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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

Growing up in a community of mainlander soldiers and their families, Liu said he was driven by sympathetic sentiment toward Taiwanese and from his understanding of Taiwan's history. He also carried a sense of guilt for being viewed as an oppressor due to background.

"The Feb. 28 Incident in 1947 was a tragic chapter of Taiwanese history, when thousands of Taiwanese were killed by the mainlander-led government. Anyone who understands this part of our history would abhor the mainlanders' atrocities," he said.

Considering himself a stern advocate of Taiwan's independence, Liu said he was a firm believer in ethnic assimilation.

"I don't think there should be any `Chinese' in Taiwan after the last 50 years [since the KMT retreated to Taiwan in 1949]. All should be assimilated by Taiwanese culture. In my opinion, Hokkien should be made an official language," Liu said in fluent Hokkien.

The two-term National Assemblyman, who brought himself national fame for pushing for the marginalization of the National Assembly last April, is vying for a legislative seat. Liu said he would exert similar efforts to downsize the legislature if elected this December.

"The current number [of lawmakers] in the legislature is too big to hold an efficient meeting. The number of seats should be reduced by half," he said.

Lai Chin-lin

Judging by his gentle appearance, it is hard to imagine 38-year-old Lai Chin-lin as an aggressive protester who has fought in almost every battle to demand students' rights, and who tirelessly participated in the labor movement during the 1980s.

But the DPP lawmaker, who has concentrated on environmental and social welfare issues in the legislature, was a bold activist from the onset of his college years until becoming a publicly elected representative in 1991.

Lai, who grew up in the countryside of central Taiwan and was not exposed much to politics in his teens, says 1979, when the US changed its diplomatic ties from Taiwan to China, was a turning point in his life.

"It was at that time I realized how important it was for a country to maintain strong international relations, and it was at that same time that I discovered how incapable our government was when it came to dealing with foreign affairs. The event raised my interest in politics and influenced my choice of international affairs as my major," said Lai.

Lai, along with Lee and Liu, teamed up for events such as pushing for direct elections for the leader of the student union, and terminating censorship in the school's publishing. Like many other activists, Lai was penalized by the school and the University Forum -- the club which he headed -- was suspended.

But Lai says that these punishments had a positive impact because they also acted as catalysts for him to become further involved in politics.

"The fact that our club was forced to shut down by the school pushed me further toward the tang wai activists outside the school," Lai recalled.

"I felt a sharp contrast between the two environments. In society, people were irate because everything was so controlled under the White Terror laws as freedom of expression was strictly suppressed. But at school, students were extremely indifferent to what was really going on in the world."

Dispirited by his schoolmates' apathy and the oppression of school authorities, Lai turned to the tang wai for solace.

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