Sun, Jul 07, 2002 - Page 3 News List

The 'Ilan Tank' trundles into the future

As guardians of the DPP's core philosophy, the `Ilan Gang' has upheld tradition and enforced strict discipline to keep its members on the path set by the pioneers of Taiwan's democracy movement

By Yang Shu-mei

Three top members of the `Ilan Gang' are from left to right Premier Yu Shyi-kun, Minister of Justice Chen Ding-nan and Council of Labor Affairs Chairwoman Chen Chu.


Chen Kuo Chin-tsai (郭進財) was taking over the chairmanship of the state-run Chinese Petroleum Corp (中油), the so-called "Ilan Gang" (宜蘭幫), once again came under the spotlight when Premier Yu Shyi-kun proudly referred to Kuo by saying: "He's also from Ilan [which is my hometown]."

Throughout the DPP's rise from opposition party to ruling party, the Ilan Gang has been like the German soccer team, one of Europe's soccer powerhouses that has been dubbed the "German tank."

With its long-standing democratic tradition and by upholding the spirit of solidarity and flexible strategies, the "Ilan tank" has constantly been able to subdue enemies and take up important posts on its way from membership in local governments to ruling the central government.

The foundation of the Ilan tank began with the pioneers of the tangwai (黨外, those outside the KMT) democracy movement -- Chiang Wei-shui (蔣渭水) and Kuo Yu-hsin (郭雨新).

The highly respected and well-known "three grandpas and one grandma" (三公一婆) of the Ilan Gang -- former DPP chairman Lin I-hsiung (林義雄), Premier Yu, Minister of Justice Chen Ding-nan (陳定南) and Council of Labor Affairs Chairwoman Chen Chu (陳菊) -- were either directly or indirectly inspired by Chiang and Kuo before they became the elite vanguard of the Ilan tank.

Among the four, Lin made a great contribution to Taiwan's first transfer of political power by helping Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) win the presidency. But he then chose to exit the political stage, having no desire to grab power. Even as he remains outside the political sphere, many dare not think lightly of the power he can exert when he deems it necessary.

Meanwhile, the other three "gang leaders" are holding important posts in the central government.

These four people have walked their own different paths after the DPP took the nation's helm. Their relationships with each other, which seem to be competitive and cooperative at the same time, date back to the time they shared in Ilan.

Roots of a movement

At the age of 18, Yu joined the Youth Party (青年黨), which was established by Kuo. Chen Chu, two years Yu's junior, was Kuo's secretary around that time. Yu and Chen thus learned political concepts from Kuo in those days.

After working under Kuo for a period of time, Yu decided to run in the Taiwan Provincial Assembly elections. However, born into a poor family, Yu was only a graduate from an evening college course. He simply could not compete with another candidate, Lin I-hsiung, who was a law graduate from the prominent National Taiwan University, served as Kuo's legal adviser, and helped Kuo deal with lawsuits in 1975 after he lost in the legislative elections due to vote-rigging.

With all his credentials inferior to Lin's, Yu accepted the advice of tangwai elder Huang Hsin-chieh (黃信介) and withdrew from the candidacy to serve as secretary general of Lin's campaign headquarters and stump for him.

During the 1981 elections for county commissioners and Taiwan Provincial Assembly deputies, the DPP planned to field Yu as their Ilan candidate for the position of Provincial Assembly deputy. At the same time, the political novice -- Chen Ding-nan -- was to run in the Ilan County commissioner race.

Initially, Chen was unwilling to accept the arrangement because he felt that he was being sacrificed as a "suicide candidate" in an area where the KMT had a strong power base. Unexpectedly, he was elected and went on to perform brilliantly during his term. Therefore, Chen at one point surpassed Yu in terms of fame and publicity although he entered politics later than Yu. After Chen, Yu also took part in the commissioner race and was elected as Ilan County chief.

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