Calling former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Shih Ming-te (施明德) a liar while shouting slogans for Taiwan independence, activists protested after a memorial service held at the Legislative Yuan yesterday for five political prisoners executed for their role in an attempted armed uprising in 1970 .
With black-and-white portraits of Cheng Chin-ho (鄭金河), Chen Liang (陳良), Chiang Piang-hsing (江炳興), Chan Tien-tseng (詹天增) and Hsieh Tung-jung (謝東榮) on the stage, political heavyweights across party lines, including former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), Examination Yuan President John Kuan (關中), DPP chairman Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) and Greater Kaohsiung City Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) gathered in the auditorium of the Legislative Yuan to commemorate the five who were executed after the failed uprising.
“I am sorry that it took 43 years to get you here, the highest representation of the people,” said a tearful Shih, who was also imprisoned at Taiyuan Prison (泰源監獄) in Taitung County at the time. “You have paved the avenue of freedom for Taiwan with your blood. Generation after generation of Taiwanese will always defend that hard-earned freedom.”
“Rest in peace, my brothers,” he added.
However, after the ceremony was over, some independence activists loudly questioned Shih’s role in the uprising.
“Shih Ming-te, you are a liar!” a protester, Chao Cheng-chi (趙成吉), shouted. “You lived on because you wrote a letter to beg for forgiveness from Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石). The five martyrs were executed because they didn’t.”
Chao also said that several of Shih’s jail mates at the time have pointed out that the uprising failed because Shih had tipped off authorities, and thus he had no right to be at the memorial service.
“Shih is shameless,” Chao said.
In May 1970, a group of pro-independence political prisoners and some security personnel at Taiyuan Prison, as well as some local Aboriginal youths, planned an armed uprising to overthrow the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime with the ultimate goal of establishing an independent Taiwan.
However, the plot was discovered by authorities, and was quickly put down, with more than 20 people — including the five political prisoners and some members of the security forces — being executed on May 30, 1970.
Wang praised the political prisoners’ contribution to Taiwan’s struggle for freedom and democracy.
“[The five] were upset by repression, and wanted Taiwanese to be their own masters, and thus planned armed resistance. They failed and were executed at a young age,” Wang said. “Taiwan’s transformation from authoritarianism to democracy was not a natural evolution. It was enabled by the sacrifice of the people who came before us.”