Former KMT Legislative Speaker Liang dies at 84 in Taipei

TAIPEI, Taiwan, The China Post Staff

Former Legislative Speaker Liang Su-yung yesterday died of heart and lung failure in Taipei. He was 84. A Kuomintang (KMT) stalwart, Liang was admitted to Taipei’s Cathay General Hospital earlier this month with respiratory problems. He was briefly discharged on Monday so that he could meet with KMT Chairman Lien Chan to promote the merger of the “pan-blue” camp, reports said.

When his condition quickly deteriorated, he was rushed back to the hospital Thursday night, and died early yesterday morning.

A lawyer by trade, Liang was a well-known liberal who risked being alienated by his party by defending prominent opposition figures in court during the martial law days.

He spent his last few years actively promoting the unification of both sides of the strait. He traveled to the mainland in 1996, 1998 and 2000 to meet with then Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

He was born on mainland China in 1920, and was elected to the Legislature in 1948, a year before the KMT troops lost a civil war to the communists and fled to Taiwan. Together with more than 100 other lawmakers elected on the mainland, he kept his legislative seat without reelection until 1991 when the entire Legislature was reelected for the first time in more than four decades. His legislative speakership in 1990-91 marked the peak of his political career. But he had to face a tiny opposition who nevertheless managed to dominate the political scene with their frequent protest actions. The late ‘80s and early ‘90s saw the then opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) fight actively for democracy and various other reforms.

Former Premier Chang Chun-hsiung, who was a DPP member of the Legislature at the time, slapped the face of Liang in the heat of a quarrel during a meeting. Chang yesterday expressed regret over Liang’s death, saying the former speaker was one of the most respected people in the country. KMT chief Lien said he mourned Liang’s death, praising him as a “respected elder statesman.”

Lien said he has directed KMT staff to assist Liang’s family with funeral arrangements.

KMT spokeswoman Kuo Su-chun said Liang visited Lien Aug. 23.

“On that day, Liang looked in good spirits,” Kuo said, adding that to the best of her understanding, Liang urged Lien to continue to lead the KMT and not give in to the party’s young Turks, who want him to retire.

Liang also had served as a KMT deputy secretary-general, a legislative vice speaker, and a senior adviser to the president.

KMT stalwart Hsu Li-nung, one of Liang’s best friends, said Liang firmly believed that peaceful unification will benefit the people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

With a master’s degree and doctorate in law from Japan’s Meiji University, Liang worked as an intelligence operative in northeastern China during the war against Japanese aggression.

He was arrested by the Japanese authorities in 1944 and did not regain his freedom until after the end of World War II.