Wed, Nov 28, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Time to recall the Beipu Uprising

By Yang Ching-ting 楊鏡汀

THE BEIPU UPRISING was the first example of armed resistance against Japanese rule in Taiwan, but for a century the incident has been distorted and disregarded.

On the evening of Nov. 14, 1907, Tsai Ching-lin (蔡清琳) organized a group of insurgents to seize weapons in Beipu Township (北埔) in Hsinchu County. The following day 57 Japanese officers and their family members were killed in an attack in the Beipu Subprefecture.

In retaliation, the Japanese military and police massacred more than 100 Hakka, especially in Neidaping (內大坪), a poor village with less than 100 households. Almost all were males aged 19 to 79. The unprecedented massacre devastated the village, leaving homeless orphans wandering the streets.

During Japanese rule, families of victims did not dare look for the remains of their loved ones and eventually the bodies could no longer be located.

Liu A-chun (劉阿春), from Hsinchu, who was eight when his father was killed, asked then-premier Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) to erect a memorial to commemorate the uprising, but the government failed to do so, citing a lack of historical data.

After 100 years, the memory of the Beipu tragedy is still fresh as family members continue to seek justice. Last year, an association for victims of the Beipu Uprising was established. With the assistance of local village leaders, the remains of the victims were uncovered and a religious ceremony was held to commemorate the dead.

After I transferred to Neifong Elementary School in the Neidaping school district in 1979, I started to shed light on the Neidaping massacre by writing a book titled Neifong Disaster after investigating household records from the Meiji period and drawing up a list of the victims. This list turned out to be of great help in seeking justice for the victims.

In 2002, Peng Sheng-yung (彭盛湧) from Chiayi sought justice for his grandfather, who was killed in the uprising from the Japanese government through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).

As the Historical Research Commission of the Taiwan Provincial Government was unable to provide historical material corroborating the incident, I submitted my list of victims to the government. The list was approved by MOFA and was transmitted to the Japanese Foreign Ministry. The case was dealt with and finally settled.

For a long time, Hakka people have not had the right to interpret history or to control their own culture. Since the compilers of the Taiwan Province Chronicles and the Hsinchu County Chronicles were not Hakka, they recorded untrue facts about the incident, especially in the Hsinchu County Chronicles, where inappropriate comments insulting to the victims have deeply hurt their family members.

A clear example of this is an article titled "Centennial chants for the young victims of the Beipu Uprising" published in Yuan magazine last year, in which the author clearly does not want to make any changes to the county chronicles. The victims association launched strong protests and the dispute remains unresolved. We can see that the official chronicles that copied documents from the period of Japanese rule have had long-lasting consequences.

In order to improve the situation, the Hsinchu government should remove all inappropriate records in the chronicles and apologize to the victims' descendants.

Resentment and disputes over the Beipu Uprising still fester.

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