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Tue, Dec 07, 1999 - Page 4 News List

Conference reflects on Kaohsiung

DEMOCRACY Taiwan's younger generation of politicians and scholars met to discuss the 1979 incident that fostered independent thought and helped establish the DPP

By Yu Sen-lun  /  STAFF REPORTER

Several young political figures and scholars attended yesterday's symposium titled "Thoughts on the Kaohsiung Incident from a younger generation."

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

A younger generation of Taiwan's political opposition traded impressions over the 1979 Kaohsiung Incident (美麗島事件) yesterday -- ahead of Friday's 20th anniversary of the event -- many of them describing the watershed event as the end of their political innocence.

"Without the Kaoshiung Incident (美麗島事件), our generation's minds and values would still be lost," one younger DPP member yesterday.

To consolidate Taiwan's democratic system, including the party politics that the DPP has been striving for, is the new task for the next generation, they said.

Seven DPP scholars and politicians, most of whom were in their teens during the incident, and had later joined the student movements in the 80s, participated in a symposium on the impact of the incident.

For most participants, the incident was their beginning of skepticism regarding politics and propaganda at that time.

"What really shocked me was the public trial itself of the defendants (known as the `Kaohsiung Eight', who were tried for inciting the so-called `riot'). Everyone was so self-confident and righteous in the trial, which really made me think of the situation of our country," said Lai Ching-ling (賴勁麟), a DPP legislator who was a senior high school sophomore at the time.

"At that time I was very much influenced by anti-Taiwan independence propaganda, and so-called `anti-violence' tones in media reports. But in later years, I began to read different `tang-wai' [黨外, or literally `outside the party'] magazines, and I was often moved to tears by the words of Shi Ming-te (施明德) when he was jailed," said Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍), a professor at National Chung-cheng University.

Lai said the incident was the reason he chose to major in politics and became devoted to the DPP. Lin also became a politics major three years after the incident.

For DPP legislative caucus leader Chen Chi-mai (3祠靾?/CHINESE>), the incident had the same impact. Then 16 years-old, and studying in Kaoshiung, Chen recalled that the "night was made bright by the torches held by marchers, and I saw Huang Hsin-Chieh (黃信??/CHINESE>) and Shi Ming-teh giving speeches. They were very charismatic with the crowd," he said.

The incident had also created role models for the future politician that time, according to DPP legislator Wang Shue-feng (?y?榆p). She said Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) -- now Taoyuan county magistrate -- was a heroine during the subsequent trial, and had motivated her to study law.

"She was one of only two women, and was also a law school graduate," Wang said.

The participants at yesterday's discussion, all in their 30s, agreed that the incident had opened a space for independent thinking, and had fostered social and political student movements in the 80s that helped the establishment of the DPP itself in 1986.

Wang said the incident ultimately helped Taiwan form a democratic political system, and that what is needed now is to improve the quality of Taiwan's politics.

"Black-gold politics have made the twenty-something generation disappointed with politics. We feel that we should bear a more heavy responsibility, because current politics do not draw a clear-cut distinction between black and white, or between good people and bad people," said Wang.

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