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Taiwan in Time: The last governor-general

Rikichi Ando ruled Taiwan for less than a year, but his name is linked to several events, including a Taiwanese independence movement before the KMT arrived in 1945

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

The damaged Governor-General’s Office (today’s Presidential Office) in 1945.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Jan. 1 to Jan. 7

On April 19, 1946, Rikichi Ando, the former final governor-general of Taiwan, was found dead in his holding cell in Shanghai.

It was a swift downfall for Ando, who was arrested not too long after representing Japan in the surrender ceremony of Taiwan to the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) on Oct. 25, 1945. On Jan. 6, 1946, General Douglas MacArthur announced that Ando was to be tried as a war criminal, but he died before the trial.

Though some say that he was assassinated, the general consensus is that he committed suicide by ingesting potassium cyanide.

Ando was already 60 years old when he took over as governor-general of Taiwan, and his rule was brief due to the Japanese surrender. But there are a few interesting incidents that are worth exploring. He was allegedly responsible for shutting down a Taiwanese independence movement during the 71-day gap between Japanese surrender and the arrival of the KMT. The exact details of the surrender ceremony have also been under dispute, and even his death was surrounded by conspiracy theories.


Before he arrived in Taiwan as commander of the local Japanese forces in late 1941, Ando was notorious for his unauthorized invasion of French Indochina following Germany’s defeat of France. This led to a diplomatic confrontation with the US and other Western countries, culminating in the attack on Pearl Harbor and US involvement in the war. He was recalled to Tokyo in January 1941 and forced into retirement as punishment.

This “punishment” did not last long, as he was reinstated and headed to Taiwan in November, eventually taking over in December 1944 as governor-general following the resignation of Kiyoshi Hasegawa. As Japanese were running low on supplies at battlefields around the world, his rule was mostly focused on economic production and conscripting soldiers.

After the Japanese surrender on Aug. 15, George Kerr writes in Formosa Betrayed that “for nearly 24 hours, the [colonial] Taipei government was gripped in fearful debate.”

Some thought that the emperor expected them to defy his orders to surrender and argued that they should make a last stand in Taiwan. But Ando insisted on handling things peacefully and accepting the situation, with most of his officers in support. Some couldn’t bear the shame and committed suicide.

In the following days, either pro-war Japanese officials or Taiwanese elite hatched a plan to create an independent Taiwan before the KMT arrived. Kerr writes, “rumor spread that some intransigent Japanese officials proposed a ‘Taiwanese Independence Movement.’” Hsu Chieh-lin (許介鱗) writes in Foreign Policy of the Republic of China that Japanese officials colluded with leading Taiwanese with the Taiwanese taking a “passive role.” However, Masami Kondo writes in Total War and Taiwan that there were two camps of Taiwanese plotting independence and does not mention Japanese involvement. Finally, historian Su Yao-tsung (蘇瑤崇) argues in several studies that the “movement” involved several groups of Taiwanese and stresses that the Japanese were not involved.

Nevertheless, all versions agree that Ando dismissed the idea, Kondo adding that he threatened to mobilize his army to fight anyone who would attempt such a plan.

In March 1946, the KMT arrested a group of Taiwanese elite for their involvement in the independence attempt. One of them was businessman Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫), who would become a prominent KMT member in the future and represented Taiwan in the historic 1993 cross-strait Koo-Wang talks (辜汪會談) in Singapore.

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