Fighting for Taiwan and liberty: Lin Rung San
By Paul Lin 林保華
Taipei Times  2015.12.15

I was devastated to learn of the passing of Lin Rung San (林榮三), the founder of the Liberty Times and the Taipei Times, on Nov. 28. The news had particular significance for me, as I have been a columnist for the paper he founded for about two decades.

In June 1996, the year before Hong Kong’s handover to China, Liberty Times Group chairman Wu A-ming (吳阿明) and Rick Chu (朱立熙), then head of the paper’s international section, visited me in Hong Kong. They wanted me to write a weekly column introducing and commenting on Hong Kong current affairs. I had been very worried that China would turn its attention to Taiwan after it had taken back Hong Kong and jumped at the chance to write for the Liberty Times.

Back then, the only Taiwanese newspapers Hong Kongers read were the China Times and the United Daily News. Newsstands did not carry the Liberty Times. However, it was apparently the latter that was interested in Hong Kong’s future, and this is why our fates became tied, influencing the second half of my life and seeing me become Taiwanese.

In June 1997, the month prior to the arrival of the People’s Liberation Army in Hong Kong, my remit went from weekly columns to daily observations of events, trying to grasp what was happening there. Clearly, Lin was very concerned about what was going on in Hong Kong.

On June 28, I boarded an airplane with my wife, emigrating to the US. That morning, I had completed my last two columns for that month and faxed them over to the paper.

Before we emigrated, I traveled to Taiwan, visiting the Liberty Times for the first time, and met its founder. Lin struck me as being a very committed, steadfast man, accounting for the success of the paper in what is a very unforgiving industry.

In June 1999, Lin founded the English-language sister edition of the paper, the Taipei Times, demonstrating his international vision. My wife and I flew to Taiwan to attend the new paper’s launch. This publication has become a window through which people overseas can understand what is happening in Taiwan.

John Tkacik, a retired US foreign service officer with postings in Taipei, Beijing, Hong Kong and Guangzhou, and Hudson Institute director of Chinese strategy Michael Pillsbury have come to know me through my articles in the Taipei Times.

For a businessman to stand out from the others and remain faithful to his roots, to refuse to invest in China in search of profits, not allowing himself to be subjected to the constraints, even hijacking, of the authorities there, and to become a mainstay of public opinion here in Taiwan, is impressive indeed.

Working as a columnist for the Liberty Times has also been a very educational experience for me, not least because of the paper’s motto: “Taiwan Foremost, Liberty First.”

When I was in Hong Kong, I went from being pro-unification to pro-independence for the Republic of China to — after coming to understand more about Taiwanese politics, history and culture — pro-Taiwanese independence. The Liberty Times is in no small part responsible for that transition. And there are more people like me. There is even a case for saying that, in the Internet age, we subscribe to the slogan, “Hong Kong Foremost, Liberty First.”

Lin had been increasingly present at events organized by the Liberty Times in recent years. He clearly appreciated the importance of consolidating a Taiwanese identity through cultural events. Regrettably, Lin will not be around to witness Taiwan’s second transition of power away from the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), but one thing is certain: His legacy will have a substantial impact on Taiwan and its future.

Paul Lin is a political commentator.

Translated by Paul Cooper


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