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Sun, Jul 08, 2001 - Page 3 News List

Newsmakers-2: Old soldier stands his ground

A vocal opponent of Lee Teng-hui's Taiwanization goals, octogenarian Liang Su-yung adamantly maintains that reunification with China is Taiwan's only way forward. While his influence within the KMT has waned over the years, he remains outspoken and undaunted, and days he'll stay with the party until the day he dies

By Crystal Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Liang Su-yung

TAIPEI TIMES FILE PHOTO

Old soldiers never die; they just fade away," said former legislative speaker Liang Su-yung (梁肅戎) in 1991 before stepping down as a tenured lawmaker -- a residual position from the days of martial rule. His friends like to joke that even if the feisty KMT elder wastes away physically, his tongue will remain razor-sharp.

Indeed, Liang, 81, recently made headlines when he petitioned the KMT to oust former president and party chairman Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), accusing him of "colluding with the DPP to the detriment of the KMT."

"The party has clearly said that it would oust any member who joined other political groups," Liang said, referring to a much-talked-about exodus of pro-Lee KMT members, who are disappointed with the party's increasingly pro-unification stance.

"Lee, who is orchestrating the exodus from behind the scenes, should be given the same punishment," he argued.

A mainlander, Liang has never veiled his distaste for the Taiwanization policy, branding it a parochial scheme by independence advocates to permanently separate Taiwan from the "motherland."

"As long as I live, I will do everything possible to prevent that from happening," Liang said. "It is my duty as a citizen to help keep the country [China] whole."

In 1996, Chinese President Jiang Zemin (江澤民) personally received Liang in Beijing to praise his "patriotism." Critics here dub him a China stooge, and some go as far as to suggest that he and his ilk pack their bags and move back where they belong.

Unfazed, Liang in 1998 co-founded the Strait Peaceful Re-unification Association that has sponsored international forums to promote eventual unification between Taipei and Beijing. "I'll carry on with the mission, popular or not. That is my philosophy -- fighting for what I believe until I die," Liang said while leader of KMT's Central Advisory Committee.

Blunt and persistent, Liang has been a gadfly even with the KMT, of which he became a member while a freshman in college in northeastern China. He joined the underground fight against the Japanese army during the 1940s and was jailed for 18 months until the Allied victory enabled his freedom. In 1948 he was elected a legislator for his home province of Liaoning and soon followed Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) to Taiwan after the KMT lost the civil war to the communists.

A lawyer by training, Liang volunteered in 1960 to defend Lei Chen (雷震), a pro-democracy fighter who was then charged with sedition. That gallant act earned Liang the ire of Chiang, who almost expelled him from the party.

"A firm believer in democracy and human rights, I helped bring about important liberal reforms in Taiwan, notably the right to counsel for the accused," Liang said.

Political dissidents of the time admired Liang, and four years later Peng Ming-min (彭明敏), a long-time independence activist, insisted that Liang must defend him after he was accused of sedition.

"Liang is indeed nice, if stubborn," Control Yuan member Kang Ning-hsiang (康寧祥) said of his old friend.

Unsurprisingly, Liang failed to get either client acquitted, as was normal under the regime.

Sympathetic with the protest movement, he was later asked by Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) to act as a troubleshooter to negotiate with the opposition between 1977 and 1987. And his association with non-KMT politicians once caused the KMT leadership to question his loyalty.

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