Mon, Sep 03, 2007 - Page 3 News List

Hsieh launches electronic book on Lei Chen's life

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) yesterday launched an electronic book chronicling the life and times of democracy pioneer Lei Chen (雷震), who was accused of sedition and sentenced to 10 years in prison for publishing a pro-democracy magazine in 1960.

Hsieh said Taiwan had paid a high price for the mistakes made by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) authoritarian regime during its 50-year rule.

"Lei saw clearly that the KMT's campaign to reclaim China was futile and realized that democratization and `Taiwanization' were inseparable," Hsieh said at a forum organized by the Lei Chen Democracy and Human Rights Fund to mark the launching of the e-book, titled Documentary Collection on the Lei Chen Case.


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 late dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) because of the journal's pro-democracy stance. The magazine, which had been launched in 1950, was shut down.

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 no appeal should be allowed.

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 either disappeared or been destroyed.

Chen Yi-shen (陳儀深), a researcher at Academia Sinica's Institute of Modern History, said Lei proposed separating the KMT from the armed forces after he returned from a trip to Hong Kong in 1951.

His proposal received harsh criticism from Chiang Kai-shek and his son Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國).


Lei was warned by the Garrison Command after publishing an editorial in the Free China journal criticizing the government for setting traps to catch corrupt officials.

Chinese dissident Ruan Ming (阮銘) said that although Lei and Chiang Ching-kuo were both against communism, Lei insisted that democracy and freedom were the best alternative while Chiang Ching-kuo contended that dictatorship was the answer.

Lei suggested changing the Republic of China's (ROC) title to the "Democratic State of Chinese Taiwan." He proposed that the country could be independent of the People's Republic of China under a "two Chinas" model.

The Chiangs, however, flatly rejected Lei's proposal. The US government severed diplomatic ties with the ROC and withdrew its forces from the country in 1979.

Although Lei did not live to see the democratization of Taiwan, Ruan said Chiang Ching-kuo had put Lei's will into practice and helped to transform the country into a more democratic state.

Lee Shiao-feng (李筱峰), a history professor at the National Taipei University of Education, said two kinds of people opposed communism: liberals and fascists. Lei was a liberal, while the Chiangs were fascists, Lee said.

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