FAPA mourns death of Senator Edward Kennedy, lauding his contributions to Taiwan's democracy and human rights
In a letter to Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), the son of Senator Edward Kennedy, FAPA president Bob Yang sent condolences to the whole Kennedy family upon the passing of Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA). While the late Senator left imprints on major pieces of legislation advancing social justice, civil rights and healthcare for generations of Americans, FAPA best remembers the late Senator's instrumental efforts and leadership in championing Taiwan's democracy and human rights in the U.S. Congress in the 80s.
Together with the late Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI), former Congressmen Jim Leach (R-IA) and Steve Solarz (D-NY), Senator Kennedy met with FAPA members and listened to their concerns about the lack of human rights in Taiwan and the then authoritarian government's suppression of freedoms. These four Members of Congress introduced resolutions, wrote letters and issued statements, laying the foundation for democratic reforms in Taiwan and the abolishment of martial law. They were endearingly dubbed "The Gang of Four" for their work on behalf of Taiwan's human rights.
At a press conference on May 20, 1982 on the occasion of 33 years of martial law in Taiwan, the late Senator stated: “…it is clear that too many citizens are jailed in Taiwan for expressing their political views and defending their human rights. I therefore call on the leadership of Taiwan to take immediate action to release political and religious prisoners and to improve the human rights situation on the island.”
FAPA President Bob Yang says: “Ted Kennedy was not just the ‘Last Lion in the Senate,’ to us, Taiwanese Americans, and to the people of Taiwan, he was unquestionably the ‘First Lion for Taiwan's Democratization’ in the U.S. Congress."
The Hon. Patrick Kennedy August 27, 2009
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington DC 20515
Dear Congressman Kennedy:
On behalf of the full membership of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA), a world-wide non-profit organization that promotes freedom, human rights, democracy and self-determination for the people of Taiwan, I write to you today to express our condolences to you and the entire Kennedy family on the passing of your father.
In the Taiwanese American community and in Taiwan itself, he will be especially remembered because he stood up for human rights and democracy in Taiwan when it counted.
For instance, in the early and mid-1980s, your father played a crucial role in Taiwan's transition to democracy. Working closely with Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI) and Representatives Jim Leach (R-IA) and Stephen Solarz (D-NY), he initiated hearings and held press conferences to highlight Taiwan's martial law – which had been in force since 1949 – and Taiwan's lack of democracy. Together, they were affectionately referred to as the "Gang of Four" in support of democracy and human rights in Taiwan.
He also frequently called on the Kuomintang authorities to release the political and religious leaders who were imprisoned after the Kaohsiung Incident of December 1979, including reverend Kao Chun-ming of the Presbyterian Church, and then Provincial Assembly member Lin Yi-hsiung, whose mother and daughters were murdered when he was in prison.
At a press conference on May 20, 1982 on the occasion of 33 years of martial law in Taiwan, your father stated: "…it is clear that too many citizens are jailed in Taiwan for expressing their political views and defending their human rights. I therefore call on the leadership of Taiwan to take immediate action to release political and religious prisoners and to improve the human rights situation on the island."
The efforts by your father and his colleagues in the US Congress helped bring about the transition to democracy on the island and strengthened the democratic opposition, which coalesced and led to the formation of the Democratic Progressive Party in September 1986, and the end of martial law on July 14th 1987. However, it wasn't until 1992 that democratic elections were held for all seats in the Legislative Yuan, and not until 1996 that the Taiwanese were able to directly elect their own president.
The Taiwanese-American community and the people in Taiwan fondly remember your father as one who stood with them in one of the most difficult periods in the island's history.
We will miss him.
Bob Yang, President
Formosan Association for Public Affairs
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