you need to address issues like this based on facts and history,” Lee said.
For a Taiwanese government to say that the islands fall under the administration of Toucheng Township (頭城), Yilan County, shows that the nation’s leader “did not conduct enough research and was kind of stupid,” he said.
On Chinese officials’ comments that “both sides of the Taiwan Strait belong to one country,” Lee said that before the birth of the Republic of China, there was no nation known as China, just dynasties with different names, so it is ridiculous to cite history and tradition as the basis for both sides of the Taiwan Strait belonging to one country.
Lee also warned the Democratic Progressive Party about its “new mentality” in dealing with its cross-strait policy after suffering a defeat in the presidential election in January.
“Improving mutual understanding does not necessarily require the establishment of a Chinese Affairs Committee or anything like that,” he said.
Both sides should respect each other’s independence during the process of forging mutual understanding, he said, adding that improving bilateral relations “does not mean you have to say anything for the sake of pleasing Beijing.”
Lee said he was invited to give a speech about the democratization of Taiwan and the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) at Beijing University, but judged it was too early to visit a country ruled by an authoritarian regime.