Mon, Mar 30, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Twentieth anniversary of activist's death is marked

FREEDOM FIGHTER On April 7, 1989, rights activist and publisher Deng Nan-jung set himself alight to protest the lack of freedom of expression in the nation

By Rich Chang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Deng Chu-mei (鄭竹梅), the daughter of Deng Nan-jung (鄭南榕), was in tears when she saw a documentary yesterday showing her father setting himself on fire 20 years ago. She was nine years old when her father burned himself to death to protest the lack of freedom of speech.

“Twenty years have passed and the image of my father was getting vague in my head,” Deng Chu-mei said at an event held in Taipei yesterday to mark the 20th anniversary of Deng Nan-jung’s death. “I think, starting this year, I will work to learn more about him and gather his image in my head.”

Born in Taiwan in 1947 to a family from China, Deng Nan-jung overtly articulated his support in public for Taiwanese independence on numerous occasions in the 1980s when a charge of sedition was used against proponents of independence.

A follower of liberalism, Deng held a deep belief in freedom of expression and established Freedom Era Weekly (自由時代週刊) in 1984 in pursuit of what he called “100 percent freedom of expression.”

On April 7, 1989, he set himself on fire as heavily armed police attempted to break into his office following 71 days of self-imposed isolation after he was charged with sedition for the anti-government stance of his magazine, which published a draft “Republic of Taiwan constitution” in 1988.

Deng Chu-mei said she has been doing some research and hoped to publish a book “to commemorate my father in my own way.”

“From being a little girl who underwent the pain, pressure and memories of losing her father during her childhood, to now being willing to talk about her father in public, it is very meaningful to me,” Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭), Deng’s widow and former deputy premier, said yesterday of her daughter.

Yeh said the reason she had been involved in politics for the past 20 years following her husband’s death was motivated by the hope that the next generation of Taiwanese could live free from fear.

Earlier this week, when asked for comment on former Toronto-based Government Information Office (GIO) official Kuo Kuan-ying (郭冠英), who asserted that in writing his articles which smeared Taiwan and Taiwanese he was simply practicing his freedom of speech, Yeh said people should not denigrate Deng Nan-jung and Taiwan’s freedom of speech by comparing Kuo to Deng Nan-jung.

The freedom of speech that Deng Nan-jung strived for was for love and respect and harbored no hatred, which was very different from Kuo’s articles which were full of hatred, Yeh said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY STAFF WRITER

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