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Thu, Dec 09, 1999 - Page 3 News List

Kaohsiung Eight trial pointed way to Taiwan's future

SYMBOLIC VICTORY Although the court-martial of the Kaohsiung Eight in 1980 ended with their being given lengthy prison sentences, the trial was seen as a victory


Chen Chi-sen said the primary aim of the defense strategy was to convince the court of the inadmissibility of the confessions. But he admitted that they were concerned about pushing the issue too far, in case it provoked a backlash.

"We had to overturn their confessions, which were seen as very powerful evidence. But we also had to restrain ourselves from going too far. Otherwise, our efforts would have been in vain," Chen said.

Although handled by a military court, it was an open trial which the press was allowed to cover. During the nine-day trial, newspaper sales generally rose in proportion to coverage given to the trial, sparking intense competition between the two major dailies, China Times and the United Daily News.

The intense media coverage had a deep impact on the public's perception of the accused and the incident itself. In reading newspaper reports of the trial, few failed to be impressed with the well-organized and well-presented arguments put forward by the accused and their defense lawyers.

Above all, many people, especially the younger generation, grew inspired by the opposition activists' passionate pursuit of the belief that the people of Taiwan, not China or the US, should have the final say over their own fate.

The current Taipei County Commissioner Su Tseng-chang (蘇-s昌), a member of the defense team, summed up the trial's impact on society succinctly: "It allowed the public to hear the truth about the incident. And when more and more people came out to support our ideals, the KMT was forced to realize it was facing an irresistible trend."

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