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Wed, Dec 01, 1999 - Page 3 News List

Democracy pioneer dies

REFORMER In a political career that spanned 50 years, Huang was a major figure behind Taiwan's transition to democracy and political pluralism

By Oliver Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

DPP elder Huang Hsin-chieh died yesterday of heart failure. His political partner, Chang Chun-hung, second right, and his family members help move his body back home.

PHOTO:GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Huang Hsin-chieh (黃信??/CHINESE>), lauded as one of the godfathers of Taiwan's democratic reform movement, died in Taipei yesterday of a heart attack.

Huang was admitted into National Taiwan University Hospital on Nov. 15 after suffering a stroke. After surgery to remove a blood clot in his brain, he was said to be in stable condition but yesterday morning he suffered a heart attack and was pronounced dead at 11:50am. He was 72.

Born in 1928, Huang's political career started in 1949 when he was elected as a Taipei City councillor. He quickly became identified with the so-called tangwai movement, a broad group of opposition political forces antagonistic to the one-party rule of the KMT.

In 1969, Huang was elected to the legislature for life -- a practice that ended at that election.

He also led a democratic movement, which culminated on December 10, 1979 in a clash -- widely believed to be engineered by KMT provocateurs -- between riot police and protesters, an event later dubbed as the "Kaohsiung Incident" or "Formosa Incident" (美麗島事件).

That event is widely recognized as a milestone in Taiwan's quest for political freedom and democratic reform.

As a result of the incident, Huang was arrested and sentenced to 14 years in prison on sedition charges, but was given early parole in 1987. He quickly assumed leadership of the opposition movement and was elected chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party, the successor to the tangwai established in 1986 while he was still in jail.

He led the party for three years, helping put through major democratic reforms.

Huang liked to boast of having never lost an election, though actually he did lose in a legislative election in 1992 -- a loss which was reversed the following year after one of the victors was convicted of vote-rigging.

Life of a DPP patriarch

1928 Born in Talungtung, Taipei City.

1949 Elected Taipei City Councilor.

1969 Elected to the legislature in a supplementary election.

1978 Organized election campaigns for such "tangwai" figures as Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), Yao Chia-wen (姚1??, and Huang Huang-hsiung (黃?雄).

1979 Launched Formosa Magazine. Arrested the same year following the Kaohsiung incident on Dec. 10.

1980 Sentenced to 14 years in prison on sedition charges.

1987 Released on parole.

1988 Elected as chairman of the DPP.

1989 Re-elected as DPP chairman.

1992 Organized April 19 demonstration demanding direct presidential election. Ran in Huanlien constituency in legislative elections.

FEB. 1996 Sentenced to six months in prison on charges of illegal assembly. Appointed as a presidential advisor.


Huang's death yesterday was widely lamented as a major loss to Taiwan of one of the prime movers behind reforms which gave it the democratic system it now enjoys.

"He is the major figure in the movement which brought peaceful democratic reform to Taiwan," said Chang Chun-hung (張俊宏), Huang's partner for decades in the quest for democracy and also imprisoned after the Kaohsiung Incident.

"He worked in a peaceful way that saw reforms without bloodshed. And he did not claim credit for those achievements," Chang said at Huang's home.

"He never hesitated to find people who were more capable than himself, and delegate responsibilities to them, hoping that reforms could be made and not fearing that himself would be shadowed by others," Chang said.

"He once considered running for the presidency but when younger people raised objections, he dropped out instantly," Chang said. "He was a loveable old man."

Chen Shui-bian (3?糮?/CHINESE>), DPP presidential candidate and a defense lawyer for Huang after the Kaohsiung Incident, also visited Huang's home yesterday evening. He kneeled down three times and kowtowed nine times in front of an alter set up for Huang, in a show of utmost respect for him.

"He is my eternal mentor. He was like a father to me. It was he who led me onto the path of politics," Chen said at the doorstep of Huang's house where a makeshift structure was being erected by workers for Huang's funeral.

"When I visited him in the hospital, he could not speak very clearly, but I knew what he wanted to tell me. I won't let him down."

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