The Courage to Take Responsibility
Vice President of Taiwan 2000-2008
Prague, Czech Republic
October 16, 2016
It is a great privilege for me to speak before you, the leadership elites and opinion-makers from all over the world at the opening ceremony for the 20th anniversary of the renowned Forum 2000 and to commemorate the 80th birthday of His Excellency President Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic in Prague today.
President Havel was revered as a writer, a philosopher, a political dissident, and a statesman. He received dozens of accolades worldwide for his efforts as a global ambassador of conscience, defended the downtrodden from Darfur to Myanmar. I had the honor to receive him at my office when he visited Taiwan in 2006. Before our meeting, I had a pleasure to deliver my message via telecommunication to the guests of the Forum in 2004.
I am most delighted to attend the Forum in person this time. Standing before you is a Taiwanese woman who was born on the D-Day and 56 years later right on her lunar birthday she was inaugurated as the first female Vice President of Taiwan. But long before that, she fought for women’s rights and suffered from carcinoma at 30, and was imprisoned as an opposition leader at 36. In 2004, one day before the election day for her second term, she and the President were nearly assassinated on the street when they were campaigning together.
What a coincidence that both President Havel and I were jailed in 1979. But he was released 2 years earlier and was elected to lead the nation 11 years earlier than me. Not until 2000 that Mr. Chen Shui-bian, the presidential candidate of the opposition DPP and one of my defense lawyers in the Military Court, invited me to be his running mate in the presidential election, and together we overthrew the 50-year-long one-party autocracy through a peaceful and democratic election. We ended the dictatorship without violence and began the empowerment of women in Taiwan.
That’s 29 years after I started the Feminist Movement in Taiwan which was once a male chauvinistic society. At the age of 26, I spoke out against the Confucian orthodoxies and gender discrimination. Not surprisingly, I was bitterly criticized and harassed by male chauvinists and the repressive authority. I did not bow to the pressure. Instead I joined the opposition to fight for gender equality and democracy in Taiwan.
In 1978 I was studying at Harvard Law School, and I learned that the U.S. would break diplomatic relations with Taiwan and recognize communist China. I decided to give up my study and return home to fight with my compatriots. I joined the opposition movement. On December 10 of 1979, the opposition Formosa Magazine held a Human Rights Day rally, and I stood up on a truck and delivered a 20-minute passionate speech to tens of thousands of people. Taiwan’s martial law regime cracked down the rally with tear gas and force and arrested the democracy activists. I was the first one arrested, followed by 151 other activists. I was sentenced to 12 years by a military court. but was released on medical parole 1933 days later. During my imprisonment, my widowed mother passed away but I was not allowed to attend her funeral. Politics is really cruel!
Freedom is not free at all! You sow the seeds and water it patiently. It may take life-long time to see flowers blossom. Yes, patience, persistence, and courage are what you need to overcome your challenge and fulfill your responsibility.
Believe it or not, 11 bullets had changed my destiny! In 1997, the magistrate of my home county and 8 local politicians were brutally shot and killed by 9 bullets. The whole county was horrified and in shock, as mafia and local corrupt politicians were controlling the county administration. The Democratic Progressive Party I belong nominated me to run as his replacement and I was elected. In 3 years I cleared the county of the syndicated groups organized by local politicians, built 35 new schools and one most advanced garbage incinerator to convert garbage produced by 2 million people into electric power for 200 thousand households per day. I also helped develop 3 high-tech industrial parks and 1 huge power plant. Because of these achievements, I was picked to be the candidate for Vice President and eventually elected and reelected, making me not only Taiwan’s first woman Vice President but also the only Vice President-reelected.
My campaign for re-election prevailed because another 2 bullets failed to kill President Chen and me. Both of us were shut but we were lucky enough to survive. The case was still not apprehended.
Not everything was negative. In 1994 I hosted the 4th Global Summit for Women with 400 distinguished women leaders from 72 countries participating. We focused on gender equality and the empowerment of women. In 2001 I invited 6 Nobel Peace laureates and one hundred world leaders to attend the 2001 Global Peace Assembly. Subsequently, the Democratic Pacific Union (DPU), with 30 countries membership, was established in 2005, which seeks to promote democracy, peace, and prosperity.
My motivation to establish the DPU was based on my concern that disputes and conflicts over the ocean would be especially serious in the Asia Pacific, and would become serious challenge to global peace. The Pacific Ocean covers one-third of the earth’s surface, and is the home to 40% of the world’s population and 30 countries with more than half of the world’s economy. The region’s security, stability, and prosperity is vital to the entire world.
History teaches us that, without democracy, there can be no peace, and without democracy and peace, there can be no genuine prosperity. Based on this belief, currently I am launching a crusade, a referendum for Taiwan’s peace and neutrality.
No one can tell one’s life story in minutes. What I am telling you is a microcosm of someone who refuses to yield to ceiling or to accept pre-determined destiny because of gender, race or nationality, someone who refuses to bow to injustice, discrimination, and threat of force. Taiwan is a free, democratic and peace-loving country, but we face a communist and aggressive neighbor, who claims Taiwan to be its territory and seeks to annex Taiwan, as what Russia has done to Crimea.
Taiwan is a small country compared to China. If China is a lion, Taiwan is a kitty cat. But everyone likes the kitty cat and is afraid of a big lion. How can a cat get along with a lion? How can a lion be prevented from attacking and swallowing a cat? That’s the mission I and my Taiwanese compatriots are undertaking. That’s also the mission that all the peacemakers shall undertake together for a better tomorrow.
God bless us.