The success of opposition efforts in South Korea and the Philippines has breathed new life into attempts by Taiwanese opposition groups abroad to revive democracy in their homeland, according to activists and U.S. analysts.
One such group is seeking help from the new Philippine government to use radio transmitters in Manila to broadcast uncensored news reports to Taiwan. Earlier this month, three prominent opposition figures announced plans to form a new political party and return to Taiwan in a direct challenge to the regime of President Chiang Ching-kuo.
Under martial-law measures imposed in 1949, opposition parties are prohibited and authorities control most newspapers and television stations. Most issues of opposition magazines were banned last year.
"We are greatly inspired by the Philippine case because it taught us that people are really powerful and it's possible for people to make peaceful change," said Hsu Hsin-liang, who heads a committee to set up the new overseas party.
Hsu, who has been in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1979, said groundwork for a new party had been progressing for some time, but the military-led popular revolt that brought Corazon Aquino to power in the Philippines gave those activities a new boost.
The purpose of the new group, to be known as the Taiwan Democratic Party, is to support the opposition in Taiwan in forming a party.
Hsu, a founder of the now defunct Formosa Magazine, was one of the few opposition leaders who escaped arrest in 1979 after major riots broke out in Taiwan's southern industrial city of Kaohsiung.
Although a warrant later was issued for his arrest on sedition charges, Hsu said he is willing to risk detention by returning to Taiwan, probably in late November, before legislative elections scheduled for December.
"What we are expecting to achieve is to trigger a new momentum for a democratic movement in Taiwan," he said.
"Both the Philippines and South Korea allowed the opposition to form political parties," said Trong Chai, executive director of the Formosan Association for Public Affairs, a political organization for overseas Taiwanese. "In the Philippines, at least, there was one radio station that was free from the control of Marcos. . . . Why should Taiwan be the exception?" he asked.
Chai said his organization is interested in using radio transmitters in the Philippines to broadcast news in Taiwanese back to the island. Chai has made two trips to Manila since Aquino took power Feb. 25. Aquino and top Philippine officials were sympathetic to the project, he said, and talks are continuing.