Tue, Jul 18, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Photographer recalls Martial Law era

Staff writer, with CNA

Photographer Chiu Wan-hsing holds up 228 Incident commemorative stickers at a news conference yesterday to mark the 30th anniversary of the lifting of martial law.

Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times

Describing his work as a photographer documenting the democracy movement before and after the end of the Martial Law era, Chiu Wan-hsing (邱萬興) said of the transition period: “You had to be ready to go to prison any time.”

Taiwan on Saturday marked the 30th anniversary of the lifting of martial law.

Martial law was imposed on May 19, 1949, in Taiwan and lifted by then-president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) on July 15, 1987. Under martial law, people were not allowed to form political parties and there were no rights to free assembly, speech and publication in Taiwan.

Many of the victims and families of those who lost their lives during the long period of repression remembered the period over the weekend, including Chiu.

Born in Taoyuan, he graduated from Fu-Hsin Trade and Arts School, specializing in drawing and graphic design.

After graduation, he worked for a construction company, where he was responsible for advertising real-estate. In the early 1980s, people from outside the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) fought fiercely for the freedom of speech, leading to the proliferation of opposition magazines.

It was at that time that Chiu’s friend asked him to help edit The Eighties, a political journal.

Chiu documented many major events with his camera, including the Wild Lily student movement, a student sit-in demonstration in 1990 for democratic reform, the establishment of the Democratic Progressive Party in 1986, and the 1988 peasant movement.

He was also the first photographer to arrive at the scene of the death of Freedom Era Weekly editor Deng Nan-jung (鄭南榕), who committed suicide by self-immolation in 1989 to fight for freedom of speech.

Chiu said he was taking photographs at a museum in Taipei on April 7, 1989, when he heard that something had happened at the office of the magazine founded by Deng.

After rushing to the office on his scooter, Chiu said he saw a lot of smoke and a SWAT team at the site.

Chiu said that following negiotioans with police, he was allowed into the office, where he saw the charred body of Deng.

“It was painful to take those photographs. I cried while taking them. It was difficult to see a man being burned alive,” he said. “Without Deng Nan-jung’s determination and sacrifice, it would have been impossible for Taiwan’s freedom of speech to come this far today... Democracy did not just fall from the sky. It was earned step-by-step.”

Even during the period after martial law ended when Chiu started working for the Democratic Progressive Party, he said he was often harassed and followed by the police and had to change his residence every two to three months.

“I once got a call and the caller said: ‘I am your high-school classmate and I would like to treat you to coffee.’ The police often harassed you with these kinds of calls, to frighten you,” he said.

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