Sun, Mar 08, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Ma praises Lei Chen for work on democracy

By Mo Yan-chih and Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

A woman surnamed Lin is carried away by police after protesting at a presidential banquet attended by President Ma Ying-jeou in Tainan yesterday.


President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday lauded late democracy activist Lei Chen (雷震) for his lifelong dedication to Taiwan democracy and vowed to push for human rights while seeking peaceful cross-strait relations.

Speaking at the 30th anniversary of Lei’s death, Ma gave the former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government credit for redressing injustice done to Lei and promised to carry out his election campaign vow of no illegal monitoring, no political interference in the media and no selective handling of cases.

“The then Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT] government failed to follow the law and Constitution when handling Lei Chen’s case and the manner in which it handled the case should be re-examined,” Ma said at the ceremony in Shenkeng (深坑), Taipei County.

Lei, a KMT member, was a democracy activist who was charged by the former KMT government with sedition for publishing the opposition Free China (自由中國) magazine and launching the China Democratic Party (中國民主黨).

He was in prison for 10 years and died at the age of 83.

In 1998, then Taipei mayor Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) began seeking national compensation for Lei on his behalf and honored him as a pioneer of democracy after the DPP came into office.

Ma expressed regret over the KMT’s suppression of Lei and called on all political parties to work together and build Taiwan as a country of peace, freedom and democracy.

“Pursuing peace is our major goal, as only peace can prevent wars from interfering with the establishment of a free and democratic environment,” he said.

Ma’s speech was interrupted by a woman, who urged him to improve the people’s lives and provide more jobs.

“Give people meals, Ma Ying-jeou! Give people jobs!” the woman shouted.

DPP Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), who was at the ceremony, lauded Lei — a Chinese and member of the KMT — for joining local Taiwanese opposition movements. Opposition parties should learn from Lei’s example by being more tolerant and inclusive, she said.

Responding to Ma’s call for political parties to work together in developing Taiwan, Tsai said Ma should seek social consensus on all major issues. Insisting on implementing certain policies would only create more confrontation between the ruling and opposition parties, she said.

Lei’s daughter, Lei Mei-ling (雷美琳), said the family had chosen to forgive the KMT in the name of social harmony.

Wellington Koo (顧立雄), convener of an advising committee for the Lei Chen Fund, said that while the former DPP government had promised to donate NT$30 million (US$860,000) to the Lei family as a public fund, only NT$20 million had been paid.

Koo said he would ask the Ma government to donate the remaining NT$10 million so that the full fund can be used.

Later yesterday, Academia Sinica research fellow Chiu Hei-yuan (瞿海源) said the DPP must become a progressive power again to win back public support.

Chiu made the remarks at a forum hosted by the Lei Chen Public Interest Trust Fund for Human Rights and Democracy titled “Lei Chen, Opposition Parties and Social Movement.”

Chiu said the DPP used to be a progressive power on democratization and social justice, but that it had become disconnected from progressive social movements after taking power in 2000. Its policies did not favor the low and middle class, which traditionally had been the party’s power base.

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