Sun, Nov 12, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan in Time: The ‘framed’ general

Confined under false pretenses for 33 years, the late war hero Sun Li-jen died 10 years too early to see his name cleared

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

The report produced by the five-person committee never saw the light of day until it was declassified in 2001. In it, committee members state that they launched the investigation after noticing something fishy about Kuo’s confession. But they were only allowed to speak to Sun and not Kuo, of which they questioned the legality in the report.

After reviewing the confessions, the committee concluded that Kuo’s activities did not constitute sedition and that he and Sun were only trying to come up with a plan to improve the army. It also maintains that Sun did not know about his subordinate’s rebellious intent and that his resignation would be sufficient punishment.

Committee member Tsao Chi-wen (曹啟文) continued to fight for Sun’s innocence in the next few years, proclaiming at a government forum in 1956 that Lee was tortured and that the whole case was fabricated because of a personal conflict.


Chu Hung-yuan’s (朱浤源) 26-year odyssey to clear Sun’s name began when he entered the general’s house in Taichung in April 1988. Over the years, the Academia Sinica historian would interview more than 100 people related to the case.

Chu writes in an Academia Sinica Weekly article that the investigation took so long for many reasons, including Sun’s death after the 13th interview. Things became even more complicated after former US Secretary of State Dean Rusk told the China Times (中國時報) that Sun was indeed planning a coup.

Kuo, who had been confined by the government to Green Island after he was released from prison, mysteriously died after his first interview with Chu in 1991, apparently falling off a train car in Chungli. This only fueled Chu’s fire to find the truth.

The breakthrough came when Chu found the disappeared five-person committee report, although it had been heavily censored. He also got hold of Kuo’s medical records, concluding that Kuo was attacked on the train and thrown off.

Chu also found that Kuo was not a communist spy, although he may have been planning to use force to influence government policy. Chu also found it strange that while sedition carries a death sentence, Chiang changed the sentence to life imprisonment. Through interviews with former members of the Taiwan Garrison Command, Chu found that the government provided for the Kuo family and left him alone as long as he stayed on Green Island and kept silent.

Since Kuo’s confession was central to the case, Chu concluded that the entire case was invalid. Sun’s innocence was approved by the Control Yuan in 2001.

Chu continued to interview people afterward, and in 2012 he announced that Kuo was tricked into confessing after being told that doing so would save Sun. Kuo’s role may have been clear, but Sun’s is murkier as it was later found that the US favored him over Chiang and would have supported him if he launched a coup — at least until the Korean War broke out. But other sources maintain that he simply ran afoul of Chiang Ching-kuo as the two clashed in military ideology.

Nevertheless, he was considered a thorn in the side to the Chiang regime, which sealed his fate.

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