Remembering Hu Fu
Democratic Trailblazer and the Conscience of a Generation
Hu Fu, the premiere Academician of Political Science at the Institute of Political Science at Academia Sinica, passed away recently at the age of 86. He was the model of the liberal intellect. His legacy left a lasting impact on the transformation of Taiwanese democracy, from noted political commentator Lei Chen to former President Ma Ying-jeou.
Democratic Trailblazer and the Conscience of a GenerationBy Chu, Yun-han
From CommonWealth Magazine (vol. 657 )
Hu Fu, the premiere Academician of Political Science at the Institute of Political Science at Academia Sinica, passed away recently at the age of 86.
He was the model of the liberal intellect. His legacy left a lasting impact on the transformation of Taiwanese democracy, from noted political commentator Lei Chen to former President Ma Ying-jeou.
The past hundred days have been marred by tragedy. Three paragons of post-war Taiwanese liberalism and intellectualism—Academician Hu Fu, Academician Kuo-Shu Yang, and former president of National Tsing Hua University Shen Chun-shan have passed away.
From the early seventies to the mid-nineties, these three men were crucial to dislodging Taiwan’s ruling authoritarian regime, ushering in political reform and democratic transformation.
It may be unimaginable to younger readers that in an era of restrictions on freedom of press and association, a few intellectual elites influenced political thinking and public opinion to the point of challenging the legitimacy of the authoritarian government. These notable men provided narrative guidance and social momentum for the burgeoning opposition movement.
Of the three, Hu Fu stood at the forefront. During the critical moments of political transformation, he provided the most disciplined, complete, concise, and convincing arguments for constitutional governance and reform proposals. He talked the talk and walked the walk. He coordinated with like-minded academics and opinion leaders in the press to form a close-knit community of mutual support. He never hesitated to facilitate negotiations between the authorities and the opposition to achieve peaceful, mutually beneficial resolutions.
He had extraordinary influence and appeal because of his straightforward and frank personality, as well as the moral courage to go where angels feared to tread. For this, he was respected and trusted by all.
He weathered authoritarian oppression, threats from government spies, and the corrupting temptation of fame and wealth. Nothing could corrode his core values and fraternal love for his fellow countrymen.
He was the conscience of a generation. Like a shining beacon hoisted high above the turmoil, he revealed every contemporary academic and politician for what they truly were: the good and the bad, the honest and the hypocritical, the wise and the foolish.
Those who conferred with or were influenced by him covered the spectrum of key figures during Taiwan’s democratic transformation: former Presidents Chiang Ching-kuo, Lee Teng-hui, and Ma Ying-jeou; former Vice President Annette Lu; former Premiers Hau Pei-tsun and Sun Yun-suan; political commentator Lei Chen; statesmen Fei Hsi-ping, Huang Hsin-chieh, and James Soong; reformers such as Tao Baichuan and Lin Yi-hsiung.
Without succumbing to cynicism, he saw his share of falsehood and deceit. Morally bankrupt intellectuals whose claim to fame was being the vacuous mouthpiece of the powers that be.
Heroes of the social movement who cast off the façade of democratic reform once they got a taste of power, and so became worse than what they overthrew. Schemers and looters who twisted the law, tainted public discourse, threw opponents in jail, stoked populist sentiments for their own gains, and made a mockery of true democratic values.
Cross-strait relations was the one concern that kept him up at night. Born in China, he grew up during the Second Sino-Japanese War. He knew that Chinese and Taiwanese nationalism could result in tragic bloodshed between brothers.
His repeatedly admonished politicians: it would be extremely immoral and irresponsible to breed alienation and hostility between the 23 million Taiwanese and 1.4 billion Chinese citizens across the strait to push forward your own identity politics or petty political machinations. Chinese culture is an indelible part of Taiwan. Cut adrift, Taiwan would be as lost orchids on the currents of the world, pulled this way and that by global superpowers with their own ulterior agendas.
Translated by Jack C.
Edited by Tomas Lin
About the Author
Chu,Yun-han is a distinguished research fellow at the Institute of Political Science of Academia Sinica. He is a bi-weekly columnist with a high readership at CommonWealth Magazine, and also a winner of SOPA (The Society of Publishers in Asia) Awards.