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Renowned Taiwanese writer, politician Wang Tuoh dies at 72

2016/08/09 22:02:45

CNA file photo

Taipei, Aug. 9 (CNA) Wang Tuoh (王拓), a renowned Taiwanese writer, literary critic and politician, died Tuesday at the age of 72, with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and politicians across party lines expressing sorrow over his death and praising his contributions to the country.

His son Wang Hsing-chi (王醒之) confirmed the death. Wang was rushed to a hospital in Taipei 12 days ago after suffering a heart attack, the son said.

Upon learning the news, President Tsai expressed sorrow over Wang's death and praised him as an important figure in the history of Taiwan's local literature and democratic movement, according to Presidential Office spokesman Alex Huang (黃重諺).

The president also lauded his unrelenting efforts to make Taiwan better and said he was a role model for the people of Taiwan, Huang added.

Culture Minister Cheng Li-chiun (鄭麗君) expressed shock at the news of Wang's death and said she will suggest that the president award him a posthumous Presidential Citation in recognition of his contributions to literature.

"His death represents a great loss for Taiwan society. We will always remember him," Cheng said.

Born in 1944, Wang was arrested and sentenced to jail in 1980 for his involvement in the Kaohsiung Incident, in which many protesters in pro-democracy demonstrations in Kaohsiung were arrested. At the time, the Kuomintang controlled the government under a one-party authoritarian state.

He was released from jail in 1984, and then served as editor-in-chief of Wenji magazine and as chairman of Renjian magazine. He later moved into the political arena, with stints including membership of the National Assembly, and a four-term legislator (from 1996-2008).

After he finished his last term as legislator in early 2008, he was appointed head of the Council for Cultural Affairs (which was upgraded to the Ministry of Culture in 2012) and served in the post until the end of the previous Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government, after which he served as DPP secretary-general for one year.

The DPP also issued a statement to extend its condolences to Wang's family and to thank Wang again for being willing to serve as DPP secretary-general without getting paid, at a time when the party suffered its worst setback -- losing to the KMT in both the legislative and presidential elections in 2008.

The party described him as a great writer, an honorable figure in the democratic movement and a respectful politician, and praised him for helping the party to pay a debt of NT$150 million (US$4.77 million) during his tenure as DPP secretary-general.

In a Facebook post, Legislative Speaker Su Jia-chyuan (蘇嘉全) also expressed sadness over the death of "a wise man who loved Taiwan."

In addition to DPP politicians, Wang also won praise from the main opposition KMT.

Tsai Cheng-yuan (蔡正元), executive director of the KMT's Policy Committee, paid tribute to Wang in a post on his personal Facebook page, lauding his literature works and his character of being true to others.

Wang Tuoh wrote several novels and children's books. He is best known for the novella Auntie Jinshui, which was published in 1976 and describes the story of the eponymous Auntie Jinshui, a street peddler who successfully raises and educates six sons, but falls upon especially hard times after an unsuccessful investment, which burdened her with a huge amount of debt. The novella was also later made into a movie.

Among his other famous works is the Story of Cowbelly Harbor, written when he was in jail. It draws from his own experiences living in a small fishing village in Keelung, northern Taiwan.

(By Lu Hsin-hui, Sabine Cheng, Wen Kuei-hsiang, Claudia Liu and Elaine