Mon, Jul 11, 2011 - Page 8 News List

KMT’s dark history did not simply fade away

By Charles Snyder

It was good that I was sitting down when I read the Taipei Times’ report on Premier Wu Den-yih’s (吳敦義) baseless allegation that it was during former president Lee Teng-hui’s (李登輝) term that the nation’s political culture became riddled with corruption and gangsters. It is rare that somebody hears such claptrap.

The pervasive corruption and gangsterism in the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), since its founding until today, are legion and have been recognized by just about every academic and historian worth their salt. To deny this is to deny reality.

The story reminded me of an article I wrote about juvenile delinquency in Taiwan for the Far Eastern Economic Review after having completed a year’s study at National Taiwan University’s Stanford Center in 1970. It was titled “East Side Story” — a play on the US musical West Side Story.

The Taipei newspapers were full of accounts about the hei shehui (黑社會), or black societies. One of my teachers told me that they were juvenile crime gangs, whose numbers and activities were soaring and who were becoming an increasing danger to society. I decided to investigate.

The resulting article was based primarily on an interview with then-National Police College principal Mei Ko-wang (梅可望), the college’s youth crime statistics, a 1959 study by the college and the works of a newspaper columnist whose name I forget. The columnist had waged a print war against the gangs and the failure of the legislature to act. When the columnist’s war became too fierce, his column was dropped.

At the time, the KMT authorities were falsely trumpeting to the world that there was no juvenile delinquency in Taiwan. My article detailed how the government had been completely inept in dealing with street gangs and how some legislators publicly accused high-ranking KMT officials of having direct links with some of the gangs.

The statistics showed that in 1959, when street gangs began to be a problem, 65 percent of gang members were children of Mainlanders, although Mainlanders made up only 15 percent of the population. The study showed that the vast majority of gang members were sons and daughters of government officials and who were considered upper class and middle class. Two-thirds of gang members were students.

Later statistics showed that the number of youths running afoul of the law skyrocketed from 933 in 1952, to a whopping 7,383 in 1959. After a brief drop, the figure jumped to more than 9,000 by 1969, after rising by 12 percent a year in the late 1960s.

Even before infesting Taiwan with criminality, the KMT was well-known for its corruption in China. Historians have noted that former president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and many other KMT leaders were members of the Triad Society, a Western term for the anti-imperial nationalists of the 19th century who morphed into gangs of plain-vicious hoodlums in the 20th century.

The point is not what happened four decades or more ago. The point is that the same KMT leaders’ kids who were gangsters in their youth — those hundreds or thousands of kids — are now old enough to be in the top echelon of the KMT organization and power structure. And they are the people who have perpetuated a reign of corruption and official criminality in Taiwan for all these years.

Wu should look at himself, his party and his cohorts before making absurd accusations against Lee and the Democratic Progressive Party. The nation’s journalists should also start looking at the early police files of the KMT’s leaders. They might be amazed at what they find.

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