Search

 

Cablegate: Kaohsiung Observes 20th Anniversary of The

P 140746Z DEC 99
FM AIT TAIPEI
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7505
INFO AMEMBASSY BEIJING
AMEMBASSY SEOUL
AMEMBASSY TOKYO
AMEMBASSY SINGAPORE
AMCONSUL GUANGZHOU
AMCONSUL HONG KONG
AMCONSUL SHANGHAI
AMCONSUL SHENYANG

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TAIPEI 003700

SENSITIVE

DEPT ALSO FOR EAP/RSP/TC
DEPT PASS AIT/WASHINGTON
FROM AIT KAOHSIUNG OFFICE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV SOCI TW
SUBJECT: KAOHSIUNG OBSERVES 20TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE
FORMOSA MAGAZINE INCIDENT

1. (U) SUMMARY: IN KAOHSIUNG ON DECEMBER 10, 1979, A
GROUP OF DEMONSTRATORS CONNECTED TO THE "DANG WAI"
(OUTSIDE THE PARTY OR NON-KMT) MAGAZINE "MEILIDAO," OR
FORMOSA, ATTEMPTED TO MARCH TO A NEARBY PARK WHERE THEY
PLANNED TO RALLY IN COMMEMORATION OF INTERNATIONAL HUMAN
RIGHTS DAY. SHORTLY AFTER THE MARCH BEGAN, THE
DEMONSTRATORS RAN INTO A SOLID PHALANX OF POLICE. THE
VOLATILE SITUATION WAS EXACERBATED BY THE PRESENCE OF
HUNDREDS OF LOCAL "LIUMANG" (HOODLUMS) RECRUITED TO ACT
AS AGENTS PROVOCATEURS. IN THE MELEE THAT ENSUED, A
NUMBER OR DEMONSTRATORS AND POLICE WERE INJURED. THE
EVENT LED TO A CRACKDOWN IN WHICH MANY OF THE DANG WAI'S
SUCCESSOR DEMOCRATIC PROGRESSIVE PARTY'S (DPP) CURRENT
LEADERS WERE AMONG THE 150 PEOPLE ARRESTED. THE
ANNIVERSARY HAS BEEN THE OCCASION FOR A SPECIAL EXHIBIT
AT THE KAOHSIUNG HISTORY MUSEUM AND A SERIES OF SYMPOSIA
ON THE EVENT. AIT/K SPOKE TO A NUMBER OF JOURNALISTS,
SCHOLARS, WITNESSES TO AND PARTICIPANTS IN THE EVENT TO
GET A SENSE OF THE HISTORICAL AND POLITICAL SIGNIFICANCE
OF THE INCIDENT. END SUMMARY.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND
---------------------
2. (U) FORMOSA MAGAZINE'S FIRST ISSUE APPEARED ON AUGUST
29, 1979 AND SOLD MORE THAN 110,000 COPIES. CIRCULATION
QUICKLY INCREASED AND BY THE THIRD ISSUE HAD REACHED
NEARLY FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND COPIES. THE MAGAZINE'S
KAOHSIUNG OFFICE OPENED ON SEPTEMBER 28. THE MAGAZINE'S
EXPLODING CIRCULATION AND ITS FOCUS ON DEMOCRACY AND
TAIWANESE IDENTITY UNNERVED A KMT LEADERSHIP ALREADY
SHAKEN BY THE UNITED STATES' DECEMBER 1978 DECISION TO
SWITCH DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS FROM THE ROC TO THE PRC.
AGAINST THIS BACKGROUND, THE DECISION BY THE MAGAZINE'S
STAFF TO ORGANIZE A MARCH AND RALLY TO COINCIDE WITH
INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DAY ON DECEMBER10 LED TO THE
VIOLENT CONFRONTATION WITH POLICE ND TROOPS FROM THE
TAIWAN GARRISON COMMAND, AND TO THE SUBSEQUENT CRACKDOWN.
THESE EVENTS LAUNCHED THE CAREERS OF MANY OF TODAY'S DPP
LEADERS.

DECEMBER 9: THE KUSHAN INCIDENT
-------------------------------
3. (U) THE EVENT WHICH HELPED SPARK THE VIOLENCE OF
DECEMBER 10 WAS THE ARREST AND BEATING OF SEVERAL OF THE
MAGAZINE'S STAFF WHO WERE PUBLICIZING THE NEXT DAY'S
MARCH AND RALLY. SHORTLY AFTER DARK ON DECEMBER 9,
SEVERAL VOLUNTEERS ON THE STAFF, INCLUDING CURRENT DPP
LEGISLATOR DAI ZHEN-YAO, SET OFF IN SPEAKER TRUCKS FOR
KAOHSIUNG'S KUSHAN DISTRICT. AS THE DRIVERS ENTERED A
NARROW STREET, THEY ENCOUNTERED SEVERAL LOCAL POLICE
OFFICERS WHO ATTEMPTED TO STOP THE TRUCKS BY LYING DOWN
ACROSS THE ROAD. AFTER A BRIEF STAND-OFF THE MAGAZINE
STAFF BODILY REMOVED THE POLICE FROM THE ROAD AND
CONTINUED ON THEIR ROUTE. A SHORT DISTANCE ON, THE ROAD
WAS BLOCKED FORE AND AFT BY POLICE VEHICLES AND POLICE
OFFICERS WHO BROKE ONE TRUCK'S WINDSHIELD AND BEAT THE
DRIVER.

