哈佛法學院為歡迎前副總統呂秀蓮重返母校，並慶祝她的英文自傳出版，4月22日中午特別在歷史最悠久的Austin Hall 奧斯汀廳為她舉辦演講會，由法學院副院長Bill Alford 教授主持，除各國留學生一二百人到場聆聽，還有多位哈佛大學榮譽教授出席。
特別值得重視的是，她在哈佛大學甘迺迪學院院長Joseph S. Nye 的會談。奈伊院長近日與澳洲前總理陸克文連名發表論文，主張釣魚台應該中立化，共同保留成為「國際海洋保育區」。這項主張恰恰跟呂秀蓮的「和平不開發」倡議不謀而合。兩人相談甚歡，奈伊院長是柔性國力的倡導人，呂秀蓮這幾年也大力鼓吹柔性國力，兩人互贈Soft Power 的著作，並相約以後加強連繫合作。
The Soft Revolution in Taiwan
Lu Hsiu-lien Annette
Vice President of Taiwan 2000-2008
It is a great pleasure and honor to be here today, to share with you my struggle for my country, Taiwan. I would like to present you Dr. Ashley Esarey, the co-author of my autography entitled My Fight for a New Taiwan, which just came out most recently.
Taiwan has been famous for its advanced high-technology. It gets even more famous for the Sunflower Student Movement, a quasi-revolution led by a coalition of university students and civic groups against President Ma Ying-jeou for the secret operation to enter the “Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement” with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), a country always claims the ownership of Taiwan. The protestors were outraged at the failure of the legislature to review the Agreement clause-to-clause. It was passed in 30 seconds abruptly! The general belief is that, the Agreement would allow Chinese immigrants and economic invasion to Taiwan, making people, college graduates in particular, more difficult to find a good job with good pay.
Besides, the Russia’s recent annexation of Crimea reminds people of the potential threat from China to annex Taiwan. A strong anti-China sentiment thus has been aroused. The voice of “Save our own country” has been loudly heard.
Unprecedentedly, the protestors occupied the chamber of the Congress for 585 hours, or 24 days. On March 23 some even attempted to occupy the Cabinet compound, resulting in a confrontation between the riot police and the protestors with bloodshed and casualties.
Despite it, the 24-day demonstration remained in a peaceful and amusing way. Hundreds student leaders inside the legislative chamber held meetings and press conferences freely under the protection of members of the opposition DPP’s legislators. Tens of thousands of protestors and tourists walked or sat in on the streets surrounding the Congress. The highlight was a huge rally with 300~500 thousands participants. Speeches were made and folk music was popular to play. The young protestors were genius to take advantage of the invention of hi-tech, such as iPads, iPhones and social media to publicize their activities and statements. All of a sudden, the movement attracted global attention and inspired freedom fighters abroad to take part in. For a long time Taiwan has been forgotten. But this time, its soft revolution has exported to the world. A Revolution 2.0 in Taiwan!
I spent overnight with them till early morning on March 20, watching and listening rather than speaking. I toured around twice at 1 AM and 4 PM to make sure everything was alright. I saluted to the police stationed there expressing my regards for their hard work. The participants were thrilled to discover that I was with them overnight at the nearby. I was particularly impressed to notice that women were no less than men among the participants and young students were all devoted to the subject matters addressed.
I, as the founder of the Feminist Movement and one of the leaders of democratic movement in Taiwan, couldn’t help but reflect the past memories.
I was born on the D-Day in 1944 when the Allied Forces embarked on Normandy, France, a year before World War II was entering a final, bloody phase. Fifty-six years later, I took oath to inaugurate to become the first female Vice President of Taiwan on my birthday by lunar calendar.
My parents had had two daughters and one son. They really wanted another son. Twice before I was five I was nearly given away, simply because they expected me to have a better life in a more affluent family. My brother and sisters hated to depart me so they hid me with one of my aunts who lived outskirt of the town so that the foster parents couldn’t take me away. My parents finally decided to keep me and educate me. In order to prove that I was as good as a boy, I studied hard and excelled as a student. Subconsciously I even competed with my brother. He passed the bar exam so I went to Law School as well. He told me stories of many great politicians and I dreamed to become one of them, totally forgot that I was not a man!
