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Fri, Feb 22, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Democratic trailblazer's influence lives on

DYNASTYYu Deng-fa was the founder of one of the most powerful forces in modern Taiwanese politics and his descendants continue to dominate the faction he founded

By Lin Mei-chun  /  STAFF REPORTER

Twelve years after his death, Yu Deng-fa (余登發), one of the nation's founding democratic fathers, continues to exert a strong influence over Taiwanese politics.

After the Cabinet's reshuffle was finalized and the new legislative session began earlier this month, the Yu clan of Kaohsiung County was the biggest winner.

Yu Cheng-hsien (余政憲) was tapped to take over the Ministry of the Interior and his sister Yu Lin-ya (余玲雅) became the speaker of the Taiwan Provincial Consultative Council. Yu Jane-daw (余政道), their younger brother and Cheng Kuei-lien (鄭貴蓮), Yu Cheng-hsien's wife, are both newly elected DPP legislators.

What's more, their mother Yu Chen yueh-ying (余陳月瑛) serves as a senior adviser to the president.

"This level of success and the support for the Yus indicate the family's close ties with the DPP, especially with President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁). But the reason the Yu family maintains such a mighty influence within political circles is directly attributable to democratic advocate Yu Deng-fa -- the late grandfather of Yu Cheng-hsien," said a presidential official, who declined to be named.

A democratic trailblazer who spent a lifetime fighting the KMT's authoritarian regime, Yu Deng-fa established the political opposition group the Black Faction some four decades ago.

"The tangwai [referring to opposition forces before the DPP was founded in 1987] never had the support of the grassroots. But the Black Faction [in Kaohsiung County] was an exception," the official recounted.

"What makes the Yu family stand out is its unique combination of bearing an anti-KMT spirit, but its appropriation of traditional KMT tactics of serving the locals by relying on vote captains during elections."

The senior Yu led a very thrifty life, living adjacent to a fish pond in Pagualiao (八卦寮) in Kaohsiung's Jenwu township.

"He spent his time farming and slept on a bamboo bed perched over a raft of books. When he was hungry, he ate fish caught in the pond. He donated all his money to support the pro-democracy movement," the official said.

Yu Deng-fa was elected commissioner of Kaohsiung County in 1960 as the first non-KMT county commissioner. The KMT, incredulous at his electoral victory, repeatedly tried to discredit him, charging him with corruption in relation to public construction projects.

In September 1963, with eight months left in his tenure, he was driven from office after being impeached by the Control Yuan on what supporters regarded as fabricated charges.

During the follower years, Yu remained out of the political spotlight, but contributed generously to pro-opposition forces.

In January 1979, Yu and his son Yu Juei-yen (余瑞言) were arrested after a meeting with Wu Tai-an (吳泰安) -- alleged by the KMT to have been a spy sent by Beijing.

Street demonstrations began soon thereafter as political dissidents gathered in Kaohsiung's Chiaotou township (橋頭) to protest the KMT's charges against Yu and his son.

As a result of his arrest, the respect of Kaohsiung County citizens for Yu grew.

To many in Kaohsiung County, Yu Deng-fa remains "the eternal commissioner." He is still looked upon as a legendary figure in the pro-democracy movement.

DPP Legislator Chang Chun-hung (張俊宏) said that the Chiaotou incident is of great significance to Taiwan's democratization because by cracking down on the demonstrators, the KMT awakened a nascent opposition force that it was never able to quell.

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