Sun, Oct 20, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Taiwan in Time: White Terror in late October

Two less-discussed political arrests took place in 1975 and 1988, respectively involving an outspoken opposition candidate and a Hong Kong businessman

By Han Cheung  /  Staff reporter

In 1988, Hong Kong citizen Chang Chi-lo was arrested while in Taiwan on business.

Photo courtesy of Taiwan Association for Human Rights

Oct. 21 to Oct. 27

While many Hong Kong residents desire to move to Taiwan in pursuit of freedom and democracy today, it wasn’t that great an idea three decades ago.

In January 1988, two days after arriving in Taiwan on business, Hong Kong citizen Chang Chi-lo (張驥犖) was arrested. Despite promising to immediately set him free, the authorities charged him with sedition and sentenced him to five years in prison on Oct. 26, 1988. Even though martial law had been lifted the previous year, the Punishment of Rebellion Act (懲治叛亂條例) enabling such procedures was still in effect.

Thirteen years earlier in 1975, dissident politician Pai Ya-tsan (白雅燦) wrote: “The 15 million people of Taiwan have been living in a closed police state for 26 years. Our eyes have been covered, our ears plugged, our brain function suspended. The only freedom we have is to eat with our mouths and feel with our sexual organs. How different is that from the cows and pigs living in pens on ranches?”

Pai’s manifesto included a 29-point blistering critique of then-premier Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國), heir to the ruling Chiang dynasty. After distributing 10,000 copies on the street and mailing them to the press, government officials, opposition politicians and foreign embassies, Pai was arrested on Oct. 23, 1975 and sentenced to life in prison.


Pai was a long-time supporter of politicians who opposed the ruling Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), spending 120 days in jail in 1971 for his activities. In October 1975, while campaigning for a legislator, he discributed the offending flyers.

Pai’s critique directed 29 questions at Chiang, many of them blasting the premier’s extravagant lifestyle, nepotism and misuse of public funds. Pai asked Chiang to release his financial records, dissolve state-run enterprises, establish national health insurance and public housing and raise the minimum wage.

Politically, Pai demanded direct elections, the dissolution of the National Assembly, release of political prisoners, promotion of more Taiwan-born politicians and lifting of martial law, among others.

Pai’s manifesto detailed the hardships and oppression Taiwanese suffered under the authoritarian rule of the elite, who sought only to benefit themselves at the expense of the people. The “Taiwan Problem,” he wrote, stemmed from the rulers not being in tune with their constituents.

Another document expressed Pai’s political views: He vowed to donate his salary to help educate the poor, hoping that it would inspire the wealthy to follow suit. He hoped that the funds could also go toward building hospitals and taking care of the disadvantaged.

Every month, Pai and like-minded politicians held sessions critiquing Chiang and the government in front of landmarks such as Longshan Temple (龍山寺) and Taipei Confucius Temple (台北市孔廟). He promised to speak exclusively in Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese) during legislative sessions, and criticized the government’s restrictions on Hoklo television programming and traditional puppet shows.

Government documents state that Pai became upset at the government after failing his college entrance exams, and was manipulated by other “traitors” into harboring seditious thoughts. They accused him of listening to communist broadcasts and claimed that he was “doing all he could to turn the population against each other, incite a rebellion and invite exiled independence activist Peng Ming-min (彭明敏) to return and head an opposition government.”

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top