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Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen warned an audience at a speech commemorating the nation’s Freedom of Expression Day on Sunday that China is actively attempting to “use our democracy against us” through misinformation campaigns designed to curb the nation’s sovereignty.
Tsai’s remarks were part of an address specifically honoring Deng Nan-jung, a Taiwanese free speech activist and journalist also known as “Nylon Deng” who self-immolated in 1989. As the Taipei Times recalls:
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Deng had been holed up in his office for 71 days in an effort to avoid arrest, after being charged with sedition in January 1989 for publishing a draft “Taiwan Republic Constitution” in his magazine, Freedom Era Weekly. The charge carried a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Deng set himself alight on April 7, 1989, sacrificing his life to defend freedom of speech.
While many who support communism and China’s claims to Taiwan consider Deng a dangerous activist and “terrorist” despite not having used violence to advocate for free speech, many Taiwanese admire Deng for leading a movement that ultimately led to the modern state of freedom in Taiwan.
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Tsai told the audience that her government was working to honor Deng in part by clearing the criminal records of thousands of Taiwanese who were taken as prisoners of conscience in the 1980s for opposition to the government at the time.
In her remarks, Tsai also vowed to fight to keep the Communist Party of China from undermining freedom in Taiwan.
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“[China] wants to use our democracy against us. I simply cannot accept this, and I believe Taiwanese in general would not accept this,” she told the audience. “As president I will persevere in the fight for democracy.”
“We must allow free speech to be the shared DNA of Taiwanese. This will be the best way to remember Deng Nan-jung these 30 years later,” she added.
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