But when I was thrown into the empty jail room in the early morning of December 13, 1979, I wondered in my mind, “am I right to devote to politics?” I was jailed because I made a spontaneous speech, sensational and provocative as one can imagine, at the 38th International Human Rights rally in Kaohsiung City.
It was a chilly and windy evening. I stood on the platform above the truck speaking before 100 thousands of men and women. All of a sudden, from the far end of the street, a line of anti-riot trucks with strong searchlights and cloud of white smoke approached the center of the assembly. Tear gas was released and people dropped into tears and felt vomitous. The “dinosaurs” were coming, I thought. I have never seen a real dinosaur at all, but the frightening sight reminded me of something full of horror. At first, people were frightened but in a few minutes, they began to counterattack the security forces with bamboo sticks, bricks, and whatever they could find on the spot. As a result, injury was created on both sides. 3 days later, 152 were arrested and fifty-one were indicted eventually. Eight of the key leaders were court-martialed on charges of sedition, including me. Altogether they were sentenced to 201 years imprisonment, along with a hundred years of deprivation of civil rights and confiscation of properties. But why did a peaceful human rights commemoration end up a political disaster? And my 20-minute speech casted me 12 years imprisonment?
The History of Taiwan
Let’s take a look at the historical background of Taiwan. Taiwan is an island 320 kilometers from the coast of China. Not until 1684 was Taiwan merged into China but under loose control. In 1895, Taiwan was ceded to Japan under the Shimonoseki Treaty as a result of the Sino-Japanese War. Japan continued her occupation till the end of World War II in 1945.
In 1951, the San Francisco Peace Treaty was signed by 51 countries. Under Article 2 of the Treaty, Japan renounced Formosa. In 1945, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Command in the Pacific authorized Chiang Kai-shek to accept Taiwan from the Japanese.
February 28 Incident
With the arrival of Chiang’s troops, there began a period of pillage, rape, murder and economic depression in Taiwan. On February 27, 1947, a female cigarette vendor was pistol-whipped and one person was shot to death. On the next day, military trucks roamed the city, firing now and then at random. Dawn on March 9, a week of naked terror began, when thirteen thousand troops sent by Chiang Kai-shek arrived in Taiwan. People were bayoneted or robbed and cities were littered with the dead and wounded. In all, an estimated 10,000 people were killed, another 10,000 were arrested and executed. A whole generation of Taiwanese leadership was thus virtually wiped out. Petitions were sent to the UN and to the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers requesting a plebiscite for independence. Regretfully, all efforts were ignored internationally.
Martial Law Rule in Taiwan
Two years later, Chiang Kai-shek was expelled by Mao Zedong and fled to Taiwan with two million mainlanders. Prior to his arrival he declared a regime of martial law on May 19, 1949. For the enforcement of martial law, the Taiwan Garrison Command and later the Investigation Bureau were established. The military police, special agents and secret informers were used to monitor meetings, tap phones, inspect mails, and keep surveillance, etc. Provocateurs were also recruited to break up meetings or create disturbance. Quite likely the janitors of apartments or the vendors on the street were their secret agents or well-paid informers. Thus, a pall of fear and a sense of paranoia impeded open political discussions, and even social activities. Moreover, orthodoxy is deeply engraved by the control of thought. Thoughts control started at childhood through high schools and colleges.
Spies and Terrorism
The government also maintained its intelligence operations abroad. A 1985 testimony before the U.S. congressional hearing stated that extensive harassment, intimidation, and surveillance of the United States residents here were conducted and upon returning Taiwan, the critic may be imprisoned, possibly tortured. In 1981, a professor teaching at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Dr. Chen Wen-chen, was interrogated by the Taiwan Garrison Command during his visit in Taipei. A few hours later, his battered body was found on the campus of National Taiwan University.
The Nationalist Party government’s campus spying was widespread across the states. Students attending universities in and out of Taiwan have been harassed or even prosecuted by their campus spies. In 1977 when I was studying at Harvard Law School, one of my schoolmates spied on me. He was promoted to a high position after he returned to Taiwan, while I was harassed and imprisoned by his “little report” on me.
