The Legislative Yuan yesterday passed a proposal to make April 7 “National Freedom of Speech Day” in honor of democracy movement pioneer Deng Nan-jung (鄭南榕), who committed suicide by self-immolation 20 years ago.
The move came after Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said at a memorial gathering for Deng on Monday that the party would make the proposal.
“Deng contributed immensely to the liberty that the people of Taiwan enjoy today,” DPP Legislator Wong Chin-chu (翁金珠) said.
Wong represented the party in making the proposal, and told the Taipei Times that since no one had objected, the proposal now awaits final approval from the Executive Yuan.
On April 7, 1989, Deng, then editor-in-chief of Freedom Era Weekly (自由時代週刊), set himself on fire as heavily armed police attempted to break into his office following his 71 days of self-imposed isolation after he was charged with sedition for the anti-government views expressed in his magazine.
When he set himself on fire, Deng said that “the KMT cannot catch me, they can only catch my corpse.”
Deng was also involved in the erection of the first 228 Incident monument in Chiayi City in 1989, which led to a watershed discussion of the 228 massacre, Wong said, adding that the legislature later passed the 228 victims compensation program.
In response, KMT caucus deputy secretary-general Lin Hung-chih (林鴻池) said he did not know what Wong meant by saying that the legislature passed her proposal.
“There are certain legal procedures to establish a national memorial day — memorial days cannot be determined by legislative decisions alone,” he said.
“If the DPP feels it is important to establish a Freedom of Speech Day, they would have done so when they were in office. That they didn’t shows that the DPP only wants to bring up the issue to get sympathy,” Lin added.
In related news, Huang Hua (黃華), who initiated the New Country Movement with Deng in 1988, began to stage a seven-day hunger strike yesterday at Liberty Plaza in Taipei in protest of the government’s plan to sign an economic cooperation framework agreement with China.
Huang said he was also doing so to continue Deng’s unfinished mission of establishing a sovereign country.