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Goddess of Democracy

One of the station's founders, Wu'er Kaixi said, "On the waves of the first free Chinese radio everyone will speak." The station's ship had been re-named Goddess of Democracy in tribute to the statue of the same name which had been erected by pro-democracy supporters in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

The project had been sponsored by the Chinese business community around the world (including substantial amounts from Hong Kong) together with the French magazine Actuel, and the British magazine The Face. Wu'er Kaixi was one of the student leaders in Tiananmen Square during the anti-communist demonstrations the previous year and had fled in exile to Paris where he met with Actuel reporter Christophe Nick. Together they devised a plan for launching an offshore radio station to broadcast freely to mainland China.

It was planned that, after a six week voyage from La Rochelle in France, the station would begin transmitting music, interviews and anti-communist propaganda on 25th April 1990 possibly using a balloon aerial system. It was intended to install  the transmitters when the ship reached Singapore. In order to avoid jamming which had been threatened by the Chinese Government, the station proposed to change frequencies at regular intervals. As well as jamming, the Chinese Government also threatened to use force to stop the planned offshore radio station's broadcasts and said it would not tolerate any country or organisation supporting the station or its ship.

The Goddess of Democracy arrived in the Northern Taiwan port of Keelung on 13th May 1990. Here it was planned to take on supplies and transmitting equipment, but the authorities refused to allow members of the project to board the ship or for the transmitter to be loaded. On 15th May 1990, the Bangkok Post reported that the Taiwanese Ministry of Defence had placed an armed guard on the ship plus a dozen police.

Authorities in mainland China had warned Taiwan of ‘serious consequences’ if it allowed the ship to begin transmissions from within its territory and  there were reports of an unidentified (presumably Chinese) submarine stationed off the coast of Taiwan. One of the project organisers, Jean Francois Bizot, criticised the Taiwanese for going back on ‘secret agreements’ (to allow broadcasts).

By the end of the week the project was in disarray, the transmitter was impounded, the crew were threatening mutinity over unpaid wages and debts mounting. Attempts to have broadcasting equipment fitted in Japan came to nothing, and the ship was abandoned in Taiwan amid claims of unpaid bills.

The Goddess of Democracy was subsequently purchased by a Taiwanese businessman, Wu Meng-wu, in April 1991 and was docked in the southern port of Anping. Wu Meng-wu planned to turn the ship into a museum dedicated to the history of the pro-democracy movement in China.

The Taiwan Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) asked the semi-official Alliance for the Reunification of China  to buy the ship, but the offer was rejected on the grounds that the Alliance did not have adequate funds.

The Kaohsiung Harbour Administration then asked the MAC to seek an agreement with Wu Meng-wu to scrap the ship because it was listing at the quayside, was rusting badly and had safety problems.

Eventually in March 2003 Wu Meng -wu was ordered to scrap the ship after he lost a lawsuit filed by the Anping Harbour authorities, who insisted the ship must be removed to make way for harbour expansion and that Wu must pay at least two million Taiwan dollars in harbour-related fees. Wu Meng-wu agreed to begin dismantling his ship by September, but he denied he owed the authorities any fees. He claimed that after he bought the ship, the government promised to help him take care of it.

In September 2003 scrapping of the radio ship Goddess of Democracy began and was expected to take about two months. Wu Meng-wu said, "This is a blow to those who have been pushing for freedom and democracy in China."

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Goddess of Democracy