Brazenly, the government extended its terrorism from Taipei to Daly City, California. On October 15, 1984, Mr. Henry Liu, a Chinese American writer who was writing the scandal about Madame Chiang Kai-shek was shot at his residence by the “Bamboo Gang” under the order of the military intelligence. They recruited the gangsters to coerce dissidents domestically and internationally!
Struggle for Democracy
Although Taiwanese were taught to be scared and quiet after the February 28 Incident, sporadic anti-government activities were undertaken, most of which resulted in execution or long-term imprisonment. A large number of people disappeared and mass arrests took place during early 1950s.
As gloomy as the political climate was on Taiwan, intellectuals attempted to fight against the repression and censorship of thought. While radio, newspapers and TV were entirely controlled by the government, oppositionists published magazines and ran for public offices as vehicles for their advocacy of democracy. The Free China in 1960 and the Taiwan Political Review in 1975 were the two prominent examples, both ending up with the same fate – the magazines banned and publishers or editors imprisoned.
The elections on Taiwan have never been clean, as bribery and fraud were general practices of the Nationalist Party candidates. On November 19, 1978, a massive protest against the authority took place in my hometown, where election officials were caught ballot-stuffing. The citizens stormed the police station and a college student was killed by police gunfire. It was the first time that the unfairness in elections was challenged by people’s power.
Taiwanese women traditionally suffered from double burden of Chinese Confucian teachings and Japanese male chauvinism. Chinese tradition subjected women to three obediences: to obey her father before marriage, to obey her husband after marriage, and to obey her sons in widowhood. Under Japanese male chauvinism, women were taught nothing but to serve and to please men. Women always bent their waists, bowed their heads and submitted to men.
In 1971, when I returned to Taiwan after advanced graduate study in the United States, the whole society was debating on how to prevent young women from attending universities. It was argued that valuable social resources were being wasted on women, since they were expected to abandon their careers and stay at home to take care of the household after getting married.
In 1972, a Taiwanese doctoral student studying in San Diego, California murdered his wife, after she had been found to have an affair and asked for a divorce. He dumped her body in the trunk of his car, drove to the airport, and fled back to Taiwan. At the murder trial, the public lionized the husband as a hero, claiming he was the victim of a promiscuous wife, while treating the victim as the villain.
Unable to restrain myself, I wrote a furious commentary asking:“Which is more important, life or chastity? If society approves of the murder for infidelity, then let’s put the shoe on the other foot. How many wives would be justified for killing their unfaithful husbands?”
So many people wrote supportive letters and I was invited to speak and to write column for the media to advance Taiwan’s fledgling feminist movement. For the next few years, I was very active promoting equal rights for women, founding a printing press to publish feminist books, establishing a coffee shop where people could discuss women’s empowerment, and creating a hotline to provide counseling services to battered women.
Gradually, the secret security apparatus came to see my movement as a threat to social stability and began to infiltrate my organizations to undermine my work. The manager of the “House of Pioneers,” a coffee shop serving as women’s activity center turned out to be a secret agent sent by the Investigation Bureau. An editor of the Pioneer Publishing House to publish feminism books was required to report on my daily life. A couple of my most enthusiastic supporters were later proven to have special missions. In addition, nearly all the books published were banned and confiscated shortly after they came out, running me into bankruptcy. Remember that the authority put their dirty and secret hands on my shoulder six years before I became involved in politics.
The reason? “Your motivation to launch such a movement is to destabilize the society, especially to cause disputes between husbands and wives of our high ranking officials so that their marriage would be broken.” I was so accused by the interrogators. What an absurd accusation it was!
At the time I initiated the feminist movement, a considerable percentage of Taiwan’s grown-up women did not go to school, and very few women went out of their homes to work. But today, the number of women in Taiwan gaining college degrees or higher has increased more than tenfold, and women now occupied 44 percent of technical positions, and one-third of the ownership of business companies! Business and professional women now hold top positions across a spectrum of professions, including the field of high-technology. Already women are presidents, general managers and CEOs of many well-known companies. Taiwan’s No.1 wealthy person was once a young lady, Ms. Cher Wang, the founder of HTC Corp.
During the eight years while I served as the Vice-President from 2000~2008, women’s roles and positions in the political and government offices experienced an unprecedented surge. Thirty-five women were appointed to hold ministerial or vice ministerial positions, two served as vice premiers, one of them, Dr. Tsai Ing-Wen has become the presidential candidate for 2012.
