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Taiwan to designate April 7 as 'freedom of speech day'

2016/04/07 16:23:45

President-elect Tsai Ing-wen (left) and Cheng Nan-jung's wife, Yeh Chu-lan, who was a vice premier between 2007 and 2008.

Taipei, April 7 (CNA) President-elect Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said Thursday that April 7 will be designated as the "freedom of speech day" in Taiwan in tribute to a journalist who committed self-immolation 27 years ago in protest against suppression of freedom of speech.

Tsai, who will take office May 20, said she hopes people will remember April 7 not just as the day Cheng Nan-jung (鄭南榕) sacrificed his life, but also as Taiwan's "freedom of speech day."

"I know that without the efforts of founders of the democratic movement like Cheng Nan-jung, we would not have stood a chance," Tsai said at a memorial ceremony at Cheng's grave in Jinshan District, New Taipei.

Tsai said it is a country's values, rather than its size, that make its people proud, and she will honor the promise she made last year to designate a freedom of speech day when she takes office.

In 1989, Cheng was charged with insurrection for reprinting a draft constitution for the "Republic of Taiwan" in Freedom Era Weekly, a magazine of which he was editor-in-chief.

Cheng refused to appear in court, and when police arrived the office of the magazine in Taipei to arrest him on April 7, 1989, he committed suicide by self-immolation.

Kaohsiung, Tainan, and the counties of Yunlin, Yilan and Chiayi -- seats all held by the incoming ruling Democratic Progressive Party -- were the first local governments to name April 7 as "freedom of speech day" in 2013.

Taichung and Pingtung followed in 2015, while Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) announced last December that the capital city will follow suit this year.

The street on which the magazine's office was located was named "Freedom Lane" in August 2012 by Ko's predecessor, Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌), in commemoration of Cheng.

(By Wang Hong-kuo and Kay Liu)