Sun, Jan 13, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan in Time: The Taiwanese ‘hanjian’ problem

Despite the Judicial Yuan declaring that Taiwanese were not to be arrested as ‘Han Chinese traitors’ due to their Japanese citizenship during World War II, many were still targeted in purges that took place in both China and Taiwan starting in October 1945

By Han Cheung  /  Staff report

The Bureau asked the Judicial Yuan for an interpretation. The Judicial Yuan concurred, confirming that as Japanese citizens during the war, Taiwanese should fall under international law instead of the hanjian provisions.

However, the regional courts continued to challenge the interpretation. In July 1946, the Shanghai High Court quoted KMT leader Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) orders in its argument:

“During the struggle against the Japanese, any Taiwanese who commit illegal acts and collude with the enemy to harm our people should be treated as hanjian without leniency.”

Before the purges in Taiwan, the KMT’s anti-hanjian laws were printed in the local newspapers with a note that these rules fully applied to Taiwanese.

The state-run Taiwan Hsin-sheng Pao (台灣新生報) newspaper originally maintained that Taiwanese could not be considered hanjian, but after the Taiwan Garrison Command announced the purges, it quickly changed its rhetoric, stating that there “are many shameless people who worked for the enemy to oppress the Taiwanese… they should not be shown leniency.”

Due to the broad definition of hanjian, there was some unrest as people weren’t sure who to report. The newspaper tried to clarify in an editorial, noting that although it’s hard to define a Taiwanese as hanjian, the “following three types of hanjian are indisputable: those who seek independence, those who oppose the government and try to cause social unrest and those who collude with Japanese after the war to loot national property.”

“As an official publication, the Taiwan Hsin-sheng Pao made several corrections and changed its stance on hanjian policy. This shows that even the government was unsure of how they felt toward Taiwanese hanjian,” Chen Tsui-lien writes.


Forty-one people were arrested on governor-general Chen Yi’s orders, including prominent figures such as Ku Chen-fu (辜振甫), Lin Hsiung-hsiang (林熊祥) and Hsu Ping (許丙), who were accused of plotting independence. Lin Hsien-tang (林獻堂) avoided this fate through his connections.

Critics found it hypocritical that the KMT decided not to seek war reparations from Japan but punished the Taiwanese instead.

However, the witch hunt did not stop. In August 1946, Chen Yi denied public rights to those who held important positions in the Komin Hokokai political organization and those reported as being hanjian — continuing to ignore the Judicial Yuan’s interpretation. This law was widely criticized as it took effect before the person was proven guilty.

In a period of national mobilization for the war effort, numerous Taiwanese were essentially compelled to join the Komin Hokokai, which contained numerous umbrella organizations that included youth groups as well as medical and artist brigades.

Despite repeated warnings from the central government, Chen Yi refused to stop, carrying on until the outbreak of the anti-government uprising and crackdown now known as the 228 Incident.

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