In particular, I, myself have initiated a special program in Taiwan: the “Good Housekeeper” project to train single mothers and divorcees, in housekeeping, baby-sitting and nursing services totaled to one hundred twenty thousand women per year, not only to help them to earn a living, but also to help working women to be released from their household tasks and to devote to their careers.
With regard to Parliament, while in the 1970s only 7 percent of elected legislators were women, reached now 33 percent. While in municipal councils, women capture around 35 percent of seats. As more women went to Parliament, they pushed through legislation to protect and enhance women’s rights, including “Gender Equality in Employment Act,” “Gender Equality Education Act,” as well as the “Sexual Assault Prevention Act,” the “Domestic Violence Prevention Act” and the “Sexual Harassment Prevention Act”.
Today, the impressive achievements of Taiwan’s women are widely acclaimed in the international community. When measured by the UNDP’s indicators to compare gender development- access to education and gender empowerment position; in the job market and elections to parliament, Taiwan’s women rank 4th in the world and 1stin Asia.
Taiwan’s achievements in terms of empowering women and improving women’s lives are attributed to the fact that, women’s liberation went hand in hand with the political liberation of Taiwan from autocracy to democracy. Throughout my career, I promoted new feminism on the one hand and promoted democracy on the other hand, I firmly believe that advocacy alone is not enough, and that power is needed to make a difference, and political will, financial resources and action are indispensable to accomplishing desirable objectives.
A Moth Flying Toward the Lamp
In the summer of 1977, rumors of the negotiation of US normalization of relations with the PRC were spreading. In Taiwan, however, the government and the general public were totally unaware of this imminent crisis. Taiwan lost her diplomatic relations with the majority of nations due to stubborn and stupid policy that the Republic of China is the sole legitimate representative of China, causing most nations of the world to switch their diplomatic recognition from the Republic of China in Taipei to the People’s Republic of China in Beijing. As a result, at that time only 22 nations in the world still recognized the ROC and the only great power among these was the United States.
I was haunted by the tragic scenes shown on television after the collapse of South Vietnam in 1975. I speculated that a similar tragedy might occur in Taiwan when its most reliable friend would abandon her. The best opportunity to alert my fellow citizens of such a crisis seemed to be the campaign platform. Under martial law, freedom of expression was curbed except during election time, and that period was called “holidays for democracy.” In December of 1978, there came the congressional elections.
I went to consult my advisor Professor Jerome Cohen, who just granted me a scholarship to continue my advanced study at Harvard Law School, with a thought that he would prevent me from giving up the study.
“You are nobody here, but you may become somebody at home. Why not go home for your own country?”
“But you know the situation in Taiwan.” I said, “I might be jailed if I get into politics.”
“Then, I’ll wave a flag for you in Taipei!”
Both of us laughed, never believed that it would really come true in three years.
Once my mind was made up, instead of going home right away, I went to Harvard-Yenching Library to study the history of Taiwan and finished the manuscript of a book entitled Taiwan: the Past, Present and Future. During the campaign, I focused on the destiny of Taiwan based on the history I had studied. Wherever I went, there were huge crowds, and whenever I spoke, there was great applause. On some occasions I even made my audience burst into tears when I reminded them of how miserable the destiny of Taiwan has been.
Undoubtedly, I would have won the election overwhelmingly, had President Jimmy Carter not made the announcement of normalization with the PRC two weeks in advance. The normalization did not come true until January 1, 1979, but the news was announced on December 16, 1978, just a week before the voting day. President Chiang Ching-kuo proclaimed a decree of emergency and terminated the ongoing campaign right away. Ironically, Mr. Jimmy Carter, the first President to bring the issue of human rights to the forefront of US foreign policy, was also the one to nip the democratization of Taiwan in the bud. And I returned to Taiwan to join politics just like a moth flying toward the lamp.
Following the heated morale aroused during the aborted campaign, the oppositionists formed the Formosa Magazine virtually as an opposition political party. In its four months life, circulation had increased threefold. Fifteen branch offices were staffed across the island, holding seminars and rallies actively. It all went far beyond the government’s tolerance. The government decided to unleash a net for the Formosa people to tread upon.
