President Chen Shui-bian (
Yesterday would have been Lei's 110th birthday.
As the nation commemorates the legacy of Lei Chen (雷震), Chen said the public must ponder what other hurdles must be overcome on the country's road to democracy.
Chen outlined how he saw the obstacles; to rewrite the Constitution which he described as outdated; to hold a referendum which he said is the materialization of direct democracy; and freedom of speech, which he said has been abused by the media.
Chen made the remarks while addressing the first of a series of forums held to discuss the achievements of Lei in Taipei yesterday afternoon. Yesterday's forum focused on Lei's views on the constitutional system. The events are being organized by Academia Historica, the Lei Chen Democracy Human Rights Foundation and the Compensation Foundation for Improper Verdicts.
Lei, a founder and publisher of the Free China journal, was arrested on Sept. 4, 1960, on treason charges and sentenced to 10 years in prison at the behest of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) because of the journal's pro-democracy stance. The magazine, which was launched in 1950, was then closed.
Declassified documents show that the Taiwan Garrison Command proposed drastic measures to stop the publication of the journal. Six hours before the verdict was handed down, Chiang issued an order that Lei's sentence should not be less than 10 years, and that the first ruling may not be changed on appeal.
During his 10 years in jail, Lei wrote a 4-million-word memoir chronicling his life and thoughts on democracy. However, the memoir and most government documents regarding the "Lei Chen incident" have disappeared or were destroyed.
During Chen's tenure as a lawmaker, he requested a government investigation into the incident and requested compensation from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) administration, but to no avail.
After being elected president in 2000, Chen ordered the Ministry of National Defense in February 2002 to try to recover Lei's memoirs and related government documents.
Lei Mei-lin (雷美琳), Lei Chen's eldest daughter, who returned from the US to attend yesterday's event, described her late father as a "far-sighted politician" who deserved a great deal of respect. She also cited journalist Xiang Yang (向陽) who wrote that her father was "as brave as a lion, as steadfast as a camel and as innocent as a child."