Tributes poured in for writer, playwright and media personality Wang Benhu (汪笨湖), 65, who died yesterday in Tainan after battling illness and complications from bone marrow cancer.
Doctors at Cheng Kung University Hospital in Tainan said that in accordance with the wishes of Wang’s family, he was removed from a life-support system on Wednesday and died yesterday.
Born Wang Jui-cheng (王瑞振), he adopted the pen name Wang Benhu and became a celebrated author of Taiwanese grassroots literature in the 1980s. Some of his plays and novels were turned into television series or films, including the 1995 movie The Daughter-in-Law (阿爸的情人) and the 2004 movie The Digger and the Suona Player (陰間響馬吹鼓吹).
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From working behind the scenes, Wang later became a familiar face on screen as a popular television show host and social commentator, espousing Taiwanese identity and encouraging Taiwanese to take charge of their nation.
Wang became good friends with former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), producing a television mini-series on the life of Chen and his wife, former first lady Wu Shu-chen (吳淑珍), for Sanlih E-Television in 2000, when Chen began his first term as president.
One of Wang’s signature shows was Voice of Taiwan (台灣心聲), which aired on MUCH TV from 2002 to 2005, in which he interviewed people in the studio or on location, talking to people in towns and cities and delivering political commentaries. He conducted his show in Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese), and with his folksy style, became very popular in central and southern Taiwan.
He went on to host several political call-in shows, including Taiwan Get Moving (台灣起動)on Chinese Television System TV and Benhu Speaking (笨湖開講) on Taiwan Arts and Culture TV. He also briefly served as chairman of Taiwan YAM TV, which he cofounded with industrialist Winston Wong (王文洋).
The Presidential Office issued a statement extending its condolences to Wang’s family.
“His life was dedicated to advance the cause of Taiwanese culture and grassroots literature, with many of his novels and creative productions turned into films and popular television series. Wang made great contributions to our nation. It is a sad occasion to hear of his passing,” the statement said.
“Wang was a pioneer, who opened up the path for pro-
Taiwan talk shows. Before that, political talk shows on television were mostly tilted toward the pan-blue camp,” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Huang Wei-cher (黃偉哲) said. “He wielded considerable influence at the time. Many DPP and green-camp political figures competed to get on his show. I was dismayed when I heard of his passing.”
“Rest in Peace, our beloved Brother Benhu,” DPP Legislator Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) wrote. “You have left a legendary chapter in Taiwanese history. We will always remember your glowing presence and smiling face.”
Chen Chih-chung (陳致中), writing on behalf of his father Chen Shui-bian, said: “My father was in sorrow and mourning when he heard the news. We visited Wang last month, when he was bedridden... My father wanted it to be known that, together with Wang, we fought for Taiwan’s democracy, and he gave us his warm assistance during the dark days when [my father was] in jail. We shall never forget Wang’s kindness. Life may be limited, but the bonds of friendship will always endure.”
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