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Sat, Mar 31, 2001 - Page 2 News List

Warriors of a new generation

About twenty young politicians who came of age during the student movements of the 1980s and '90s are running in the DPP primary for the year-end legislative elections. Some are already legislators, while others are seeking to enter the legislature for the first time. All are considered bright, are well-educated and share a common aim: to help improve the quality of the legislative process. Staff reporter Lin Mei-chun spoke to three of the most prominent

Lawmakers Lee Wen-chung (李文忠) and Lai Chin-lin (賴勁麟), as well as former National Assembly delegate Liu I-te (劉一德) are among the young politicians running in the DPP primary for year-end legislative elections, and have been recognized as the first generation of student activists from the early 80s. When Taiwan was ruled under a state of emergency, they had their names permanently emblazoned upon the history of the student movement for pushing for direct elections of the head of National Taiwan University's student union, and an end to censorship of the school's publications.

The three have been involved with the DPP since its earliest days, having encouraged the party's founding. They are founding members of the party and assisted with the party's development. Now that the party is in power, they intend to turn their attention to helping improve the party's performance in government.

Lee Wen-chung

For most college students, to get dismissed from school would be a huge setback. But not for 42-year-old Lee Wen-chung. Expelled from National Taiwan University (NTU) in 1986, the student activist struggled to find another path for himself, turning him into the prominent political star he is today.

Majoring in political science, the DPP lawmaker was born into a poverty-stricken family and in college showed himself to be a revolutionary.

Greatly influenced by the blossoming democratic movement in the 1980s, Lee was active both on and off campus pushing for democratization.

Outside of school, he devoted himself to campaigning for tang wai (黨外 -- literally "outside the party," ie, non-KMT) candidates during elections, and working as an editor for tang wai magazines. At school, he called for campus democracy by requesting a direct election for the leader of the students' association. Although his goal was achieved after great efforts, Lee paid a very high price. The school authorities claimed he was "excessively politically progressive," and he was expelled from the university.

Declining to bow before the unjust punishment, Lee launched a week-long hunger strike on campus. But the action, which made him a school hero, failed to win back his place on the student body.

The event drove him even closer to tang wai, because he totally "lost his interest in studying."

"`What can I do without a bachelor's degree?' I asked myself," recalled Lee. "Nothing, because I was not able to live up to social expectations like other college graduates by doing something like pursuing graduate studies. And I knew chances were slim for a college drop-out to find a good job, and I was not interested in making money anyway. People don't live just to make money."

Lee said he had been raised to believe in the existence of social justice. But a whirlwind of political events -- such as the Formosa Incident (美麗島事件) in 1979 (when a group of pro-democratic activists were arrested after an anti-government parade), and the murder of the daughters and mother of Lin I-hsiung (林義雄) (the former DPP chairman and one of the victims in the incident) a few weeks later -- shattered those convictions.

Outraged that people could be thrown into prison because of their quest for liberty and democracy, Lee resolved to fight on against the KMT regime.

His first step was to join the labor movement just as it emerged in Taiwan after decades of harsh KMT repression.

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