December 10th 1979: Kaohsiung Incident
On this day in 1979, the
occurred in Taiwan (officially called the Republic of China), marking an important moment in the country’s democratic revolution. Throughout the 1970s, opposition had been growing to the one-party state, and President
of the Chinese Nationalist Party
agreed to hold elections in 1979. The elections were, however, cancelled, and dissidents were arrested. Activists thus chose
December 10th (Human Rights Day) to take to the streets of
in protest against the repression of democracy. Police were summoned to break up the peaceful crowds, which resulted in sporadic violence and mass arrests; it was later revealed that the police and army were in position before the planned protest began. The following year, prominent members of the unoffiical opposition - the ‘Kaohsiung Eight’ - were tried for sedition and jailed. The case generated a great deal of sympathy for the political dissidents, both in Taiwan and from Taiwanese people living abroad, who lobbied their host governments, boosting the democratic movement in Taiwan. In 1986, the Democratic Progressive Party was founded, with many of its leaders coming from the defendants and defense lawyers of the Kaohsiung trial. The founding of an official opposition was a decisive moment in Taiwan’s transition to democracy and universal suffrage in the late 1980s. Taiwan remains a thriving and successful democracy, though mainland China still bars Taiwan from membership in international organisations like the United Nations.