Mon, Nov 10, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Cao is the dissident's dissident

By Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Exiled Chinese political commentator Cao Chang-ching, left, poses with Shih Hsin University professor Jim Lee after a speech at National Taiwan University last week. The speech was part of a round-island lecture tour by Cao.


New York-based political commentator Cao Chang-ching (曹長青) stands out among Chinese dissidents for his support of Taiwan's right to decide its own future.

Unlike many dissidents who call for democratic reforms in China yet appear hesitant when it comes to the issue of Taiwan independence, Cao supports the right to self-determination.

"Many overseas Chinese disagree with my argument that people in Taiwan should have the right to choose," Cao said.

Cao was cast into the limelight last week after being attacked, allegedly by members of the pro-unification Patriot Association (愛國同心會).

Disapproving of and apparently enraged by Cao's pro-Taiwan independence rhetoric at a conference last Sunday, four members of the group allegedly physically and verbally assaulted Cao that night in the lobby of the Grand Hotel.

Cao, who left Taiwan yesterday, was visiting the country last week at the invitation of the think tank Taiwan Advocates and the Northern Taiwan Society.

The assault made a celebrity of Cao and police were called upon to stand guard at his subsequent events.

"This is the first time in my life that I feel as if I am some big-name celebrity where there is the need to call the police to protect my presence," he said, making light of the assault.

Cao said that he would never compromise in the face of violence.

But his outspokenness in support of Taiwan's right to self-determination doesn't sit well with many overseas Chinese democracy activists.

While noting that he has not encountered such assaults in the past, Cao said he is well aware that many pro-unification overseas Chinese don't welcome his views.

"When you go on-line, you can see much criticism against me, lambasting my support for people in Taiwan to have the right to self-determination," he said.

Born in Heilongjiang Province, Cao, 50, received a bachelor of arts degree in Chinese from the University of Heilongjiang.

Cao is a former deputy editor in chief of the communist Shenzhen Youth News.

He was ousted from his job in 1986 -- the newspaper was dissolved shortly thereafter -- for daring to suggest in an editorial that then Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) was too old to hang on to power and that he should retire.

Arriving in the US in 1988, Cao founded the Press Freedom Guardian (新聞自由導報) the following year and is now a political commentator for Radio Free Asia out of the US, Hong Kong's Open magazine and the Taipei Times.

Cao was a visiting fellow at Columbia University in 1996.

He said he has been developing ideas on democracy since his time in China.

Cao said books such as Animal Farm and Twenty Letters to a Friend were among the books -- banned by the Chinese authorities -- that have helped shape his concept of democracy.

It was not until he came to the US in the late 1980s that he started to take note of issues regarding Taiwan.

"It was only after coming to the US that I started to come across articles about Taiwan and meet people. I began to become aware of the reality of Taiwan's situation and understand the truth about Taiwan," he said.

Cao said that he supports former president Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) "two states" theory and President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) "one country on each side" of the Taiwan Strait dictum because both men truthfully describe Taiwan's reality.

The same can be said for his support for Tibet's and Xinjiang's self-determination, he added.

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