On December 5, 1979, five days prior to the rally, a NO. 1205 Special Mission began to operate the whole plot. Hospitals were ordered to have beds empty and the detention house to have cells cleared up. On December 10, gangsters were recruited to infiltrate the crowd. A team of young men wearing military style haircuts wandered about to create uneasiness and threw eggs at the speakers on the platform. Gradually the meeting ground was surrounded by the anti-riot troops. The recruited gangsters attacked the police and soldiers with bars at hand. It was on that occasion that I was asked to speak on the truck. I attracted people’s attention to my analysis on Taiwan’s future, before the tear gas was released and the anti-riot trucks approached. Unavoidably a massive confrontation continued for hours.
Years later I learned of an unverified plot that President Chiang Ching-kuo was to execute six of the key leaders including myself. But he changed his mind after an unprecedented open trial was held by the military court, out of heavy pressure from both domestic and international. On the first day of the trial, I was advised by my brother also my defense lawyer to retract my confession which was illegally forced to make during interrogation. My retraction of testimony shocked the media and encouraged other co-defendants to overturn their confessions, making the trial a historical lesson for the media and for the general public. The journalists attending the trial had been misled by the authorities to defame the co-defendants in the past days. They insisted in reporting truthfully what they witnessed in the court. The entire society was thus enlightened and woke up through media reports.
The most brutal mischief befell on one of my comrades, Mr. Lin Yi-hsiung, a lawyer and a member of Provincial Assembly who had made a cynical comment on Chiang’s regime prior to the Incident. Not only he himself was charged on sedition and brutally tortured, his widowed mother and twin-daughters were stabbed to death on the first day of the military trial. The murderer has never been apprehended.
During our trial, 15 courageous defense attorneys defended us. Despite their valiant efforts, the military court still sentenced us to lengthy imprisonment but no one was deprived of his life. Yet our testimonies at the trial opened people’s eyes to the injustice of the autocratic regime, motivating and educating more individuals to join the democracy movement, including wives and defense lawyers of the defendants, who became vigorous and got elected in the following elections when we were jailed.
I recall what my brother had said to the court: “When you judges are trying the defendants in the courtroom today, you are tried by the society outside the courtroom. And we will all be tried by history of tomorrow.” Indeed, the sacrifice of the Formosa defendants sowed the seeds of democracy on the Taiwanese soil and they were rewarded by its rapid blossoms.
And the entire society became more liberal and vigorous. Not only the politicians, but also the consumers, students, labor workers, farmers, and housewives dare to advocate for their own rights. Despite the repeated warning of sanction, the first Taiwanese opposition party – Democratic Progressive Party – was established on September 28, 1986. Ten months later, the world’s longest regime of martial law was finally ended.
Most astonishingly, no one would have dreamed that 20 years after the military trial, in March 2000, one of the defense lawyers Mr. Chen Shui-bian and one of the defendants, me, would be running together and elected as the President and Vice President at the crowning moment of Taiwan’s struggle for democracy. And the half-century long one-party autocracy was thus peacefully overthrown.
The Bible says, “Those who saw in tears shall reap in joy.” Frankly speaking, I never had any thought of what kind of harvest I would reap when I started to emancipate women, or when I devoted to the democratic movement. Nor had I ever calculated how much cost I had to pay for. Don’t mention to dream of becoming the Vice President, the second Head of State.
Ironically, what I gained from the Feminist Movement was thyroid cancer as a result of panic and exhaustion. And a 1933 days imprisonment out of 12 years sentence. Later in 2004, I even became a victim of assassination, with my right knee hit by a bullet.
Not until 1992 I was eligible to run for the legislature, after President Lee Deng-hui granted an amnesty on all the co-defendants of the Kaohsiung Incident. I made a landslide victory and became a legislator. During my term, I spent my entire 3 years at Foreign Affairs Committee and served as Co-chair for 3 sessions. I focused on the UN membership for Taiwan, working hard toward the goal. I set up an office neighboring to the UN Headquarters and registered as Taiwan International Alliance. For six years I designated a series of activities to knock UN’s door and promote Taiwan’s international visibility, reminding the world that Taiwan is the only nation missing from the UN.
In 1994 I hosted the Global Summit for Women in Taipei with only 8 months preparation. Despite that most countries maintained diplomatic ties with China, I was privileged to have 400 distinguished female leaders from 70 countries to come, including two incumbent female Prime Ministers and several ministers and congresswomen! I made mission impossible possible!
