Sun, Feb 21, 2016 - Page 12 News List

Taiwan in Time: Suppressing free speech

In the first of a two-part series examining the nationwide crackdown of the print media following the 228 Incident, ‘Taiwan in Time’ looks at the suppression of private newspapers and the disappearance of their publishers

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

Minpao founder Lin Mo-seng disappeared after the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) controlled government shut down his newspaper following the 228 Incident.

Photo: Meng Ching-tsu, Taipei Times

Taiwan in Time: Feb. 22 to Feb. 28

On the evening of March 11, 1947, as Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) reinforcements from China clashed with local protesters throughout Taiwan, Lin Mo-seng (林茂生), founder of the Minpao (民報) newspaper and dean of liberal arts at National Taiwan University, was reportedly escorted from his family home by six men, never to be heard from again.

As the first Taiwanese to receive a Doctor of Philosophy degree, Lin was one of many intellectuals targeted by the China-based KMT government during its violent suppression following the 228 Incident, which began as an armed local uprising. A large number of Taiwan’s private newspapers, which sprung up after Japan’s surrender in August 1945, were shut down within two weeks of the initial incident, including Lin’s Minpao.

Not to be confused with the Japanese-era Taiwan Minpao (台灣民報), Lin’s paper made its debut on Oct. 10, 1945. Never afraid to criticize the government and including a column for citizen voices, it quickly became the most widely read private paper.

A quick sample of editorials during its brief existence shows titles such as “Are the People of Taiwan Really Happy?,” clearly reflecting the rising tension between local inhabitants and the newcomers from China.

One editorial, printed on July 24, 1946, even goes as far as stating that government corruption and nepotism is a “bad habit from the motherland that is now being picked up by Taiwanese.” It is not too hard to see why he would have upset the KMT.

Interestingly, no institution in Taiwan appears to possess any record of this newspaper past Feb. 28, 1947, even though most sources have it printing its last issue on March 8, three days before Lin’s arrest.

The only reports available during the incident in the National Central Library’s newspaper archives are from the Taiwan Shin Sheng Daily News (台灣新生報), which was the official publication of the Taiwan Provincial Government, and the KMT-run China Daily News (中華日報).

The book, Lin Mo-seng, Chen Hsin and Their Era (林茂生, 陳炘和他們的年代) details Lin’s final days, as told to author Lee Hsiao-feng (李筱峰) by Lin’s son, Lin Tsung-yi (林宗義).

The younger Lin recalls his father responding to the incident, saying “Taiwanese are ready to tell the Mainlanders that we have had enough of being treated as second-class citizens, and we have had enough of authoritarian rule and government corruption that has been going on since October 1945.”

But Lin also denounced the use of force against the government, warning that violence is an ineffective method that would lead to disastrous results.

“The key to our future is democracy and respectful relations between Taiwanese and Mainlanders. We [Minpao] still face a momentous task in front of us,” he adds.

On March 4, after meeting with the 228 Incident Resolution Committee, Lin lamented to his son that this uprising lacked clear leadership and organization and that it was going nowhere.

The next day, Lin’s Japanese friend warned him that he was in danger. Even though Lin didn’t overtly participate in the uprising, he and his newspaper’s influence in society already posed a threat to the KMT.

On March 8, Taiwan governor Chen Yi’s (陳儀) reinforcement troops landed in Keelung as the government rejected all 32 demands made by the resolution committee, and the crackdown became increasingly violent. Minpao’s office was destroyed that night.

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