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A Letter to Presidential Election Candidates of the Republic of China

January 15, 2016

Dear Presidential election candidates:

Greetings!

After fierce election campaigns, now you are waiting quietly for the final judgment by the voters. Long before this moment, I started to watch this political race closely on this side of the Taiwan Strait, from the Guangzhou Number One Detention Center. As a political prisoner, I have been deprived of the right to write and receive letters. Meetings and even exchanges of information with my lawyers have encountered much interference from the Chinese Communist Party. But I would still like to congratulate you. Furthermore, my congratulations are dedicated to the 23 million people of Taiwan. You can compete openly in front of the people. On the other hand, the people can freely choose who will manage this country for the next four years.

For those who have experienced the transition and stabilization of democracy, freedom is something to be taken for granted. Congratulations like this seem to have little new meaning. But I still sincerely hope that all we’ve encountered on this side of the Strait will make people in this fierce election war remember forever that freedom is not an inheritance that one can receive and then spend limitlessly. It is a trust that needs our protection and that rises in value with our sweat, blood, and even lives. In so doing, we can hand it down to the next generation.

Freedom is precious and fragile. In seemingly large number of social concepts, a free society is like an oasis in a desert. It can be swallowed up by the desert without being noticed. It leads the hearts of those who are suffering in the harsh desert around it. Freedom is so hard to fetch and so easy to lose. That is because people forget to protect the source of the spring when they’re enjoying the fresh water of freedom.

Now it’s plum blossom season in Guangzhou. During the last 20 months of my detention, touching a blade of grass or a leaf is a fantasy, let alone kissing a beautiful plum flower. Only the moss that sprouts in the corners of my cell walls can soothe eyes thirsty for nature. Over the past few years, tens of thousands of people like me have been incarcerated on the mainland. The conditions of many of them are much worse than mine. And the vast majority are unknown to the outside world. All of our suffering here is for the freedoms now being enjoyed by Taiwanese people.

As today’s world attention focuses on the evil behavior of ISIS terrorists, the plight of so many peaceful mainland fighters is being ignored. Such a contrast is deeply worrying. In the future, when these terrorists seize power in a certain place and start to rule openly, making their atrocities laws and mundane daily government process, the opinions will instead lose their focus. That’s been the whole process of how Communism has invaded the entire globe during the past 100 years. Yet people’s fate often falls into such a tragic reincarnation cycle.

At this very moment, I can’t help but think of those pioneers on Taiwan’s road to democracy, such as Shih Ming-the, who never changed his ideals despite years of imprisonment, and Cheng Nan-jung, who self-immolated with dignity. It would be hard to list them all. One after another, their sacrifices lit the torch of Taiwan’s freedom. Now people in Taiwan are making freedom glow through these elections.

But underneath the seemingly calm surface of the sea, the hidden rocks are quietly rising on the route of democratization in the Republic of China. The imbalance of military power on both sides of the Strait is enlarging with gathering speed. The increase of bilateral trade has provided a convenient route for the mainland authority to infiltrate and even control Taiwan’s political situation. Less than 20 years under the Chinese Communist rule, the deterioration of Hong Kong’s political freedom has provided a very good footnote to such expansions.

We have no reason to remain blindly optimistic. Fortunately, freedom itself can become the lighthouse to rid us of the darkness. Taiwan, with today’s achievements in democratization, makes it a spiritual motherland in the hearts of hundreds of millions of mainland people. Whoever wins this election, when you’re pondering the destiny of Taiwan, please cast your eyes beyond the boundaries of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu islands, and land in the territories of the Republic of China drawn by the Constitution.

Finally, I would like to give my blessings to Taiwan, wishing that her tree of freedom will be forever green. I would like to dedicate my wishes to the mainland, hoping her light of freedom will arrive early! One day, the people on both side of the Strait will be able to smell the aroma of the flower of freedom under the skies of freedom!

Tang Jingling
A prisoner of the Sacred Hall of Freedom
January, 2016

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