Taoyuan Magistrate: 1997~2000
In the morning of November 21, 1996, the County Magistrate of my hometown Taoyuan Liu Bang-yiu and 7 other local ploticians were brutally shut to death at his official residence.
The slaughter cast a pall of horror and depression over Taoyuan County. My county fellow requested me to fill the vacant magistrate seat. “You’re the only one who can solve Taoyuan’s problems,” they insisted. The DPP party chair conducted opinion polls indicating that I led by a large margin. I had no choice but decided to give it a shot. With no surprise, I won the election overwhelmingly and 9 months later I was re-elected for second term.
Before I took office, the people of Taoyuan County had suffered from political corruption, environmental pollution and violent crime. They were absolutely desperate.During my three years as Magistrate in Taoyuan County, I cleared the county of the syndicated gangs organized by local politicians, added 35 new schools and built the most advanced incineratortoconvertgarbage into electric power. Imagine that the garbage produced by two million people can be generated into electricity for the need of 200 thousand people in Taoyuan now!I also initiatedadvanced construction projects and development plans for my county, including 3 high-tech parks and 1 huge power plant. In short, I had overcome all the troublesome problems including crime, corruption and pollutions made by my former male colleague. More importantly, I brought tranquility and confidence back to my home county, demonstrating to people that a woman can serve the public better than a man. Population increased fast and industry flourished. All these efforts led up to a miracle in 1999 that the annual revenue of hi-tech industry in Taoyuan ranked No.1 in Taiwan. Again I made mission impossible possible!
With so many achievements and credits, it was not much a surprise that I was chosen by Taipei Mayor Chen Shui-bian to be his running mate for 2000 Presidential Election.
The Glorious Revolution
Born into an impoverished family in southern Taiwan, Chen Shui-bian had served as the mayor of Taipei; he had also been one of the defense lawyers in the trial of Kaohsiung Incident. From the start, it was clear that the campaign would be a difficult one. We were competing against the Nationalist Party candidate and a very popular independent. To make matters worse, three days before the polls opened, Chinese premier Zhu Rongji attempted to intervene in the election, pointing with his fingers in green complexion, to warn Taiwanese voters not to elect the “wrong candidate.”
“Let me advise all these people in Taiwan,” Zhu said in a television interview, “not to act on impulse at this juncture…. Otherwise I am afraid you won’t get another opportunity to regret… I believe that Taiwanese have wisdom to the best choice.”
To respond, I told the crowd bluntly at our final campaign rally before the election.
“Zhu Rongji was the world’s ugliest man when he threatened Taiwan’s democracy. Don’t put fingers against Taiwanese! We don’t need to glare across the Taiwan Strait at one another. We can use soft language to reduce the tension. But he was right to believe in the wisdom of the people of Taiwan and to trust that they would make the right historic choice.”
Two days later, Taiwanese voters elected Chen Shui-bian and me as their new leaders in what was hailed as the “glorious revolution,” the election that led to the first transfer of power at the highest level of government in 55 years, and concluded its autocracy.
It certainly was tough to win the election. It was much tougher to take over power to govern the nation, especially when the old regime still controlled the majority in the legislature and governmental branches. Indeed, President Chen had gone through a real hard time during his eight years of presidency. It could be imagined that I, as the first woman elected to be the Vice President from the opposition party, had endured a series of challenges and difficulties. There were two dimensions to reflect in terms of constitutionality and in terms of gender sensitivity.
The only provision dealing with the Vice Presidency in our Constitution is Article 49, which reads,
“In case the office of the President should become vacant, the Vice President shall succeed to it until the expiration of the original Presidential term….. In case the President should, for any cause, be unable to attend to his official duties, the Vice President shall act for him.”
In short, almost only when the President is dead, resigned, or recalled can the Vice President take his place. Otherwise, the Constitution does not say anything about the Vice President’s duties.
When Chen Shui-bian invited me to be his running mate, he promised to work closely with me for the national affairs. He announced publicly that I would not become his “flower vase,” but rather a good partner and councilor. Regretfully, shortly after our victory, things began to change, first by his staff, then by the media.
