Tue, Dec 20, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Yu's history makes him popular with `deep greens'


For 57-year-old Yu Shyi-kun, the transition from a young follower of Kuo Yu-hsin (郭雨新, 1908-1985), a leader of the dangwai (outside the Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT]), based in Ilan to possibly becoming the next leader of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), has been a long, hard road.

Growing up in a typical farming family in the 1950s, Yu had no choice but to drop out of school at age 14 after his ailing father passed away.

Yu returned to school at the age of 19, working as a farmer and a salesman over the next eight years to support his education. During this period, Yu was deeply inspired by Taiwanese democratic pioneer Kuo.

When Kuo unexpectedly failed to win in the 1975 legislative polls, Yu and Kuo's other young followers became determined to fight for a more democratic and freer society by taking part themselves in politics.

In 1977, the 29-year-old Yu decided to run for a seat in the Taiwan Provincial Assembly but was convinced that another dangwai activist and an Ilan native, Lin I-hsiung (林義雄), might have a better chance. Taking the long-term view, Yu decided to become Lin's first assistant.

Lin was elected with more than 73,000 votes.

Yu's modesty and willingness to consider the overall picture was recognized by most dangwai people, who later became key DPP figures.

Yu went on to serve two terms in the Taiwan Provincial Assembly and served two terms (eight-year) as Ilan County commissioner.

He has also served as vice premier, Presidential Office secretary-general and DPP Central Standing Committee member -- a resume that would serve him in good stead as DPP chairman.

One of example of his courage and willingness to help the DPP government was his decision to resign as vice premier in the summer of 2001, to take responsibility for the drowning of four workers in the Pachang Creek disaster.

However, Yu's decision to seek the chairmanship has been criticized by several senior DPP figures, including Lin, who was chairman from June 1998 to July 2000.

Lin published an open letter yesterday outlining his opposition to Yu's candidacy.

He said Yu should not run because he has already served as a top government official.

Lin hinted that Yu, as a key figure in the party, should have engaged in self-reflection rather than seeking a higher position out of personal interests.

Lin believes that the DPP, in the wake of its defeat in the Dec. 3 local elections, needs someone who is detached, but has a lot of prestige, and who can reform the party.

Yu, however, has been warmly welcomed by loyal party supporters in southern Taiwan, the so-called "deep greeners," because of his unsophisticated image.

"Based on my observation, DPP supporters in the south are pretty much in favor of Yu, whose background is similar to theirs," Chao Wen-nan (趙文男), director of the DPP chapter in Kaohsiung City, told the Taipei Times.

Chao said Yu's image as of native Taiwanese would be an excellent distinction from KMT Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), a descendent of prominent Mainlanders.

"Most DPP supporters in the south are looking forward to party reform conducted by a person who knows Taiwan well," Chao said.

Chao said Lin is a respected figure in the party but that this time he seemed to provoke disagreement in the south.

"I don't think Lin's criticism will have any impact here. I predict that Yu will gain overwhelming support in the south in the chairman election," Chao said.

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