Tue, Jul 29, 2008 - Page 3 News List

FEATURE: Assault on Chen highlights vulnerability

IN THE FRONT LINE Politicians are no strangers to violence in Taiwan, as Annette Lu, Chiang Ching-kuo and Hsieh Tung-min, among others, have discovered to their cost

By Ko Shu-Ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

FEATURE: The physical assault on former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) last week was not the first time political figures or commentators have been attacked for their views. The incident highlights the vulnerability of public figures.

Chen was kicked as he entered the Taipei District Court last Monday to defend himself in a defamation lawsuit filed by a number of people connected to the purchase of Lafayette frigates in 1990.

The suspect, Su An-sheng (蘇安生), is a member of the pro-unification Patriot Association and has a long police record, including manslaughter, theft and forgery. He assaulted former representative to Japan Koh Se-kai (�?�) last month and lawyer Wellington Koo (顧立雄) in August 2006.

Koh said on Sunday that he would follow suit after Chen announced that he would take legal action against Su.

Su himself was attacked by two unidentified men with iron bars and wooden poles on Saturday. The attack happened after Su went on TV to challenge pan-green supporters to “come and fight.”

It was not the first time Chen has been attacked. The best known occasion was the assassination attempt on both him and then vice president Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) on the eve of the presidential election in 2004. Bullets grazed Chen’s stomach and hit Lu’s knee as the pair stood side by side while campaigning in the back of an open-top vehicle in Tainan.

Nor was it the first time a former president has been a victim. In May 2000, retired serviceman Shih Li-hsing (史力行) poured ink onto former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), who, Shih said, had raised tensions between ethnic groups in Taiwan and had betrayed the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) during his 12 years as head of the party. Lee did not press charges against Shih.

Government officials and political commentators are no strangers to political violence in Taiwan.

Late president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) escaped an assassination attempt unscathed in New York in 1970. Chiang was in the US to meet then US president Richard Nixon in his capacity as vice premier.

Late vice president and Taiwan provincial governor Hsieh Tung-min (謝東閔) suffered serious injuries to both hands when a parcel bomb sent to his office blew up on Oct. 10, 1966. The bomb was sent by Wang Sing-nan (王幸男), who is now a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator, to highlight the cause of Taiwan independence.

In March 2003, Chin Heng-wei (金恆煒), a political commentator and editor-in-chief of Contemporary Monthly magazine, was attacked while walking home with his wife in Taipei. The assailant was believed to have been angry with Chin’s liberal stance on cross-strait affairs and Taiwanese independence.

During an international conference in November of that year, New York-based political commentator Cao Changqing (曹長青) was assaulted by four members of the Patriot Association for his “pro-independence remarks.”

Then, in August 2006 Chin was slapped and kicked by Chinese Unity Promotion Party chairman Lin Cheng-chieh (林正杰) during a TV debate on whether then-president Chen Shui-bian should resign over corruption allegations.

Ku Chung-hwa (顧忠華), a professor of sociology at National Chengchi University and an executive member of the Taipei Society, said that the attack on Chen last week highlighted a social phenomenon of what sociologists called the “de-enchantment” of political authority as Taiwan transformed from an authoritarian state to a democracy.

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