Thu, Dec 21, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan should thank its people, not Chiang

By Shih Ming-hsiung 施明雄

Following the passage of the Act on Promoting Transitional Justice (促進轉型正義條例), loyalists of former president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) have been saying were it not for Chiang, Taiwan would long ago have been overrun by the Chinese communists, and many Taiwanese lives would have been lost. They have been saying Taiwan’s economic prosperity owes everything to Chiang.

During the Second Sino-Japanese War, Chiang spent three years holed up on Mount Emei in China’s Sichuan Province, and had to pull back to Chong-qing. Were it not for the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it would have all been over for Chiang, who still balked at appearing in Nanjing to receive the Japanese Instrument of Surrender from Japanese General Yasuji Okamura on Sept. 9, 1945, sending General He Yingqin (何應欽) instead.

With the defeat in China and retreat to Taiwan, Chiang sent then-Taiwan governor Chen Yi (陳儀) to pillage Taiwan and instigate the 228 Massacre.

As if that were not enough, he then announced a change of currency, with 40,000 of the old Taiwanese dollar being exchanged for a single New Taiwan dollar, making countless Taiwanese instantly bankrupt. This author’s family had been saving to build a three-story hotel on 660m2 of land in front of Kaohsiung train station. Their money became worthless overnight.

Chiang brought gold and valuable artifacts over to Taiwan, but what of the 600,000 starving soldiers in his tattered army? Had the Korean War not broken out, and the US Navy not sent its Seventh Fleet into the Taiwan Strait to prevent the communists invading, would Chiang’s exhausted, petrified rabble of an army been able to resist the Eighth Route Army? Had the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) not stolen from Taiwanese, would its troops have survived at all?

Chiang then began a policy of buttering up farmers with the “375 rent reduction” initiative and allowing them to own land. He invested special powers in a group of banshan (半山, “half mountain”) Taiwanese — born here, but having spent time serving in China — to govern Taiwan with these Taiwanese lackeys, while holding unfair elections and setting the secret police on any dissidents.

The 1970s were given over to heavy industry, with ship-breakers responsible for large amounts of polluting dioxins and processing factories exploiting labor, including many plants in Kaohsiung’s Cianjhen District.

The government for years gave Japanese investors tax exemptions. They built many electric goods processing plants that used children as cheap labor.

At the time, the author helped a few friends, fresh out of jail, to set up a self-service buffet joint in Cianjhen market. The female workers in the nearby processing plants earned a pittance, and were surviving by spending NT$5 for a bowl of rice with two vegetable sides, and eating even less for breakfast — only gruel topped with pickled duck eggs.

Taiwan’s success is built on the toil of workers such as these.

The signature of Chiang — or that of his son and successor, former president Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) — was needed for every death sentence handed to political dissidents speaking out against their savage rule.

It is only because of those who fought for democracy that people today can vote.

Back in those days, people would be forced to go to the local assembly hall and line up in front of a statue of Chiang on Oct. 31, the anniversary of his birth. A friend in the line asked, in Taiwanese, why we were worshiping the devil. His comment was overheard and reported. My friend spent a decade behind bars for that, together with three years of disciplinary education.

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