Thu, Sep 04, 2003 - Page 2 News List

New books honor Lei Chen

MEMOIRS The liberal thinker, democracy activist and founder of the China Democratic Party was remembered yesterday, 43 years after he was arrested and jailed for sedition

By Jewel Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Lei Mei-lin, daughter of Taiwan democracy pioneer Lei Chen, shows her father's original manuscripts and two books on his legacy at a press conference yesterday.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

A leading publishing company yesterday released two books covering the life and writing of Taiwan democracy pioneer Lei Chen (雷震) which the DPP said have restored historical accuracy and redressed the injury Lei Chen and his family experienced during the KMT administration.

"Lei's bravery and fortitude in his pursuit of freedom and a constitutional government had a strong influence on the development of Taiwan's democracy," President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), who attended yesterday's book releasing ceremony, said.

"The [KMT] regime was routed by the DPP on May 20, 2000 and [Lei Chen's] ideal of a `free China' started to become a reality," Chen said. May 20, 2000 is the day Chen was inaugurated as president.

Chen praised Lei as "a fighter who dared to challenge authority and pursue democracy and human rights."

`Free China'

In 1960, Lei, a liberal thinker who devoted his life to democratic reform and human rights, was accused of sedition and collaborating with communists and sentenced to 10 years in prison for publishing Free China (自由中國), a biweekly advocating liberalism that was sharply critical of the KMT's autocratic form of leadership.

He launched the China Democratic Party (中國民主黨), which was later suppressed under the Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) administration.

The two books released yesterday were Memoirs On The Creation Of A New Party (新黨運動黑皮書) and Lei Chen's Correspondence with Family (雷震家書).

Chen was the first person to raise concerns about the improper treatment of Lei Chen and he helped clear the activist's name, Lei Chen's daughter Lei Mei-lin (雷美琳) said yesterday at the press conference. She thanked Chen for clearing her father's name.

Top-level recognition

"This is the first time that Taiwan's highest ranking government official has apologized to us," Lei Mei-lin said in tears.

Many friends, acquaintances and associates of Lei Chen attended the conference yesterday. Former legislative speaker Liang Su-jung (梁肅戎), who served as Lei Chen's defense attorney, once again spoke on his behalf.

"Lei Chen was a great man -- a forerunner of the democratic movement. He was a liberal, by no means a communist," Liang said. "I regret that he was sentenced to 10 years in prison without any chance of parole."

Council of Labor Affairs Chairwoman Chen Chu (陳菊) was instrumental in preserving the manuscripts of Lei's memoirs, written in the 1970s.

As the secretary of democracy activist Kuo Yu-hsin (郭雨新), Lei Chen's best friend, Chen Chu delivered the manuscripts from Kuo to the US.

"The manuscripts that I delivered were only a small part of his memoirs. Actually, many journalists, priests and students living in US helped a lot," said Chen Chu.

"We hope that Mr. Lei's legacy can be remembered and handed down so that leaders will not commit the same tragedy," she said.

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