My position as the first female Vice President certainly was a culture shock for Taiwan society. The people had only seen the first lady standing next to the President, so some people joked that I should behave like the President’s “political wife.” Whenever I said something political or sensitive, the media and general public felt uncomfortable and tried to silence me, to render me powerless. This situation made the first two years of my vice presidency incredibly miserable. Even China blasted me as a “lunatic” and “the scum of the nation” for my assertion of Taiwan as an independent state.
It happened in the year of 2000 that three Asian neighboring states – the Philippines, Indonesia and Taiwan all elected female vice presidents. Within a year or so, both the Vice Presidents of the Philippines and Indonesia took over the presidency as a result of the political coup, due to respective internal dilemma.
Simultaneously, Taiwan also outburst political instability. On October 27 of 2000, Premier Chang Chun-hsiung announced to cancel the fourth nuclear power plant which was started to construct under the old regime. Rumors that the corruption implicated high ranking officials of the old government were widely said. Our opponents Lien Chan and James Soong cooperated to launch a campaign to recall President Chen and me five months after we took office. In order to justify the recall campaign, a scandal that President Chen had an affair with his English Secretary began to spread over.
On November 13, 2000, to everyone’s surprise, especially to myself, The Journalist magazine fabricated a cover story, saying that I made a secret call to their editor-in-chief to disclose the scandal. According to the fabrication, I spread the scandal of the President with a malicious ambition to foster the recall campaign so that I could take over the presidency.
All of a sudden, I became witch-hunted. Criticisms and pressures came from media and all political forces urging me to resign. Out of anger and panic, I immediately called on a press conference to deny the fabrication and filed litigation against the magazine. It took me years to win the litigation and to prove my innocence by the Taipei District Court first, and later the Higher and Supreme Courts all upheld justice in favor of me.
Why such a story was fabricated? I spent years to investigate and concluded the rationality that it was a scheme to distract the opposition’s attack to the President by sacrificing me. I was depicted by The Journalist and some other media to be immoral and ambitious that I also deserved to be recalled. According to the Constitution, I could become the President provided that President Chen was being recalled. But if both President Chen and I would be recalled together, another election should be held within three months, then anyone who was qualified would have a chance to run and win! Therefore, accusation was put upon me because there was a mutual interest internally and externally. Gradually the pressure to recall the President was loosened, making me the scapegoat of power struggle.
That was not the end of the mischief. On March 19, 2004, one day before the votes being casted for our second term, around 1:45 PM in the southern city of Taiwan, two bullets were shot, one to my right knee joint and one to the belly of President Chen. Incredibly lucky enough, both of us were survived from the incident but wounded. However, our fortune led to pervasive suspicion that the bullet incident was faked and made with an attempt to earn sympathy and support for President Chen to win the campaign. Suspicion even included another conspiracy to sacrifice me, as the election law of president stated that the presidential election would be canceled provided that any presidential candidate is killed during campaign, but not in the case of Vice Presidential candidate. Therefore, I became a scapegoat of political conspiracy once again.
The case was not judicially apprehended up till today. Based on my comprehensive study of all the reported investigations and testimonies, I wrote a book entitled “The Truth of March 19 Bullets.” I ruled out the possibility of the fakeness of the incident and I was not convinced with the suspicion that I was the target to be sacrificed to win public sympathy. I tended to indicate a clue to the involvement of the election gambling gang. It has become a practice to designate the competition of electoral candidates along with the gambling. The 2004 presidential campaign started with a good bid in favor of our opponents until a month less before the voting day. We launched a cross-island hand-in-hand campaign successfully which resulted to a breakthrough of our popularity. The gambling community was truly in panic. The shooting might be an attempt to prevent the election from concluding, so that they could be prevented from losing more from the bidding.
Corruption: The Tragedy of Democracy
The most regretful and difficult part for me to reflect my days of vice presidency was not the Bullet Incident, but rather the involvement of corruption by the First Family and the President.
Corruption is something that politicians always use to attack the ruling rivals when they are in opposition. Ironically, it was also something that politicians can hardly resist when they are in power. During my eight-year vice presidency, I have traveled to our allies in Latin America and Africa and have made acquaintances with the heads and deputy heads of those countries. On many occasions, I attended their presidential inauguration and heard the newly elected presidents to swear to fight against corruption once they took office. To my regret, when they stepped down from their presidency, only very few of them maintained their reputation as clean and honorable.
