The Blood of Taiwan's Patriots: Dang Nylon--One of Many

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Friday April 17, by Jerome F. Keating Ph.D.

Thomas Jefferson is known for the quote, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." In Taiwan's quest for liberty and democracy, too many of its patriots have shed their blood for it but not enough of its tyrants. And it is high time that we honored those patriots who shed their blood as well as stopped praising the tyrants who did not.

This past April 7th, Taiwan celebrated the anniversary of the death of one such patriot, Cheng Nan-jung (1947--1989). Cheng (aka Deng Nan-jung and Dang Nylon ref. his foundation documentary and Google search) was a man who broke taboo after taboo that the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) had tried to impose on Taiwanese. With a father from China and a mother from Taiwan, he is famous for making statements like "I am Dang Nylon; my ancestors are Chinese, but I support Taiwan independence."

In 1984, Cheng began the magazine Freedom Era Weekly to advocate freedom of speech under the KMT one-party state. Though consistently shut down by the KMT he managed to publish some 270 issues. In 1986, he also began a green ribbon campaign against Martial Law on Taiwan. One of the longest periods of martial law in any nation, Taiwan's Martial Law had officially begun in 1949, but in reality the KMT had imposed it in 1947 after 2-28. Martial law was lifted in 1987.

Cheng died by self immolation on April 7, 1989. He had set himself on fire after 71 days of self-imposed isolation in his magazine's office. He had been charged with sedition for the anti-government views expressed in his magazine and refused to appear in court. He also had printed a Constitution for the Republic of Taiwan drawn up by pro-independence author, Hsu Shih-kai. Cheng had said, "The KMT will never catch me; they will only find my dead body." His words could not have been more prophetic.

A man who deeply loved Taiwan, his country, Dang Nylon expressed sentiments like, "If I could only live in one place in the world, that place would be Taiwan. If I had to choose one place where I would die; that place would be Taiwan."

On Cheng's funeral day (May 19, 1989)--also the first memorial date of the imposition of Martial Law on Taiwan--another patriot Chan I-hua set himself on fire in front of the Presidential Palace.

Again this past year, Liu Po-yen, an 80 year old retired teacher and a long time KMT member set himself on fire at Liberty Square on Nov. 11 over President Ma Ying-jeou's handling of the protests of the visit of the People's Republic of China (PRC) Chen Yulin. Liu hoped that his spirit would protect the Wild Strawberries encamped in Liberty Square as well as the Spirit of Taiwan.

Taiwan needs to remember its patriots even though Ma Ying-jeou wants to remember its tyrants as he seeks to rename Liberty Square to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial. Ma also recently commemorated Chiang Ching-kuo, who came near to being assassinated in 1970 as a tyrant. Perhaps that is what made Chiang Ching-kuo begin to think that he should start to democratize Taiwan.

In reality, Taiwanese need to ask themselves this question, "When has Ma Ying-jeou ever commemorated the blood of those patriots who died resisting and protesting the authoritarian one-party state of the KMT and its tyrants and so brought about Taiwan's democracy?" Ma does not want to touch that one and you know why. Where then does Ma really stand on Taiwan's democracy as opposed to its unification with another authoritarian state?

A commemorative painting of Dang Nylon can be found in the Protest Art section on the left of my posting.