President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday warned of threats to the nation’s democracy and the importance of free speech as she attended a commemoration ceremony in Keelung for democracy advocate Deng Nan-jung (鄭南榕).
Yesterday’s ceremony, part of Freedom of Expression Day celebrations, marked the 30th anniversary of the death of the publisher, also known as Nylon Deng, by self-immolation in his Taipei office after a 71-day standoff with police, who wanted to arrest him on charges of sedition in January 1989 for publishing a draft “Taiwan Republic Constitution” in his magazine, Freedom Era Weekly.
“[China] wants to use our democracy against us. I simply cannot accept this, and I believe Taiwanese in general would not accept this,” she said.
Photo: Lin Hsin-han, Taipei Times
“As president I will persevere in the fight for democracy,” she said.
Free speech is not an abstract or distant concept, Tsai said, adding that her administration had already begun what Deng had sought by repealing the convictions of more than 4,000 victims of political persecution.
These annulments have been therapy for the families of the victims, she said.
The government would continue to dig up and expose injustices committed during the Martial Law era, and would move one step at a time closer toward the nation that Deng had wanted to live in, she added.
“We must allow free speech to be the shared DNA of Taiwanese. This will be the best way to remember Deng Nan-jung these 30 years later,” she said.
“Disinformation” from outside of the nation had become a credible challenge to the values that Taiwanese hold dear, she said.
Reports that China is recruiting Taiwanese Internet celebrities and buying Taiwanese-owned Facebook pages to use for “united front” efforts to erode the nation’s democracy from the inside have caused alarm in Taiwan, Tsai said.
The threat to Taiwan’s democracy is as credible as the terrorism that threatens European countries, she said.
Democracy should not be taken for granted, and it is important for Taiwanese to be brave and stand up in defense of Taiwan’s freedoms when they are under threat, the president said.
The current generation have not experienced life in Taiwan before democratic elections, but they have fought for democracy during the Wild Strawberries movement and the Sunflower movement, she said.
Ensuring freedom of speech and transitional justice are shared responsibilities of all Taiwanese regardless of generation, gender or affiliation, she said.
The Wild Strawberries movement was a student sit-in that began in front of the Executive Yuan on Nov. 7, 2008, to protest against a ban on the national flag and the playing of Taiwanese songs during a visit by a Chinese delegation led by then-Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林) to Taipei.
The Sunflower movement was the 2014 occupation of the Legislative Yuan by students and others against the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government’s efforts to push through legislative approval of the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement that had been signed on June 21, 2013, by the Straits Exchange Foundation and ARATS in Shanghai.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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