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Tue, Oct 23, 2001 - Page 3 News List

Finding a cure for the nation's ills

Some eighty years after the first group to promote the cultivation of a national awareness was formed, four recently formed associations have picked up the torch of the Taiwan Cultural Association to carry on the promotion of Taiwanese consciousness. Just as with the original group, medical professionals play a pivotal role in their work. Each headed by a physician, the groups all have roots in Taiwan's pro-democracy movement. Though their work is distinct, the four doctors have dedicated themselves to treating the diseases they believe are crippling Taiwan's further development

By Lin Mei-chun  /  STAFF REPORTER

Members of the Northern Taiwan Society posing for a group photo in front of a picture of the founders of the Taiwan Cultural Association. The association, which was headed by Dr. Chiang Wei-shui, ignited a wave of social movements 80 years ago when the nation was under Japanese colonial occupation.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMESN

'Searching for something deeper'After residing in the US for 20 years, physician Wu Shuh-min (吳樹民) felt a strong calling to return to his native Taiwan.

"I wanted to come home and do something for my country," Wu recalled. "It was like I was encountering a mid-life crisis, and trying to search for something deeper."

In 1989, Wu returned to Taiwan, leaving his children and his well-established career behind. His mission at the time was to take care of the financially troubled Independence Evening Post (自立晚報) -- a newspaper founded by his father Wu San-lien (吳三連) and known for its vehement support of Taiwan's democracy movement.

But the seeds of Wu's desire to do something for Taiwan were planted long before his decision to return to his homeland.

"The idea of campaigning for an independent Taiwan emerged soon after I went to study in the US," Wu said, now a national policy advisor and executive director of the Foundation of the Medical Professionals Alliance in Taiwan. "Any conscientious intellectual witnessing Taiwan's low international profile would have had the same thought."

When not teaching or practicing medicine, Wu devoted all his spare time in the US to aiding Taiwan's democracy movement and helping it out of its international predicament.

"In retrospect, Taiwan's [road to] democracy has been a chapter of history filled with blood and tears. The fruits of democracy, though still fledgling, were not easily attained. It took the collaborative endeavors of many courageous Taiwanese -- both in the country and overseas -- who insisted on fighting for their ideals at the expense of their lives."

A leading figure in the US-based, pro-Taiwanese independence movement, Wu was a member of many associations which supported the fiery movements taking place in Taiwan in the 1970s and 1980s.

Since returning to Taiwan, Wu's work has continued undaunted. He has actively lobbied for Taiwan's UN entry and admission to the World Health Organization.

"The name `Taiwan' has to be recognized. But before the title can be acknowledged internationally, Taiwanese have to first reach a consensus that this is the only solution," Wu said.

But Wu said that many Taiwanese are apathetic. "Compared with Taiwanese abroad, people in the country seem to be much more nonchalant about Taiwan's international standing and the continuation of Taiwan's cultural heritage."

"The reason why Taiwan encounters so many obstacles on the international front lies not in intimidation from China or from a lack of international support. The heart of the problem resides in the Taiwanese themselves.

"Many Taiwanese, especially the younger generation, face serious identity crises. They lead their lives without developing any substantial cultural roots."

Wu said that Taiwan's lack of cultural recognition can be attributed to 50 years under KMT rule, which, he said, steeped the nation in Chinese ideology. The KMT's control over education and the media only further hampered the development of Taiwanese culture, he said.

With an aim to mend the mistakes of the KMT, the Northern Taiwan Society was formed in order "to elevate Taiwanese culture and fortify the Taiwanese spirit.

"Only by building people's confidence and self-esteem can Taiwan generate enough strength to stand up and walk into the international community," he said.

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