Taiwan marks Freedom of Speech Day with exhibition

04/06/2017 09:00 PM
Cheng Li-chiun (鄭麗君)
Cheng Li-chiun (鄭麗君)

Taipei, April 6 (CNA) An exhibition opened Thursday in New Taipei in celebration of Freedom of Speech Day in Taiwan, showcasing pro-democracy magazines and other items that documented the actions of the opposition movements during the country's period of martial law.

The exhibition, dubbed "100 Percent Freedom of Speech," opened at the Jingmei Human Rights Memorial and Cultural Park a day before Freedom of Speech Day, which was designated by the Cabinet last year to commemorate the 27th anniversary of the death of pro-democracy pioneer Cheng Nan-jung (鄭南榕).

Culture Minister Cheng Li-chiun (鄭麗君) said at the opening of the exhibition that Cheng Nan-jung's tireless pursuit of "100 percent freedom of speech" had contributed to the progressive development of human rights in Taiwan.

"Only when people enjoy freedom of speech can they strive for all other rights," the minister said.

She said China's unrelenting suppression of freedom of speech had negatively affected cross-Taiwan Strait relations.

In 1989, Cheng Nan-jung, also known as Nylon Cheng, was charged with insurrection after he reprinted a draft Constitution of the "Republic of Taiwan" in Freedom Era Weekly magazine, of which he was editor-in-chief.

He refused to appear in court and when police went to the magazine's office in Taipei to arrest him on April 7, 1989, he committed suicide by self-immolation.

At the time, any advocacy to replace the Republic of China Constitution with a new charter to establish a new nation was prohibited under Article 100 of the Criminal Code, and the maximum penalty was life imprisonment.

The article was amended in 1992 to stipulate that it was a punishable crime only if such advocacy involved the use of violence.

Cheng's wife and former Vice Premier Yeh Chu-lan (葉菊蘭) said that after his death, she thought the society would be indifferent and insensible to his efforts, but the exhibition on Thursday convinced her that many people still cared about their homeland.

Cheng Nan-jung believed that "100 percent freedom of speech" could only be achieved if Taiwan became an independent country, Yeh said, adding that it is important for Taiwan to strive for that goal.

Cheng Nan-jung's brother Cheng Tsing-hua (鄭清華), who is executive director of the Nylon Cheng Liberty Foundation, said that freedom of speech is now under threat not only from authoritarian regimes but also as a result of economic factors.

When a Taiwanese film director is forced to proclaim 'I do not support Taiwan's independence movement,' it is not because of pressure from an authoritarian government, but rather due to economic considerations, he said.

The "100 Percent Freedom of Speech" exhibition will run until Dec. 15 at the Jingmei Human Rights Memorial and Cultural Park.

(By Christie Chen and Sabine Cheng)ENDITEM/pc

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