Hundred of activists on Saturday marched in the port city of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan to mark the 40th anniversary of a crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations there, a turning point in the island’s shift to democracy.
The crackdown, known as the Kaohsiung Incident, occurred on December 10, 1979, when Taiwan was under martial law.
A peaceful protest launched by Formosa Magazine, run by pro-democracy human rights activists, resulted in clashes between the police and demonstrators.
Participants in Saturday’s march included elderly people victimised in the incident, local witnesses and young people from the ruling independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and some emerging political parties.
Taiwan president, Tsai Ing-wen, seeking re-election in January, also joined the event, jointly organised by pro-independence groups.
With the crowd, she marched and shouted slogans such as “Protect Taiwan! Defend Democracy!” and “Formosa is ours!” using the island’s former name.
Facing threats from China, the people of Taiwan will continue to embrace democracy and freedom in order to resist autocracy, organizers said.
In early 1980, eight leading activists arrested after the incident, including incumbent Presidential Secretary-General Chen Chu, were convicted of “sedition” in a martial law trial.
Former premier, Chang Chun-hsiung, a defence lawyer back then, urged people at the march to treasure Taiwan’s hard-won democracy, freedom, and rights, the state-run Central News Agency reported.
In late 1980, a further 33 people involved in the Kaohsiung Incident also faced trial.
In 1987, Taiwan lifted martial law, which had originally been imposed in 1949.
In May 2019, the cases of the victims of the Kaohsiung incident were among thousands of martial law-era verdicts annulled by the government.