Wed, Feb 28, 2001 - Page 11 News List

Chronicler of 228

Reporter Wu Cho-liu wrote two books detailing his experiences during the 228 Incident and exposing those who collaborated with the KMT government to kill or incarcerate thousands


Wu Cho-liu is shown here standing at a meeting with writers Chung Ao-cheng, right, and Lung Ying-zong, left, and others in the 1970s. Wu was publisher of Taiwan Literature and Art and published two books titled Flowerless Fruit and Taiwan Lien-kio that exposed the violence of the 228 Incident which took place 54 years ago today.


OF all the writers who dealt with the subject of the bloody 228 Incident of 1947 exactly 54 years ago, the late Wu Cho-liu (吳濁流) distinguished himself by devoting two major books as a means to put to paper all he witnessed during that extraordinary period of time.

Born in 1900 to a Hakka family in Hsinchu County, Wu wrote The Orphan of Asia (亞細亞的孤兒), Flowerless Fruit (無花果) and Taiwan Lien-kio (台灣連翹), in which he provides detailed accounts of the hardships encountered by the Taiwanese people under Japanese and Chinese rule.

According to Poyen Lin (林柏燕), director of the Historical Museum of Hsinchu County and an expert on Taiwan literary history, the title Flowerless Fruit is representative of a people whose society is kept from blossoming. Lien-kio (連翹), a type of creeping plant which Hakka people typically use to adorn the facades of their houses, is repeatedly trimmed to stem excessive growth. The characteristic of the plant to grow, despite being constantly trimmed, is a similar symbolic reference to the hardened spirit of Taiwan's people.

Although he calls himself "a spineless man" in one of his works, Wu consistently shocked his friends with his head-on approach to writing about the sensitive 228 Incident. Most notable is the fact Wu named informants who tipped off KMT authorities with fabricated information to hunt down many of Taiwan's leading intellectual and social figures after the 228 Incident.

Under martial law, which lasted from 1947 to 1987 in Taiwan, Wu was lucky merely to have his books banned from publication. The usual punishment for open indictments of the KMT government -- which hoped to whitewash the 228 Incident as a communist uprising -- was jail and sometimes execution.

Wu called on his readers to look beyond the KMT as the root cause of the bloody 228 Incident crackdown. He traced the incident to the Japanese colonial period, when patterns for abuse of Taiwanese society were deeply laid.

As Chen Yu-ling (陳玉玲), professor of literature at Providence University (靜宜大學), pointed out in a recent book on colonialism, the Chinese who took over rule of Taiwan following Japan's defeat in World War II quickly assumed the role of colonizers. Chen says many Taiwanese returning from China were keen to become loyal "Emperor's subjects" to the KMT and were complicit in the devastating distortion of the economy that led Taiwan into a severe economic crisis immediately after the war.

Furthermore, the new ruling Chinese and returning Taiwanese angled themselves into positions of power, shutting other ethnic Taiwanese out of power under the pretext that they had been tainted by Japanese rule and therefore unfit to govern. For Taiwanese who often suffered under harsh Japanese rule, this amounted to rubbing salt in an old wound. These attitudes planted the seeds of bitter contempt on the part of Taiwan's intellectual class.

As Wu observed while working in Nanjing as a reporter during World War II, Taiwanese living in China during the war tended to come under suspicion of being Japanese spies often simply because they could speak Japanese. This lack of trust exacerbated the sense of abandonment felt by many Taiwanese since the Treaty of Shimonoseki of 1895 ceded the island to Japan. This tension was best described in Wu's first book The Orphan of Asia. This novel, written between 1943 and 1945 in Japanese while he was working as a reporter in Taipei, is widely cited as the first literary expression of a Taiwan consciousness in opposition to a China consciousness.

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