Mon, Dec 03, 2007 - Page 3 News List

FEATURE: Provincial officials recall drama of democratization

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

In the days of the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) party-state regime, the Taiwan Provincial Government, an administrative body distinct from the central government with its own assembly, was where the action was.

The provincial assembly -- which was tasked with overseeing Taiwan as a province when the central government considered itself the legitimate government of all of China -- was downsized dramatically in 1998, and its importance faded as its authority was increasingly shifted to the Legislative Yuan.

Its name was changed to the Taiwan Provincial Consultative Council and council members were no longer elected by county and city councils, but were instead appointed by the central government.

Largely ignored, the body still exists, but its functions have changed dramatically.

Since taking up the position of council speaker for the body in February 2002, Yu Lin-ya (余玲雅) has worked with universities and government agencies to digitize the papers that document the history of the assembly, which has operated under various names during its 61-year history and gradually came to play a central role in democratization. Each year, Yu also organizes an exhibition detailing the work.

The latest exhibition, focusing on the fifth and sixth assemblies, from 1973 to 1977 and from 1977 to 1981 respectively, opened at the National Taiwan Museum in Taipei City last month and continues until Dec. 30.

Yu said these terms mark an important time in the nation's history -- one in which her late grandfather, Yu Teng-fa (余登發), fought for democracy against the authoritarian regime.

Yu Teng-fa became the first non-KMT county commissioner when he won the Kaohsiung election for the post in 1960.

Shocked by his victory, the KMT ran a smear campaign against him, eventually charging him with embezzling from public construction projects. In 1963, he was suspended as commissioner and sentenced to two years in prison.

After completing his prison term, Yu Teng-fa developed a close relationship with members of the dangwai movement, a group of political dissidents united under the term "outside the party" because founding political parties was banned. The movement eventually defied the ban to form the Democratic Progressive Party.

When Yu Teng-fa and his son, Yu Juei-yen (余瑞言), were charged with treason in 1979, dangwai members protested in Kaohsiung's Chiaotou Township (橋頭).

The incident, which became known as the "Chiaotou Incident" (橋頭事件), was the first political protest during the Martial Law era.

In September 1989, Yu Teng-fa was found dead in a pool of blood. His daughter-in-law, Yu Chen Yueh-ying (余陳月瑛), was at the time seeking re-election as Kaohsiung County commissioner. The cause of Yu's death was never determined.

For Yu Lin-ya, her work documenting the provincial assembly's history evokes the memory of her grandfather's tragic death.

She believes Yu Teng-fa was murdered for political reasons and has long hoped the government would reopen the case, along with other suspected killings during the KMT regime that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has repeatedly vowed to reopen -- including the brutal stabbings of Lin I-hsiung's (林義雄) family and the death of Chen Wen-cheng (陳文成).

Lin's six-year-old twin daughters and mother were murdered in their home in 1980, while he was in jail for participating in the "Kaohsiung Incident." Another daughter survived despite being repeatedly stabbed.

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