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Thu, May 11, 2000 - Page 4 News List

Chang Fu-mei's long walk toward Taiwan's reform

ACTIVIST Chang Fu-mei has devoted much of her life to the democratization of Taiwan. A past resident of the US, the new head of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission is particularly suited to her new role

By Lin Mei-chun  /  STAFF REPORTER

From her start as a political activist overseas, to taking up the role of a National Assembly delegate, to becoming the executive director of Taipei City's Commission for Examining Petitions and Appeals (CEPA, 訴願審議委員會), to being a member of the watchdog Control Yuan, some would say Chang Fu-mei (張富美) has perfected every single role she plays.

President-elect Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) selection of Chang to be the new chairman of the Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission (OCAC,僑委會) is just the latest in a string of illustrious achievements.

Long before her return to Taiwan in 1992, Chang Fu-mei was well known for her enthusiastic promotion of Taiwan's democratization abroad and also for her support of so-called "political dissidents" by means of her well-established association with the American government.

In addition, she has proven her proficiency as an executive official with her laudable accomplishments during her term as the executive director of the Taipei CEPA from 1992 to 1996.

Despite having resided in the US for more than thirty years, Chang says her feelings for her homeland never diminished.

Chang's interest in politics was not inherited. Born to a conventional Taiwanese family during the period when "white terror" prevailed, Chang was raised to believe that political involvement was unsuitable for a woman.

However, Chang's awareness of and interest in the issues of democracy and liberty emerged during the years as an academic.

She was engaged in academic research in various prestigious institutions in America while studying for her PhD degree.

Her studies immersed her in the Occidental legal system and Roman Law and enabled her to fully appreciate the merits of democracy.

The 1979 Kaohsiung Incident (美麗島事件) was a turning point for Chang.

Having witnessed many of her close friends being defamed and incarcerated after the incident, Chang searched out all possible avenues in the American government and a slew of academic institutions in an attempt to save the so-called "rebels."

Though her involvement in the affair put her on the government's blacklist -- which deprived her of the right to return home -- she said nothing could stop her from devoting herself to political reform in Taiwan.

"I just thought it was the right time to do the right thing. Once I plunged into the circle, there seemed to be no return." said Chang.

When asked if she felt any regret over having been embroiled in politics for so long, and now, with her new appointment, being forced to be separated from her family in the US, her reply is pragmatic.

"It is probably true that life would be much easier if I remained a mother, a wife and a university professor. But I find no time to look back to think what would happen otherwise ? It is such a critical moment in Taiwan now that the first peaceful transfer of power is going to take place. I feel honored to be needed by my country."

Apparently realizing the arduous task ahead of her, Chang shows her trademark confidence and perseverance.

"As long as I undertake my task with justice and reason, I am sure the OCAC will have a whole new image in the near future," Chang said.

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