4. (U) IN THE FIGHT THAT FOLLOWED, TWO OF THE MAGAZINE
STAFF WERE ARRESTED AND TAKEN TO KUSHAN POLICE STATION.
WHEN WORD OF THE ARRESTS SPREAD, A CROWD OF SOME SIXTY
PEOPLE INCLUDING DPP ELDER AND FORMER PARTY CHAIRMAN SHIH
MING-TE (THEN THE MAGAZINE'S GENERAL MANAGER), SURROUNDED
THE STATION AND DEMANDED THE RELEASE OF THE PRISONERS.
THE MOOD OF THE CROWD TURNED VIOLENT WHEN IT WAS LEARNED
THAT THE PRISONERS HAD BEEN DRAGGED UPSTAIRS BY THE FEET
AND THAT ONE HAD SUFFERED A CONCUSSION. ACCORDING TO
DAI, POLICE ARMED WITH RIFLES AND BAYONETS SURROUNDED THE
CROWD, WHICH HAD REFUSED ORDERS TO MOVE ON. THE TWO WERE
EVENTUALLY RELEASED AT ABOUT 2:00 AM AND THE CROWD
DISPERSED. THOUGH THERE WERE NO SERIOUS CONFRONTATIONS
WITH POLICE AT THE STATION, THE INCIDENT INCREASED
TENSIONS AND SET A CONFRONTATIONAL TONE FOR THE FOLLOWING
DAY.

DECEMBER 10: THE KAOHSIUNG RIOT
-------------------------------
5. (SBU) THE DECEMBER 10 MARCH WAS TO HAVE BEGUN AND
ENDED AT KAOHSIUNG ROTARY PARK, TAKING A CIRCULAR ROUTE
PAST THE HSIN HSENG POLICE STATION. APPROXIMATELY SIX
HUNDRED MARCHERS SET OFF. ONLY TWO HUNDRED METERS INTO
THE MARCH, THE DEMONSTRATORS ENCOUNTERED A SOLID WALL OF
RIOT POLICE WHILE THE ROAD ON BOTH SIDES WAS OCCUPIED BY
APPROXIMATELY 400 LIUMANG ALLEGEDLY RECRUITED BY THEN
KAOHSIUNG MAYOR WU YU-YUN. ACCORDING TO SEVERAL OF OUR
INTERLOCUTORS, THE TWO LEADERS OF THE GANGSTER ELEMENTS
WERE TSAI SUNG-HSIUNG, WHO IS NOW DEPUTY SPEAKER OF THE
KAOHSIUNG CITY COUNCIL, AND CHANG HSING-WU, WHO IS ALSO A
CITY COUNCILMAN. (NOTE: WU YU-YUN HAS CONSISTENTLY
DENIED ANY INVOLVEMENT IN RECRUITING GANGSTERS TO DISRUPT
THE MARCH. END NOTE)

6. (U) WHILE THE ENSUING SEQUENCE OF EVENTS IS NOT
ENTIRELY CLEAR, WITNESSES AND PARTICIPANTS AGREED THAT
THE GANGSTERS ACTED AS AGENTS PROVOCATEURS, ATTACKING
BOTH POLICE AND MARCHERS WITH BAMBOO POLES AND IRON RODS.
IN THE MELEE THAT ENSUED THE POLICE USED TEAR-GAS AND
RIOT STICKS TO BREAK UP THE MARCH. REPORTS OF INJURIES
RANGE FROM THE HUNDREDS TO MORE THAN ONE THOUSAND WITH
ONE DEMONSTRATOR LATER DYING OF HIS INJURIES. OVER THE
NEXT MONTH, MORE THAN ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY PARTICIPANTS
AND SYMPATHIZERS WERE ROUNDED UP. SHIH MING-TE AND SIX
OTHERS WERE TRIED IN MILITARY COURTS AND SENTENCED TO
PRISON TERMS OF BETWEEN TWELVE YEARS AND LIFE. SEVERAL
INTERVIEWEES TOLD US THAT ONLY PRESSURE FROM US
CONGRESSMEN AND INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS
PREVENTED SHIH MING-TE FROM BEING SENTENCED TO DEATH.
THIRTY-FOUR OTHERS WERE TRIED IN CIVILIAN COURTS AND
SENTENCED TO TERMS OF FOUR TO SIX YEARS. THE ARRESTS
EFFECTIVELY SILENCED THE OPPOSITION UNTIL ITS LEADERS
WERE PAROLED IN 1987.

