Both Lin and DPP need humility and re-examination

Both Lin and DPP need humility and re-examination

Party and former DPP chairman Lin I-hsiung to deeply re-examine themselves and carefully consider their future course in the wake of the decision by Lin to leave the 19-year-old governing party.

The decision by Lin has had an immediate political impact of hurting the lagging morale of the DPP and encouraging the conservative and undemocratic pan-blue opposition due to the Yilan native's role as one of the pioneers of the democratic movement against the authoritarian KMT regime in the 1970s and his status as a victim of that regime.

We should remind ourselves of the fact that, as noted by Vice President Annette Lu yesterday, no one has made more sacrifices for the cause of Taiwan's democratization than Lin I-hsiung.

After earning a reputation as a firebrand lawyer and Taiwan provincial assemblyman, Lin was one of the "Formosa Eight" defendants tried on sedition charges, which carried a mandatory death penalty, in KMT military court in early 1980.

But just before the "Formosa" case was tried, Lin's mother and two of three daughters were brutally slain and the third severely wounded in their Taipei home on February 28, 1980, days after Lin revealed to his mother that he had been tortured.

After an international human rights campaign, Lin was released in 1984 and, together with his wife and surviving daughter, spent the following five years travelling and studying in the United States, England and Japan before returning to Taiwan in 1989.

Lin established the "Tzu Lin Cultural Foundation" for the promotion of cultural and social reform activities in 1991 and played a leading role in a variety of social and environmental movements, including leading two "hardship marches" around the island for a referendum on the controversial fourth nuclear power plant.

After joining the DPP in 1994, Lin was elected DPP chairman in mid-1998 and played a major leadership role in the campaign for the March 20, 2000 presidential election, which was won by the DPP ticket of Chen Shui-bian and Annette Lu and thus ended nearly 55 years of KMT rule over Taiwan.

Lin declined to run for a second term and instead returned to his previous role as a social activist and later spearheaded the effort to pass constitutional amendments to halve the Legislative Yuan and revamp its election system.

Open break

But the events of the last month have shown that even this record of achievement and political rectitude does not guarantee infallibility in the actually-existing world of politics under conditions of limited options affected by diverse interests and priorities and values and thus compromise.

Lin's differences with President Chen and the lackluster record of his nearly six-year-old administration were clearly reflected in a series of open letters issued during the run-up to the January 15 party chairperson by-election.

In his missives, Lin delivered a sharp indictment of the errors of the Chen administration and properly urged Chen and other DPP leaders to respond to the needs of the mass of "ordinary people" who have backed the Taiwan democratic movement and the DPP.

Many if not most of Lin's criticisms of President Chen Shui-bian's administration and of the DPP are accurate and perceptive and shared by many party members and concerned citizens.

However, many DPP members or sympathizers were dismayed by Lin's purist and highly personal attack on former presidential secretary-general Yu Shyi-kun and his undemocratic demand that Yu withdraw from the race simply because he had served in senior positions in the Chen administration.

Given the absence of Lin himself from the race, DPP members made the best choice in the "actually existing selection" between Yu, DPP Legislator Trong Chai and former Changhua County commissioner Wong Chin-chu, who was urged by Lin to run, by electing Yu, who was the only candidate with enough stature to challenge new KMT chairman Ma Ying-jeou in the national political arena and prevent the DPP's further marginalization.

Moreover, Lin himself can hardly evade responsibility for the performance of President Chen's DPP administration in the wake of his decision in mid-2000 to "take a less-travelled path" and not remain at his post in the most critical period of Taiwan's democratic transition.

It is well known that Lin and Chen did not and do not see eye-to-eye on many issues and that considerable friction could have existed if Lin stayed in office.

The phase of "deconstruction" in a major process of political change such as Taiwan's "quiet" democratic revolution is far less complex and trying that the difficult and complicated task of "construction" of a new democratic order.

The departure of "the spiritual pillar of the Taiwan democratic movement" clearly played an inestimable role in the subsequent vacillations of the untried Chen administration, including on issues such as the fate of "Nuclear Four."

In our view, Lin's decision to publically intervene in the DPP chair by-election by proxy instead of running for the chairmanship personally and then leave the party after his preferred candidate was inevitably defeated were not the actions of a responsible or wise politician.

It is understandable that Lin is critical of the role of President Chen in the formation of the new Cabinet of incoming premier Su Tseng-chang. Indeed, we share many of his concerns.

However, one of the most serious problems exposed in this process is the inclination of DPP politicians to "charge, charge, charge" instead of taking enough time to "think, think, think" of a comprehensive strategy and of the implications of short-term actions.

In recent weeks, Lin has displayed that he is no more immune to this ailment than the politicians he has criticized.

We, therefore, urge Lin to seriously reconsider his own actions and statements and contemplate over the lunar new year what kind of role he can play in promoting Taiwan's future progress and how he can avoid actions that erode his potential influence in our society.

Updated : 2021-04-11 12:49 GMT+08:00