Sun, May 13, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan in Time: The ‘president’ returns home

On May 14, 1965, independence activist Thomas Liao surrendered to the KMT and returned to Taiwan from Japan, renouncing leadership of the Republic of Taiwan’s provisional government

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

Even though Liao was president of a provisional republic, Lee writes that in fact, his Formosan Democratic Independence Party (台灣民主獨立黨, FDIP) only consisted of about 30 or so members in addition to the support of a group of Taiwanese immigrants in Japan.

The republic was shaky from the beginning. Just four months after its establishment, the KMT was able to persuade Liao’s relative Chen Che-ming (陳哲民) to return to Taiwan. These defections continued through the next few years, including Chen Chun-you (陳春佑), who returned to Taiwan just a month after he was elected deputy chairman of the FDIP.

Lee writes that Liao was too naiive and was not a strong leader or tactician. By 1959, Lee writes that more than half of FDIP members were actually spying on Liao for the KMT. Other independence groups popped up around that time, and none were willing to work with Liao. His biggest mistakes, Lee writes, were surrendering leadership of the FDIP and telling his members that it was okay to take KMT money as long as they were not “sincerely” working for them. When a follower declared that he was forming his own independence party, Liao not only did not stop him but announced that it was a good thing to have two competing parties working for the same cause.

In 1962, the KMT busted an underground branch of the FDIP in Taiwan, with many of Liao’s relatives being arrested. In 1964, Huang Chi-nan and Liao’s nephew Liao Shih-hao (廖史豪) were sentenced to death with the rest, including Liao Shih-hao’s mother, receiving five to 15 years sentences.

A KMT agent later brought two recordings to give Liao. One was of his mother pleading for him to return home; the other was of his nephew begging his uncle to save him from the death penalty.

The KMT promised Liao that he would not be prosecuted if he returned, and that they would pardon his relatives (which they mentioned by name) and “other comrades.” They also promised him either a government position or chairman of the Taiwan Sugar Company. If Liao wanted to start his own business, the government promised to help him secure bank loans.

With that, Liao came home. The KMT did release Huang and Liao’s relatives, but the “other comrades” remained in jail. Liao remained under government supervision, taking part in the planning of the Zengwen Reservoir and the Port of Taichung. The provisional government carried on without him, but disbanded in January 1977.

Taiwan in Time, a column about Taiwan’s history that is published every Sunday, spotlights important or interesting events around the nation that have anniversaries this week.

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