Sun, Jul 22, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan in Time: Sedition or a groundless verdict?

Five Taiwanese elites were sentenced on July 29, 1947 for an alleged independence attempt after Japan’s surrender, but the truth remains murky

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

Lin Hsiung-cheng was acquitted for his role in a plot to declare Taiwan independence after Japan’s surrender at the end of World War II.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

July 23 to July 29

Koo Chen-fu (辜振甫) only discussed the incident once in public. It was May 1993, and firebrand Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislator Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) had been criticizing him publicly for months in a bid to try and stop the then-Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF, 海峽交流基金會) chairman from meeting his Chinese counterpart Wang Daohan (汪道涵) in Singapore.

After the conclusion of what would later be known as the historic Koo-Wang Talks, Chen continued to question Koo, finally bringing up the subject Koo had preferred to avoid: his sentencing in 1947 for his involvement in the “Plotting Taiwan Independence Incident” (謀議台灣獨立案), where he was accused of working with Japanese officers to create an independent Taiwan after Japanese surrender and before the arrival of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT).

Chen’s camp had been trying to paint Koo, a long-time KMT member, as a traitor to the country, even calling out his late father, Koo Hsien-jung (辜顯榮), who invited Japanese troops into Taipei in 1895 after local resistance had crumbled and the city had descended into chaos. Some say he was being opportunistic, others say he did it to restore order and prevent further violence. Regardless, the family worked closely with the authorities and prospered under colonial rule.

Chen’s questioning about the 1946 incident finally rattled the usually stoic Koo.

“What’s so dishonorable about serving a groundless sentence? Is that betraying the country? It’s already unfair that the government never cleared my name. Today I have to suffer this treatment in the legislature. This is completely unjust!” he shouted.


After Japan’s surrender on Aug. 15, 1945, the colonial Office of the Taiwan Governor-General reported that while most Taiwanese would likely accept Chinese rule, there were some who would worry about being treated as Japanese collaborators. Others were concerned about the KMT’s ability to rule properly. In response, the office instructed the police to focus on maintaining order, collecting information and to “decisively suppress all signs of scheming for Taiwanese independence.”

These feelings were not unusual. For example, Hsinchu assemblyman Huang Wei-sheng (黃維生) believed that he would have a better chance of surviving and preserving his property under an independent Taiwan approved by Japan, and made a petition to the local government. Yang Kui (楊逵), a novelist and anti-Japanese activist, also expressed his distaste for the KMT’s “reckless and brutal ways” in China, but the colonial reports note that “he was not of much influence.”

Rikichi Ando, Japan’s final governor-general in Taiwan, reportedly told the independence petitioners that “I understand your sentiments for Taiwan independence. But looking at the bigger picture, for your sake, I suggest that you cease such activities. If you insist on proceeding, I will have no choice but to request the Japanese Army to suppress your movement.”

The sentiment faded quickly, however, as by September, colonial reports show that most of the population were preparing to welcome the arrival of the KMT. The Minpao (民報) newspaper ran an editorial in October of that year comparing independence activists to Qin Kuai (秦檜), a notorious figure in the Song Dynasty who is regarded as a traitor.

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