December 10, 1979 marked what is known as the Formosa Incident or the KaoHsiung Incident. What started out as a planned rally for the International Human Rights day became a day to marked in Taiwan history. This incident gave name to the KaoHsiung Eight, who would each make a mark in shaping a democratic Taiwan.
30 years into martial law, Taiwanese people were forbidden to speak ill of the government. All forms of free-speech were prosecuted.
To try to gain a voice, Taiwanese people started to form up their own political party to stand against the single party state that is the Republic of China.
Many individuals also started to form local Taiwanese news outlets in order to counteract the propaganda of the government news.
Viewing the Republic of China’s actions targeting Taiwanese intellectual, including exiling, blackmailing, and even murdering, as a violation against human rights, Formosa Magazine prepared for a rally to celebrate the International Human Rights Day on December 10.
Multiple applications were made to the government to gain permission to assemble, but they were all denied. Despite this, Formosa Magazine decided to continue with the rally for December 10, 1979.
On December 9, the government issued a curfew for the following day. In order to “maintain society order”, there would be no public assemblies.
As evening came around, tens of thousands of people gathered at what is now the Formosa Boulevard MRT Station. At the same time, riot police were forming around the crowd. Organizers tried to speak to the police force to allow them to assemble until 11pm.
At 8pm, police forces started to hurl tear gas into the crowd, but speakers continued onstage. At around 10pm, more tear gas were shot into the crowd and riot police started to approach the rally with riot shields. Armed with sticks and stones, the people at the rally started to fight against the police.
The next day, on December 11, 1979, the government started arresting individuals involved in the illegal public assembly. A total of 152 people were indicted.
This marked the first planned civil movement in modern Taiwan history and sparked the movement for a fight for the Taiwanese identity. After this event, people all around Taiwan started to care more about Taiwan politics. However, this also led to a stronger crackdown from the government leading to the murder of a number of prominent leaders in the Taiwan movement. These actions by the Chinese Nationalist Party started to be admonished by the international human rights community.
Among the people prosecuted, 8 people were known to be leaders and are known as the “KaoHsiung Eight”
Among these eight were Chen Chu (陳菊), current KaoHsiung Mayer, and Annette Lu (呂秀蓮), former vice president. These also included three former chairmen of the later formed Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)
In addition, the lawyer team that defended the KaoHsiung eight were also being highlighted. One of which would later become the first non-Chinese Nationalist Party president of Taiwan, Chen Shui-Bian (陳水扁.)