The Deng Liberty Foundation yesterday welcomed the Taipei City Government’s decision to rename a lane where democracy advocate Deng Nan-jung (鄭南榕) committed suicide 23 years ago in defense of the freedom of expression.
The Department of Civil Affairs announced on Tuesday that it would assign “Liberty Lane” (自由巷) as an alternative name to Alley 3, Lane 106, Minquan E Rd Sec 3.
“Deng Nan-jung sacrificed himself in a fight for freedom of speech, which significantly contributed to Taiwan’s democratic development and also made him a memorable man,” the department said.
A pro-democracy advocate, Deng established the Freedom Era Weekly in 1984 in pursuit of what he said was “100 percent freedom of expression.”
The publication was banned or suspended on several occasions by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government because of its anti-government stance.
In early 1989, Deng, then 43, locked himself in his office for what became a 71-day protest after being charged with insurrection for printing a proposal for a constitution for the “Republic of Taiwan” a year earlier.
On April 7, 1989, Deng set himself ablaze when military police surrounded his office and attempted to break in and arrest him.
“The KMT will only take my corpse, but will never take me alive,” Deng had said two-and-a-half months before his suicide.
The department said that as an individual, Deng’s case did not fall under the city’s Honoring Arts and Cultural Organizations Rules (藝文組織譽揚要點), which are regulated by the Department of Cultural Affairs. Organizations can be honored in several ways, such as by having the roads where they started out or currently reside named after them, the Department of Civil Affairs said, citing “Cloud Gate Lane” (雲門巷), where the office of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre is located.
The name of the alley will not be officially changed — it will simply be given a new nickname, the Department of Civil Affairs said, to avoid infringing the rights of the 320 households registered to the alley.
The Deng Liberty Foundation yesterday expressed gratitude to the city government for acknowledging Deng’s contribution to democratization and freedom. It also thanked Taipei City Councilor Yen Sheng-kuan (顏聖冠) of the Democratic Progressive Party, who proposed the renaming.
The foundation said it would continue its efforts to have the Deng Nan-jung Memorial Museum, which is located in Deng’s former office, designated a cultural heritage site. It said it would also step up efforts to make April 7 “Freedom of Speech Day,” not only in Greater Tainan, but nationwide.
The Department of Civil Affairs said the alley’s new road sign would be erected in two months at the earliest.
The “Liberty Lane” sign would be modeled on that of “Anti--Corruption Democracy Square” — the nickname given in 2007 to a section of Ketagalan Boulevard between the front of the Presidential Office and Gongyuan Road, the department said.
Translated by Stacy Hsu, staff writer