Promoting a Free Taiwan
Eighteen years ago, Lin Yi-hsiung's mother and
twin-daughters were knifed to death as they slept in the
basement of their home. Lin, imprisoned by Taiwan's ruling
Nationalist Party, was powerless to protect them. The murders
remain officially unsolved to this day.
And although the Nationalists lifted martial law in
1987 and now rule by virtue of elections, Lin -- who last
month became chairman of the rival Democratic Progressive
Party -- still opposes them. His goal: independence for
Taiwan, rather than reunification with the mainland favored by
Lin spoke with NEWSWEEK's Mahlon Meyer in Taipei.
MEYER: Have you come to feel differently about the
murder of your family members?
Lin: The intense pain of that period has already
passed. I am at peace with myself now. A lot of people say
that it was the Nationalists that committed those murders. For
me personally, and for my family, tracking down the culprits
is not that important. But since these are things that
occurred in our society, it's important to clear them up for
the sake of social justice.
Did the murders affect your political ideals?
When I was in prison, I would ask myself: "How could a
thing like this have happened?" My conclusion was that
there must have been several conditions existing. The first
was that we were subject to authoritarian rule for a long
time. The other was that under this rule the character of the
Taiwanese people was destroyed. These conditions were mutually
interactive. So I decided in the future I wanted to overthrow
this system of authoritarian rule. And wake people up so that
kind of things that happened to my family would never happen
What are your ideals?
My basic ideal is to have Taiwan become a democratic,
prosperous and independent country.
How were things different before the lifting of martial
law allowed you to form an opposition party?
There was an enormous difference. At that time the
atmosphere was so horrible that it was an extremely scary
thing to take part in political activities. Some people would
even refuse to have anything to do with you if you were
involved in political activities.
The DPP supports Taiwan independence. If most people
were opposed to this, as some polls suggest, would it prevent
the DPP from having a shot at becoming the ruling party?
(Other polls suggest an increasing majority in favor of
independence -- ed).
Some people say that what we advocate is wrong. So they
don't think it's right to support the DPP. But if you look at
the trend of recent years, our supporters are increasing. We
still haven't stated our beliefs clearly enough yet, so the
people can understand. This is what we are working on.
Aren't your beliefs stirring up resentment and anger in
China? Aren't you opening yourself to charges of being a
That's what people say. We see it differently. We feel that
promoting Taiwan independence is good for Taiwan and China. We
believe that China will probably change. After 10 or 20 years
of work on both sides, China will no longer think it necessary
to take over Taiwan.
Your predecessor, former chairman Hsu Hsin-liang, pushed
for closer ties with China, including better trade links.
Those were not the politics of the DPP,. They were just the
individual opinions of the former chairman. Of course, we all
discussed his opinions. And there were some people who felt
that he was pushing for better relations too quickly. Everyone
agrees we want to have relations and dialogue with China. But
we want to prevent China from taking advantage of the
opportunity to hurt Taiwan's safety. We also need to have a
plan for what we should do when we approach China. We don't
want to just say, "Hurry up, hurry up and develop a
relationship with us."
How did you feel about the case of Lin Ti-chuan, the
DPP-politician recently murdered by thugs in China? The
Chinese government initially refused to allow relatives access
to the body and later would not let DPP officials accompany
The worst part of it is that the Chinese authorities did not
consider humanitarian concerns. Family members wanted to have
people that they trust accompany them to China to handle the
details. This was a very small request. It had no bearing on
any of China's political concerns. Taiwanese society found it
unbelievable that China would refuse this -- unless it was
just trying to hassle the relatives.
The DPP recently asked the government to cut ties with
China. Does this represent a new hard-line policy?
The DPP must consider the widespread anger provoked in
Taiwan by China's handling of the (Lin Ti-chuan) case. The
current DPP policy is to promote exchanges, dialogue and
friendly relations. But our attitude is that it is very
difficult to promote friendly relations when they behave this
way. Or that it may not be necessary to even pursue friendly
relations anymore. We are not changing our policy. We are
expressing our attitude. We will continue pursuing exchanges,
dialogue and relations with China. But it is hard for us to
put this policy into practice on account of this incident. We
need to make our attitude clear.