Mon, Feb 10, 2003 - Page 3 News List

`Old Kang' a political war-horse

CONSTANCY A household name in the 1970s and a leader of the democracy movement, Kang Ning-hsiang has shown the country his discipline and endurance

By Lin Mei-chun  /  STAFF REPORTER

In 1982, he led You Ching (尤清), Huang Huang-hsiung (黃煌雄) and Chang Te-ming (張德銘) in a visit to the US in what became known as tang wai diplomacy. The group lobbied the US congress, demanding that the US continue to supply Taiwan with defensive weapons in exchange for the KMT government lifting martial law.

He advocated a moderate pace of reform from within the system, and sought to extend his influence by launching a series of opposition magazines.

Taiwan Tribune (台灣政論) was founded in 1975 with the help of late DPP chairman Huang Hsin-Chieh (黃信介). But the monthly was banned after only four issues.

The Eighties (八十年代) was introduced four years later, with Antonio Chiang (江春男), now the NSC's deputy secretary-general, serving as its editor in chief.

When James Soong (宋楚瑜), now PFP chairman, was in charge of the censorship of publications as the director of the Government Information Office and the head of the KMT's propaganda department, the magazines were banned, confiscated or suspended more than several dozen times. But the publications came back again and again under different titles over the course of eight years.

Practicing what he preached, Kang did not take part in street demonstrations in the 1970s or 1980s. He was the only opposition activist who was not arrested after the Kaohsiung Incident in 1979, and for that reason, he was seen as too timid to be a revolutionary leader.

In 1983, unhappy with his Kang's moderate stance, a younger, more radical generation of tang wai followers led by Chiou I-jen launched a series of attacks against Kang, whom they considered an appeaser. Swamped by a wave of criticism from both the elite and the rank and file of the opposition movement, he lost his legislative seat at the end of that year.

After the defeat, he went to Columbia University as a visiting scholar, researching national defense policy, and made friends with specialists in China studies in the US and with many congressmen. Those old connections appear valuable for his job today.

It was perhaps not surprising then that, returning to the legislature in 1986, he enjoyed better relations with many KMT figures than with most of his DPP comrades. It was perhaps also not surprising that, before long, he lost his passion for politics and started to shift his focus to the press after media restrictions were lifted in 1988.

With support from his old colleague, Antonio Chiang, Kang founded The Capital Morning Post (首都早報) in June 1989. The money-losing paper was shut down after a year, proving financially unviable with its strong political views and emphasis on serious topics.

The closing of the newspaper dealt a blow to Kang's career. He also faced a crisis in his personal life when he was involved with a scandal. It was the darkest period of his life.

It was not until in 1993, when then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) nominated him to serve in the Control Yuan, that he re-emerged on the political scene. But his DPP membership was suspended in line with the principle of neutrality required of Control Yuan officials.

In the latest turn of the political wheel of fortune, Kang is to succeed Chiou, his one-time nemesis, as head of the NSC, where he will work with Chiang for a third time.

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