I have been aware of all these problems happening among our allies. But never have I thought of the possibility that President Chen and his wife would have also involved in corruption and money laundry abroad. The suspicion began to be explored in the summer of 2006. The accusation and criticism were escalated in the fall and resulted to an extraordinary mass rally against him and his family. Protesters went on the streets all in red shirts, and stayed together day in and day out for weeks. The media addressed it the “Red Shirt Army.” On September 15, 2006, the Red Shirt Army moved toward the Presidential Office. Throughout TV screen, one saw the Red Shirt Army like flame and melting magma of a bursting volcano flooding into the street corners of Taipei City. It was a horrifying scene.
The rally was led by Shih Ming-the, the former DPP party chair and once a well-known freedom fighter, but later on he left the party. He requested President Chen to resign and urged me to take over the presidency. But some supporters of President Chen urged me to resign before the President. I refused both. First, since I had nothing to do with the corruption, why should I resign, simply because they did not want me to replace President Chen? Second, I ran and took oath to serve as the Vice President, not the President. It is unconstitutional for me to take over the presidency unless the recall decision was made in accordance with the Constitution. I, myself, am a well-educated law graduate and I do everything in accordance with the Constitution and law. Besides, I personally have no slightest ambition to take advantage of President Chen’s crisis.
Of course, President Chen refused to admit all the accusations, claiming it a political purge. The Constitution provides a judicial exemption for the President from criminal procedures until his tenure of office ends. Shortly after he finished his term, he was indicted and kept into custody since then. Throughout a series of unfair and even illegitimate judicial procedures, Chen was sentenced to life imprisonment by the District Court but reduced to 20 years of imprisonment by the Superior Court. He was jailed in a small size of ceil without a bed to sleep and his health has thus been deteriorated. It is reported that his brain degeneration is mush faster than an ordinary person, and urinary tract disease is the result of encephalopathy syndrome.
While I had made the transition from prison to power, he went from power to prison. What an irony, what a tragedy for democracy!
To reflect the development of human rights and democratization in Taiwan, I am proud to stress on two characters: 1. non-violent and bloodless; 2. women’s emancipation and participation.
Throughout the 5 decades struggle, despite the heavy sacrifice that the freedom fighters and their families have made, violence had never been applied and it was nearly bloodless. Because of the nature of non-violence, no physical damages were caused to the general public, nor destruction to the society. Perhaps peace and patience stagnated the achievement, but the whole movement was progressive and constructive.
Secondly, I had started Feminist movement 7 years before I joined the opposition movement. While I worked together with the opposition leaders, I was, in effect, liberating women at one hand and educating men to accept and respect women on the other. It was no secret that most of male opposition leaders were male chauvinists originally. The liberation of women from kitchen onto the streets strengthened the movement and earned men’s understanding and respect for women. Women’s participation, sacrifice and contribution were key factors contributory to the success of Taiwan’s democratization. Because of this, women share the fruit of democracy equally with men and they are now as active and vigorous as men in Taiwan, politically, economically and socially.
Looking back to the journey I had traveled, I would say that the process and price were tough and bitter, but the fruits were delicious. The oppositions fought against the authoritarian regime, and the DPP administration consolidated democracy and human rights and enlightened the Taiwan identity. In 2008 the Nationalists took back the power and ruled Taiwan again. Taiwan’s democracy is thus grounded as the party alternation turned over twice peacefully. In a word, the milestone of democracy in Taiwan was installed by decades of soft revolution based on soft power.
The Bible says, “Those who saw in tears shall reap in joy.” Frankly speaking, I never had any thought of what kind of harvest I would reap when I started to emancipate women, or when I devoted to the democratic movement. Nor had I ever calculated how much cost I had to pay for. Don’t mention to dream of becoming the Vice President, the second Head of State.
Ironically, what I gained from the Feminist Movement was thyroid cancer as a result of panic and exhaustion. And a 1933 days imprisonment out of 12 years sentence. Later in 2004, I even became the victim of assasination, with my right knee hit by a bullet.
Very few people on earth have suffered from so much ordeals as I have. Life has been a joke for me, a cruel joke but never really fooled me.