New book published on Tang Prize laureates(Focus Taiwan)

  • Albie Sachs, 2014 Tang Prize laureate in Rule of Law
  • Albie Sachs, 2014 Tang Prize laureate in Rule of Law
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Taipei, May 2 (CNA) A new book that documents the lives of the first Tang Prize laureates was published in Taipei Saturday, with the hope that their stories will inspire the Taiwanese public, according to the Tang Prize Foundation.

The 299-page Chinese-language book titled "Determined to Change: the First Tang Prize Laureates" (勇不放棄-唐獎得主的故事), published by CommonWealth Magazine, introduces the lives and achievements of the five laureates, as well as interviews with them and lectures they have given in Taiwan.

The five laureates are: Gro Harlem Brundtland, former prime minister of Norway, who won the prize for sustainable development; immunologists James P. Allison of the United States and Tasuku Honjo of Japan, who shared the prize for biopharmaceutical science; Chinese American historian Yu Ying-shih, who won the prize for sinology; and Albie Sachs, a former justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, who was named the winner of the prize for rule of law.

"The Tang Prize Foundation not only hands out awards, but more importantly, we hope to promote the ideas of the laureates," Tang Prize Foundation CEO Chern Jenn-chuan (陳振川) said.

At the book launch, which was attended by around 200 people, 80-year-old Sachs shared the dark days of his imprisonment as a freedom fighter in apartheid South Africa and sang the 1925 popular song "Always." It was a song he used to sing in prison to lift his spirits, he said.

When asked what motivated him to join the anti-apartheid movement, Sachs said it was because he grew up in a family where ideas, hearts and values mattered more than material things.

"I didn't stand a chance. I was born into it," said Sachs, whose mother was a typist for a South African politician and whose father was a trade union leader.

Despite the torture and suffering he endured, Sachs said it was never a sacrifice for him to join the freedom struggle in South Africa because he was able to meet people like late South African President Nelson Mandela.

"So it wasn't a sacrifice. It was a wonderful period of discovery and advancement for me."

Sachs joined the anti-apartheid movement at the age of 17. After obtaining his law degree at 21, he defended people charged under repressive apartheid laws and as a result, was imprisoned and tortured.

He played a key role in drafting South Africa's new Constitution and Bill of Rights. During Sachs' tenure as a judge, the Constitutional Court abolished the death penalty, overturned anti-homosexuality laws and legalized same-sex marriage.

Hsu Fang-chu (許芳菊), author of the book, said the five laureates may come from different backgrounds, "but they share the same admirable courage and determination to follow through with their ideals."

She said she hopes the book will introduce the five remarkable lives to Taiwanese readers and inspire them to live their lives to the fullest.

The biennial Tang Prize was established in 2012 by Taiwanese entrepreneur Samuel Yin to honor top researchers and leaders in four fields: sustainable development, biopharmaceutical science, sinology and rule of law.

The first award ceremony was held in Taipei in September last year.

(By Christie Chen)