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

To the government, it was blasphemous to call for the dissolution of the National Assembly and insult the sacred task of defeating the communists and reclaiming the mainland.

Pai was charged with attempting to subvert the government, and sent to jail for life on Green Island (綠島). Chou Pin-wen (周彬文), who ran the shop that printed the flyers, was sentenced to five years.

Legislators and human rights groups continued to push for Pai’s release over the years, finally succeeding in April 1988 after the end of martial law. However, Chang’s detention that same year showed that the reign of White Terror had not yet gone away.


A year after Pai’s arrest in 1975, Chang came to Taiwan to study electrical engineering at National Taiwan University. According to the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper), Chang’s ex-girlfriend reported him in 1983 for joining a leftist magazine and communist organization during high school, alleging that his studies in Taiwan were a front for his “subversive activities.”

Chang argued that he was just 15-years-old at the time and denied the charges, but he remained detained in Taipei. His pregnant wife visited him in prison a few times, and he missed the birth of his son.

Chang’s lawyer, future president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), questioned the court for charging an individual for things he might have done when he was a teenager. Chang had visited Taiwan once after his ex-girlfriend reported him in 1983. Chen asked why he wasn’t arrested then, why there was no warrant and why he was allowed back in Taiwan in 1988 instead of being blacklisted.

On Oct. 26, 1988, Chang was sentenced to five years in prison. The magazine Taiwan Human Rights (台灣人權) questioned the decision, especially since Chinese citizens were soon to be allowed to visit relatives and attend funerals in Taiwan. “If they are members of the Chinese Communist Party, will they all be arrested on the spot as well?” the magazine wrote.

Chang appealed and his case dragged on for two more years, during which he was not allowed to leave Taiwan despite desperate pleas from his family in Hong Kong. Each time, the high court acquitted him, only for the prosecution to bring up the case again.

According to the Liberty Times, it had already been ascertained that the publication Chang had contributed to was not leftist, and that the organization he allegedly joined was only open to Chinese citizens, while Chang had a British passport.

Chang was finally allowed to go home in November 1990, ending the harrowing saga.

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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