Sun, May 07, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan in Time: A question of citizenship

After the Japanese takeover, Taiwanese residents had two years to depart for the Qing Empire or stay and become Japanese citizens

By Han Cheung  /  Staff Reporter

This document announces the two-year period where Taiwanese could decide whether to head to the Qing Empire or remain and become Japanese citizens.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

May 8 to May 13

Shortly after the Japanese took Keelung during its takeover of Taiwan in 1895, Lin Chao-tung (林朝棟), patriarch of the prominent Wufeng Lin family (霧峰林家), disbanded his resistance troops and set sail for the Qing Empire’s Fujian Province — from where his ancestors came 149 years previously.

Lin never returned to Taiwan, but he made sure that family members remained or returned to Taiwan to manage their wealth and cooperate with the Japanese, and the Wufeng Lins continued to thrive in Taiwan.


A provision in the treaty of Shimonoseki, which signed Taiwan and Penghu over to Japan, stated that residents of Taiwan had until May 8, 1897 to depart for Qing territory — those who stayed would automatically become Japanese citizens. This option, according to an article for the National Taiwan Library by Wu Chun-ying (吳俊瑩), was not offered to Aborigines. Those who left would have their property taken by the government if they didn’t leave someone behind to manage it — and it is known that the Japanese used the deadline to compel Lin Wei-yuan (林維源, of an unrelated Lin clan), to send two nephews back to Taiwan and accept Japanese citizenship.

The number of people who left Taiwan before that deadline varies by source, with an 1897 government document recording a total of 6,546 departees. Wu writes that the majority of these were upper class intellectuals who had close ties with the Qing and would lose their elite status if they remained. Huang Fu-san (黃富三) writes in the study The Effect of Japanese Rule of Taiwan on the Wufeng Lin Family (日本領台與霧峰林家之肆應) that to a lesser degree, landowners and merchants also fled.

“The wealthier and closer to the Qing government, the more likely they were to leave,” he writes.

Wu adds that people likely stayed for practical reasons, not because they supported the Japanese government.

Huang writes that many found it difficult to make a living in China and returned to Taiwan before the deadline, although the Japanese did continue to offer citizenship to some Taiwanese who decided to return later. For example, Lin Chao-tung’s cousin Lin Chao-sung (林朝崧) returned to Taiwan in 1897 because of “homesickness and economic hardship.” During this period, people appeared to be able to move back and forth freely; Lin Chao-sung wrote several poems about his regret and sorrow in becoming a Japanese subject and left for China again shortly after, only to return in 1898.


Huang writes that Lin Chao-tung had much reason to flee as a former Qing official. Lin was involved in the Republic of Formosa’s resistance against Japanese rule, but arranged for his immediate family to flee to Fujian as the Japanese landed. When Lin found out that the republic’s president had fled to China, he disbanded his troops and departed as well. He ordered his cousin Lin Shao-tang (林紹堂), who remained in Taiwan, not to resist the Japanese, and the Lin family was relatively unharmed as the Japanese marched through Wufeng.

“The Japanese would peel away at the special privileges of these prominent families, but they also allowed the ones who submitted to the colonial government to retain their wealth and prestige to a certain degree,” Huang writes.

Lin refused to return to Taiwan, but many of his kin did. He reluctantly ordered several sons to head home and become Japanese subjects to keep their land and manage their fortune. Unable to return to politics, the family diversified their ventures and also became notable philanthropists.

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