Sun, Sep 16, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan in Time: Abandoned by the rising sun

For several decades after World War II Japan refused to compensate Taiwanese who helped with the war effort, and even when it did eventually pay up, the amount was much less than what Japanese soldiers received

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

The last thing Teng remembers was a sharp pain in his shoulder; he later woke up in the hospital. He remained in Papua New Guinea until the end of the war, upon which he was taken by the Allies and sent back to Taiwan.

NOT ELIGIBLE

In 1972, the Japan broke diplomatic ties with Taiwan, and the Treaty of Taipei was terminated. This meant that Taiwanese who helped the Japanese with the war effort could fight for compensation. But the real turning point was in December 1974, when an Aboriginal soldier in the Japanese Army named Suniuo was found on the Indonesian island of Morotai, bringing the issue of former Taiwanese soldiers to the public eye.

While Suniuo received money from the Japanese, it was a pittance in comparison to what Japanese in the same situation received, which drew the attention of both Japanese and Taiwanese.

“If [Suniuo] receives compensation, then so should we,” Teng said. “We fought bravely under the Japanese flag alongside the Japanese — especially those of us who were tasked with transporting food to the soldiers. We didn’t stop even during the regular bombings. If the Japanese government doesn’t compensate us, then the trust and righteousness that Japanese teachers taught us is meaningless.”

Teng said it was difficult to get the Japanese to issue his war injury record. When he did finally receive it, they still refused to compensate him for his injuries.

When asked to state his feelings in court, Teng said: “It’s the fault of the Japanese that my body is like this now. I did not cause this. And when Japan lost the war, I was suddenly no longer a Japanese citizen. I don’t understand why those Japanese who suffered the same fate as me received help, while us Taiwanese got nothing.”

While the Japanese court appeared sympathetic during Teng’s hearing, in February 1982 it ruled that Taiwanese soldiers were not eligible for any compensation because they were no longer Japanese citizens. This actually drew more Japanese to their cause, and politicians started paying attention, even convincing more than 60 percent of the Japanese Diet members to sign a petition, finally leading to its 1987 decision.

“We could applaud the ‘humanitarian spirit’ of the Japanese, but as the [Taiwanese soldiers] are still not treated the same as their comrades, it can’t be considered humane … But this is a first step that has opened a door after decades of struggle…” wrote historian Yin Chang-yi (尹章義) for the China Times (中國時報) on Sept. 22, 1987.

But there wasn’t much progress afterward, and the issue has yet to be resolved.

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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