In a gesture to commemorate late democratic activist Deng Nan-jung (鄭南榕) and to remind the public of the basic values of liberty, Yilan County Commissioner Lin Tsung-hsien (林聰賢) on Tuesday announced that every April 7 will be designated “Freedom of Expression Day.”
A stalwart defender of human rights and pro-independence inclined, Deng, then editor-in-chief of Freedom Era Weekly (自由時代週刊), set himself on fire on April 7, 1989, in pursuit of what he called “100 percent freedom of expression.”
The self-immolation happened after he was surrounded by police who planned to arrest him on sedition charges following his 71 days of self-imposed isolation.
Deng was charged with sedition after the Freedom Era Weekly published “A Draft Republic of Taiwan Constitution” written by Koh Se-kai (許世楷) in 1988.
Lin said Yilan is a bastion of democracy and has been the home of democratic activists such as Deng, Kuo Yu-hsin (郭雨新) and Chiang Wei-shuei (蔣渭水).
Quoting Deng telling his wife, Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭), that he was only doing his part and that the people who come after him have to pick up where he left off, Lin said it is because of this that later generations should answer the call to protect freedom of speech and to maintain a vigil over the movement.
“By so doing we are preparing Taiwan’s democracy with the strong and solid foundations it needs,” Lin said.
The county government said that it also intends to hold a photography exhibition at the county history museum, as well as having its bureau of education arrange public free speech classes.
The courses will teach county residents the importance of freedom of speech in terms of democratization, the county government said, adding it will also begin a process of deepening residents’ understanding of the basics of democracy.
“Together we fight for 100 percent freedom of expression in Taiwan and are making the necessary preparations to bring about a fully democratic Taiwan,” Lin said.