Passing of Chai recalls debt to vanguards of democracy
The China Post news staff
January 14, 2014, 12:03 am TWN
Chai Trong-rong (蔡同榮), the longtime stalwart of the Democratic Progressive Party's hard-line wing, passed away due to heart failure on Saturday. He had been immobilized by a stroke since Dec. 18.
Chai represented a generation whose contributions to Taiwan have their source in decades of extra-legal activities that culminated in the founding and legitimization of the DPP as a force in politics. The plank of Taiwanese independence should be separated from the contributions to democracy that these fathers of the pan-green camp gave to usher in the freedoms enjoyed in modern Taiwan.
There are those who suffered more grievous wrongs during Taiwan's road to democracy. In the 70's and 80's, a generation after the Feb. 28, 1947 massacre, activists who later became pillars of the DPP were jailed for their participation in and defense of a political movement challenging the establishment. Those figures include current Mayor of Kaohsiung Chen Chu, former Vice President Annette Lu, former Premier Frank Hsieh, and former President Chen Shui-bian.
The passing of Chai reminds us of mortality, and in the time we have, we should remember and honor the vanguards who fought for Taiwan's democratization. Gratitude needs to be timely.
Chai earned a degree from National Taiwan University, and went to the United States to further his academic pedigree. In the U.S., he began to fulfill his calling to present a vision of Taiwan's independence to friendly powers. In his years in the U.S., he co-founded the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) but was also blacklisted by the Kuomintang government and was forced to spend decades in exile.
Chai is noted for his dedication to the passage of a Referendum Act. The current law sets a much more stringent threshold for the execution of a referendum than the standards that Chai believes in. Nonetheless, one can say that his determination is part of the collective spirit that enabled activists to fight against autocracy.