DPP reaffirms support for late activist

FIERY END::Deng Nan-jung set himself on fire rather than surrender as police tried to arrest him on sedition charges for authoring a ‘Republic of Taiwan constitution’

By Vincent Y. Chao  /  Staff Reporter

Fri, Apr 08, 2011 - Page 3

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) politicians reaffirmed their support for Deng Nan-jung’s (鄭南榕) struggle yesterday, praising the late independence advocate for his contributions to Taiwan’s freedom and democracy.

“He was a selfless hero that taught us to fearlessly seek the truth and bravely defend our beliefs,” DPP presidential hopeful Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said at a -memorial ceremony marking the 22nd anniversary of his death.

“Only through [these] sacrifices could Taiwan have the hard-won democratic freedoms we see today,” Tsai said.

Tsai, the only leader of the DPP that didn’t participate in Taiwan’s democracy movement during the 1970s and 1980s, said the party would “reflect on the past and remember the lessons learned.”

“Taiwanese paid the price with lives, blood and tears in the pursuit of freedom, democracy and human rights during the one-party system,” she said. “We won’t forget [their sacrifices].”

The remarks come 22 years after the political writer set himself on fire during an arrest by police on charges of sedition for his work on a new Taiwanese constitution.

Among the nearly 100 people present at the memorial were former premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) and other senior DPP officials. Family members, a pastor and artists were also present at the ceremony.

“Deng Nan-jung gave his life for Taiwan. The values of freedom, human rights and democracy are not God-given,” said Hsu Chang-hsien (許章賢), a director at the Deng Liberty Foundation. “Taiwanese must continue to defend these ideals.”

Born in Taiwan in 1947 to a family from China, Deng publicly articulated support for Taiwanese independence on numerous occasions in the 1980s at the same time that 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 in 1984 in pursuit of what he called “100 percent freedom of expression.”

In 1987, Deng made a widely heard statement when delivering a speech at a rally in Taipei: “My name is Deng Nan-jung, I support independence for Taiwan.”

The statement could have gotten him into trouble because the issue of independence was taboo under Martial Law. However, Deng insisted on openly declaring his political ideology because he believed that freedom of expression was a fundamental right for all people.

In 1988, he published a draft “Republic of Taiwan constitution.”

On April 7, 1989, he set himself alight 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 after it published the draft constitution.

Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭), Deng’s widow and former deputy premier, has said that 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.

Additional reporting by staff writer