Sun, Jul 10, 2016 - Page 8 News List

Students, soldiers and spies

There are many versions of what happened during and after the Penghu 713 Incident. This week’s column takes a look at eyewitness accounts

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

Witnesses and involved parties gather at the 713 Incident memorial in Penghu in 2011.

Photo: Luo Tien-pin, Taipei Times

On the morning of July 13, 1949, hundreds of secondary school students from China’s Shandong Province were rounded up by the Nationalist military at the drilling grounds of the military base on Penghu Island.

These refugees of the Chinese Civil War had just arrived with their schools’ educators, reportedly being promised to be able to continue their education while also undergoing military training. But the military commanders in Penghu had other ideas.

There are many versions of what transpired next, which would years later be known as the 713 Penghu Incident (七一三澎湖事件). The accounts mentioned below were taken from students who were present at the time.

Tang Ke-chung (唐克忠) says in an oral history interview with Academia Sinica that he already had a bad feeling upon arrival as the male students were isolated in a military compound and forbidden from leaving. The teachers and female students were nowhere to be seen.

Huang Tuan-li (黃端禮) says when they asked where the teachers were, the officer told him, “You are all soldiers now. Studying will not help you fight the Communists.”

“They even confiscated our textbooks,” he adds.

Once at the drilling grounds, the military started their forced conscription of the students into army units, reportedly to bolster their thin ranks. Surrounded by armed troops and machine guns on the rooftops, Tang says nobody resisted at first — until the they started targeting those who were underage.

“That did not sit well with us,” Tang says. “We started telling them that we came here to study, or at least half-study and half-train. And it all started from there.”

Tang and another student stepped up onto the flag-raising platform and led the crowd, chanting slogans in protest. Several soldiers rushed toward them with bayonets, stabbing Tang in the buttocks and the thigh and the other student in the arm. Huang confirms these events.

“They tied us up and took us away, and we do not know what happened afterward,” Tang says. He heard that many students were arrested later and more were put into sacks and thrown into the ocean, but he cannot confirm it since he was locked up for the next three months.

Huang says once they saw all the blood from the protest leaders’ wounds, they were scared into submission with no further incident. There has been recent controversy about whether the military actually opened fire on the students — some historians state that they did — but all seven direct witness accounts examined only mention the stabbings.

FICTIONAL CONFESSIONS

The real aftermath came later, as school principals Chang Min-chih (張敏之) and Tsou Chien (鄒鑑) attempted to report the incident to the authorities and save the students.

Unhappy with the principals’ resistance, the military arrested more than 100 students — now soldiers — around the end of July, “forcing” confessions of being Communist spies out of them, leading to the arrest of Chang and Tsou.

Taiwan was already under martial law back then, and any suspicion of being a Communist could lead to automatic execution. The saying was, “Rather kill 100 people wrongfully than let one person get away.”

Sun Hsu-chen (孫序振) was one of the students arrested without warning. He notes that when he was brought to the ocean, he was afraid that he would be put into a sack and tossed into the sea — the same practice that was mentioned by Tang.

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