7. (SBU) COMMENT: THE POLITICAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE
MEILIDAO INCIDENT IS THAT IT WAS THE CRUCIBLE IN WHICH
THE CAREERS OF TODAY'S OPPOSITION LEADERS WERE FORGED.
THE LIST OF THOSE ARRESTED AND JAILED IS A WHO'S WHO OF
THE OPPOSITION MOVEMENT. AMONG THEM ARE DPP VICE
PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE ANNETTE LU (LU HSIU-LIEN), FORMER
DPP CHAIRMAN AND PARTY CO-FOUNDER SHIH MING-TE, CURRENT
DPP CHAIRMAN LIN YI-HSIUNG, DPP FOUNDING FATHER HUANG
HSIN-CHIEH, LEGISLATOR DAI ZHEN-YAO AND NATIONAL POLICY
ADVISOR CHOU PING-TE. OTHERS, INCLUDING DPP PRESIDENTIAL
CANDIDATE CHEN SHUI-BIEN AND KAOHSIUNG MAYOR FRANK HSIEH
(HSIEH CHANG-TING), GOT THEIR POLITICAL START AS
ATTORNEYS DEFENDING THE ARRESTED ACTIVISTS. ONE
COMMENTATOR SAID THAT HE BELIEVES THAT PRESSURE FROM THE
UNITED STATES ON KMT-RULED TAIWAN TO DEMOCRATIZE
INCREASED AFTER 1979 AND LED DIRECTLY TO THE END OF
MARTIAL LAW, THE END OF THE BAN ON POLITICAL PARTY
FORMATION AND THE END OF RESTRICTIONS ON THE PRESS.

8. (SBU) COMMENT (CONT.) OUR INTERLOCUTORS AGREED THAT
THE MELIDAO INCIDENT WAS THE TURNING POINT IN TAIWAN'S
DEMOCRATIZATION. THE IDEOLOGICALLY FRACTURED TANG-WAI
WAS TRANSFORMED INTO A COHERENT POLITICAL PARTY CAPABLE
OF FORMING A VIABLE OPPOSITION. THE INCIDENT AND THE
OPEN TRIAL OF THE ACCUSED RAISED POLITICAL CONSCIOUSNESS
IN TAIWAN AND BROUGHT HOME THE VALUE OF DEMOCRACY. THIS
IN TURN LED THE ELECTORATE TO SUPPORT THE ACTIVISTS,
THEIR FAMILIES AND THEIR DEFENSE TEAM AT THE BALLOT BOX
ENABLING MANY OF THEM TO BECOME ELECTED OFFICIALS AT ALL
LEVELS. TAIWANESE OVERSEAS ORGANIZED INDEPENDENCE
MOVEMENTS WHILE SCORES OF TAIWAN GRADUATE STUDENTS
ABANDONED THEIR STUDIES IN THE US, EUROPE, AND JAPAN TO
RETURN HOME AND JOIN THE POLITICAL PROCESS. THUS WERE
SET IN MOTION THE FORCES WHICH HAVE MADE TAIWAN A
VIBRANT, MULTIPARTY DEMOCRACY, AND PUT THE OPPOSITION DPP
IN THE POSITION OF MOUNTING A SERIOUS CHALLENGE TO
CONTINUED KMT RULE IN THE MARCH, 2000 PRESIDENTIAL
ELECTION. END COMMENT.

DUNN.
BURGHARDT

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

Assange's Hearing: Latest Observations From Court

Despite severe restrictions on observers, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is the only NGO that has gained access to the hearing, and we’ve managed to monitor proceedings on most days. We will continue to do so whenever possible. Yesterday I was in court ... More>>

Climate Change: Record Northern Heat, Fuels Concerns Over US Wildfire Destruction

More than 78,000 acres of forest in the Sierra mountains in California has been lost due to wildfires. Photo: San Francisco Fire Department The northern hemisphere experienced its warmest August ever, the World Meteorological Organization ( WMO ... More>>

ILO: Impact On Workers Of COVID-19 Is ‘catastrophic’

COVID-19 has had a “catastrophic” impact on workers, the head of the International Labour Organization ( ILO ) said on Wednesday, with lost working hours higher than originally forecast, and equivalent to 495 million full-time jobs globally in the ... More>>

UN: WHO Warns Against Potential Ebola Spread In DR Congo And Beyond

Ebola is spreading in a western province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), raising fears that the disease could reach neighbouring Republic of Congo and even the capital, Kinshasa, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday. ... More>>