Writer, human rights activist and former political prisoner Bo Yang (柏楊), who infuriated both the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Chinese Communist Party with his tart critiques of Chinese culture, abusive leaders and anti-democratic behavior, died early yesterday morning of complications from pneumonia. He was 88.
Bo had been receiving treatment for pneumonia at the Cardinal Tien Hospital in Sindian (新店), Taipei County, since February.
Born in 1920 in Henan Province, China, Bo authored more than 200 works. One of the most prominent was The Ugly Chinaman (醜陋的中國人), in which he pilloried Chinese culture as dirty, noisy, divisive, obsequious and vainglorious.
The book came as a shock when it was first published in Taiwan in 1984. Although it was banned in China until 2000, underground copies were widely available.
Last August, Bo began planning a comic-strip version of the book, saying that it could reach out to young people today who tend not to read.
The New York Times once called Bo “China’s Voltaire.”
Bo, whose real name was Kuo Yi-tung (郭衣洞), followed the KMT government to Taiwan after the KMT lost the Chinese civil war.
He found work as a columnist for the Independence Evening Post, a small liberal newspaper, but quickly ran foul of the KMT dictatorship after he blasted Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) government over corruption and abuse of power. One of his more controversial pieces of writing at the time was Foreign Land (異域), a study of the KMT soldiers stranded in what would become the Golden Triangle after they were unable to join their compatriots in Taiwan. His reporting on their destitution embarrassed senior military officials who escaped from the area.
He was then jailed in 1968 following a translation of the American comic strip Popeye, which was interpreted as criticizing Chiang’s refusal to conduct free presidential elections.
He served nine years in prison, mostly on Green Island (綠島), after being convicted of acting as a communist spy — a government catchall for dealing with troublemakers during the Martial Law era.
Aside from managing a prolific writing career, which included historical studies, short fiction, journalism and translations of classical Chinese works, Bo was keen to advocate human rights and served as Amnesty International’s Taiwan office director from 1994 to 1996.
Bo’s health began to deteriorate in September 2006 and he had been in and out of hospital several times since then, eventually forcing him to stop writing.
Despite his illness, Bo followed politics closely.
He said he was disappointed at the record of the Democratic Progressive Party administration, but also worried about the KMT’s return to power.
President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) yesterday expressed his “deepest regret” over Bo’s death.
Chen said he would confer a posthumous medal on Bo and asked government agencies to assist Bo’s family with funeral arrangements.
The Presidential Office statement described Bo as a modern thinker who had been eminently capable of representing Taiwan. The president said Bo exerted a great influence on contemporary Taiwanese literature and was held in high esteem in literary circles, both domestic and international.
The statement added that Chen was grateful for the advice Bo gave him during his stint as senior presidential adviser.
The president visited Bo in hospital on Saturday. Bo’s wife, the poet Chang Hsiang-hua (張香華), told Chen at that time that he was the only president to express respect toward him.
President-elect Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) also visited Bo in hospital on April 16.
Bo is survived by his wife and two sons and three daughters from previous marriages.
‘A DISASTER’: A successful Chinese attack on Taiwan would undermine the credibility of US security guarantees and could result in a global depression, three experts wrote A Chinese takeover of Taiwan would be a geopolitical catastrophe for the US and its allies, one that would overshadow almost all others over the next decade, US policy experts said. Andrew Erickson, a professor of strategy in the US Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute; Gabriel Collins, a fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy; and former US deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger issued the warning in an article published on Tuesday in Foreign Affairs. Bejing’s invasion or annexation of Taiwan “would be a disaster of utmost importance to the United States, and I am convinced that
Taiwanese businesspeople’s investments in China last year hit a record low of 11.4 percent of total foreign investment, the Mainland Affairs Council said yesterday. The number was a huge decline from 83.8 percent in 2010, mainly because Taiwanese businesspeople have been diversifying their investments globally over the past few years, with great success, the council said. From 1991 to last year, 45,523 Taiwanese investments in China totaling US$206.37 billion had been approved, accounting for 50.7 percent of overall foreign investment, data from the Ministry of Economic Affairs’ Investment Commission showed. The amount and proportion of Taiwanese investments in China has been declining, with
Taiwanese tourists on board a Kinmen cruise ship had a scare yesterday when it was intercepted by Chinese coast guards who forcefully boarded the vessel to inspect it. The Sunrise, a tourism ferry that operates between Kinmen and Xiamen, China, was sailing around the waters around the islets of Dadan (大膽) and Erdan (二膽) — both of which are part of Kinmen County — yesterday afternoon when it encountered personnel from China’s Fujian Coast Guard Bureau. China Coast Guard personnel forced their way on board and conducted an inspection for about 30 minutes before leaving, local media cited the tourists as saying. The
KINMEN: Coast guards on both sides of the Taiwan Strait should prohibit the entry of illegal vessels into ‘restricted’ waters to uphold maritime safety, Chen Chien-jen said Premier Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) yesterday called for both sides of the Taiwan Strait to approach the security of Kinmen and Xiamen waters with rationality and equitability, following a boat chase that resulted in the death of two Chinese fishers last week. Chen was responding to media inquiries ahead of a legislative session amid rising cross-strait tensions following the capsizing of a Chinese speedboat off the east coast of Kinmen on Wednesday last week during a pursuit by the Taiwanese coast guard. The Ministry of National Defense established the boundaries of “prohibited” and “restricted” waters around Kinmen in 1992 to better protect