Sun, Jul 24, 2011 - Page 3 News List

FEATURE: Days of political prisoner legislators near their end

By Tseng Wei-chen  /  Staff Reporter

The Kaohsiung Incident in 1979, which sparked the nation’s democratic reforms, ushered in a period in which family members of political prisoners and/or their defending lawyers began throwing themselves into the political arena.

The prisoners themselves also entered the political scene after the lifting of Martial Law on July 15, 1987, and after then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) in 1990 declared amnesty for the political prisoners.

Among elected legislators in the legislative elections in 1992, 11 were former political prisoners.

Among the current seventh term of legislators, however, only Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker Wang Sing-nan (王幸男) was a former political prisoner. And because no former political prisoner have been nominated for either a constituent legislator seat or as a legislator-at-large for January’s legislative elections, the current seventh term of legislators may be the last during which former political prisoners were active in the legislature.

According to Lee Hsiao-feng (李筱峰), a professor of National Taipei University of Education’s (NTUE) Graduate School of Taiwanese Culture, the political prisoners sacrificed themselves for Taiwan’s democracy, and were elected because the people wanted to compensate them. However, he said that the people feel they have paid their dues to the former political victims and the young are succeeding the old.

Political activism does not necessarily lend itself to being a legislator, Lee Hsiao-feng said, saying that those who excel in organizing rallies and demonstrations are not necessarily good at mapping out policies.

Su Chiu-cheng (蘇秋鎮) was the oldest of the former political prisoners that were elected as legislators.

Su earlier worked as an aide-de-campe for former Kaohsiung County Commissioner Yu Deng-fa (余登發), and participated in many elections before being jailed for his participation in the Kaohsiung Incident.

Su was bailed out just in time to win an election and become a legislator when the Legislative Yuan held elections to expand the legislature at the end of 1980.

The 1989 legislative elections were the first ones in which the DPP participated, and two DPP members were elected.

One was Tai Chen-yao (戴振耀), a Taiwanese farmer’s rights activist who had been jailed for three years for participation in the Kaohsiung Incident. After being released from jail, Tai not only returned to the countryside as a self-sufficient farmer, but also led farmer protests, prompting Tai to run for legislator and win election.

The other was Lu Hsiu-yi (盧修一), who had been framed by the Taiwanese Garrison Command and imprisoned for three years. After his release, he immediately joined the newly-formed DPP and won the election by a wide margin.

After the political amnesty in 1990, political prisoners such as Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), Chiu Chui-chen (邱垂貞), Yao Chia-wen (姚嘉文), Shih Ming-teh (施明德), Chang Chun-hung (張俊宏) and Huang Shin-chieh (黃信介) were released and won elections to become legislators.

Huang Chao-hui (黃昭輝), imprisoned by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) for concealing Shih during the Kaohsiung Incident, also was elected legislator after becoming one of the additional members of the National Assembly.

Yen Ching-fu (顏錦福), one of the co-founders of the DPP, initially planned to run for legislator during the sixth round of legislator seats additions after serving one term as a Taipei City councilor. He chose to abdicate it to Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭), wife of Taiwanese Independence activist Deng Nan-jung (鄭南榕) after Deng died after setting himself on fire to resist police arrest on sedition charges for the anti-government stance of his magazine.

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