Mon, Sep 27, 2004 - Page 3 News List

Memoir reflects on democratic evolution

TRANSITION The ideals that forced one of Taiwan's icons of the independence movement, Ping Ming-min, into exile are now considered mainstream public opinion

By Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Many of the concepts marked out 32 years ago in Peng Ming-min's (彭明敏) memoir, A Taste of Freedom, have today become reality and part of mainstream thought in Taiwan.

Over the weekend, a new Chinese edition of the memoir was released to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Declaration of Formosan Self-Salvation written by Peng, who played a pivotal role in the nation's democratic movement and is widely regarded as the godfather of the nation's independence movement.

Although the release was a reprint of the old edition, it includes additional content of historical value, such as reader's comments and the disclosure of names of individuals who had helped Peng during his 23 years in exile.

Peng, at the time the director of the department of political science at National Taiwan University, was arrested in 1964 for drafting and publishing a manifesto entitled A Declaration of Formosan Self-Salvation with two of his students, Hsieh Tsung-min (謝聰敏) and Wei Ting-chao (魏廷朝).

"The fact that Peng and his allies risked drafting a comprehensive discourse on Taiwan's independence has guaranteed them a vital place in history," said Chen I-Shen (陳儀深), the Northern Taiwan Society's deputy chairman and a research fellow at Academia Sinica.

In a letter to Peng after having read A Taste of Freedom, Edwin Reischauer, a Harvard professor and former US ambassador to Japan, said "the memoir, via delineating of a person's life story, had delineated the true essence of `the Taiwan problem' better than any other academic books."

The new edition also disclosed assistance provided by former president of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences Carl Gustaf Bernhard and his wife during Peng's self-exile in Sweden where he was granted political asylum by the Swedish government.

It was with Carl Bernhard's letter of recommendation that assisted Peng in obtaining a visa to the US.

"Parting with my Swedish hosts and friends and leaving Sweden was difficult," Peng said in the memoir.

"[Sweden] was the country that had given me asylum when my life was in danger and these friends had received me with warmth and kindness which will be impossible to forget."

"Many had asked me, `Why not to disclose in details of my escape from Taiwan in the memoir?'" Peng wrote in the new edition's foreword.

"I was able to successfully escape from Taiwan with help from friends," he said referring to his escape from Taiwan in 1970. "It is for consideration over their situation and safety that I have yet to speak of the process [of my escape] clearly. I hope in the future I can start to disclose a certain level of the process.

The Declaration of Formosan Self-Salvation was lauded by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) at Saturday's commemorating event as the "beacon leading Taiwan in its walk to democracy."

Most people first read the declaration in Peng's memoir which he wrote during his time of exile.

The memoir was first published in English in 1972. It outlined a profound analysis on Taiwan's political position, its prospects for the future and its status in the international community. Many of the ideas then were not accepted by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime, but have now become the prevailing view among the majority of Taiwanese people.

The manifesto declared that China and Taiwan should be recognized as separate legal entities; that it was impossible to "retake the mainland" as one popular Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) slogan used to say, for the ideology served only to perpetuate the KMT regime, and that the KMT government represented neither China nor Taiwan.

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