Dutchmen's role in democracy effort recalled - Taipei Times
Wed, Dec 10, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Dutchmen's role in democracy effort recalled

COMMUNICATORS Gerrit van der Wees and his wife published the `Taiwan Communique' for more than 24 years, while Coen Blaauw lobbies for Taiwan in the US


The Taiwanese are familiar with American and Japanese support for Taiwan's democratic movement during the martial law period, but few know of European support during that period.

While European support is not often mentioned, two Dutchmen, the publisher of the now defunct Taiwanese Communique, Gerrit van der Wees, and Coen Blaauw, executive director of the Formosan Association for Public Relations (FAPR), were invited to attend "A Journey of Remembrance and Appreciation," the conference organized by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy (民主基金會), to tell about their participation in the pro-democracy movement.

Both men were blacklisted by the former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration for their efforts.

"It may be a Dutch conspiracy," Gerrit van der Wees, a 58-year-old aerospace engineer, said tongue-in-cheek.

Van der Wees with his Taiwanese wife Chen Mei-chin (陳美津) published Taiwanese Communique, an English-publication reporting on political developments in Taiwan for the international community.

The publication started in 1979 around the time of the Kaohsiung Incident. The couple published newsletters to report on and analyze the incident and its aftermath.

A total of 105 issues were published over a 24-year period. The publication folded in June, but the couple continue to update its Web site (www.taiwandc.org) to provide information on current events.

Van der Wees said that his involvement with Taiwan dated back to when he was a graduate student at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington, and was active in Amnesty International.

"At first I had little idea about Taiwan's authoritarian state until a fellow Taiwanese student one day came to me and asked me to help Taiwan's political prisoners," he said.

Van der Wees and his wife moved back to the Netherlands in 1981.

In 1983 they invited Chou Ching-yu (周清玉), now a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator, to visit the Netherlands and arranged for her to lobby members of the Dutch parliament to pressure the KMT administration to release its political prisoners.

In May 2000, Van der Wees and his wife were invited to attend President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) inauguration as honored guests.

"When I shook Chen's hand, my heart was filled with joy to see Taiwan transformed into a democratic country. This was like a moment when one's dream finally comes true," Van der Wees wrote in an article published in the conference's brochure.

Blaauw voiced a similar sentiment in his article.

"I know I am making a difference. I know that I have contributed to Taiwan's democracy over the past years and that I am still doing so today," Blauuw wrote.

A case of the flu kept Blauuw from attending the conference.

"Taiwan independence is a big task, but the good news is that every passing day we come a little closer to the solution," he said in an telephone interview with the Taipei Times from his home in the US.

Blauuw had his first contact with Taiwan when he was doing his master's thesis in international law in the 1980s.

At first he wanted do something on Japan, but most of his classmates were doing Japan because it was a fashionable subject.

"So I decided to be different, and due to the historical connection between Taiwan and Holland, I thought something interesting might come of this," Blauuw said.

He ended up doing a thesis on the Dutch-Taiwanese submarine deals in 1981 and 1983.

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