Thu, Sep 05, 2002 - Page 3 News List

One man's struggle for a nation's freedom

Lei Chen was someone who believed in establishing a `Free China' on Taiwan, but his dream had to be delayed, as the KMT worked its will on an oppressed nation

From this, one can see the importance that Lei attached to the junior Chiang. He was just a minister without portfolio at the time, but served concurrently as deputy secretary-general of the "National Defense Committee" and controlled the intelligence agencies.

However, the minutes of several meetings convened by the senior Chiang do not list his son as an attendee and none of the documents show any evidence of his involvement in the trial.

Under Chen's instruction, the Ministry of National Defense made an all-out effort to collect and compile Lei's prison manuscripts -- which were previously reported to have been burned -- as well as documents from intelligence agencies regarding Lei's arrest. Some of the documents have been found, declassified in accordance with the National Archives Law (國家檔案法) and compiled and published by the Academia Historica.

Lei was in prison for a decade, during which he wrote manuscripts containing more than four million Chinese characters. But the manuscripts were confiscated by the military prison in Hsintien, Taipei County, the night before his release. The whereabouts of those manuscripts remains a mystery.

On April 14, 1998, Sung Ying (宋英) -- Lei's wife who was a Control Yuan member at the time -- demanded a re-investigation of Lei's case. She also demanded that the original investigation report and related documents be made public. Surprisingly, rumors came out on April 30 that Lei's manuscripts, except for his diaries, had been burned.

On Feb. 26 of last year, Lei's children -- Lei Te-ning (雷德寧) and Lei Te-chuang (雷德全) -- visited President Chen, who immediately responded to their request by demanding that the MND and related government agencies establish a special task force to handle the issue. The next day, Chen personally inspected the Academia Historica and publicly selected and read two documents regarding Lei's case. This was the first time official documents regarding Lei's case were made public.

Meanwhile, the MND immediately formed a task force to investigate existing materials on Lei. The task force interviewed 49 military officers involved in Lei's case and checked more than 188,000 files of documents. The task force collected photocopies of a portion of Lei's diaries and memoirs and official documents from Lei's case. The MND completed the investigation on May 18, three months later. A total of 14 files of documents -- with over 1,500 pages of information -- were transferred to the Academia Historica on June 8.

The Academia Historica then established an editing team and compiled the three volumes released yesterday. The first volume is a selection of the MND's documents, the second contains Lei's prison manuscripts and the third is a mix of other important official documents, such as the Control Yuan's investigation reports, Lei's prison visit reports and inmate conduct records.

According to Academia Historica staff members, what is so valuable about the documents is that most of the previously published materials were either Lei's private documents or those related to the Free China journal, and therefore revealed little about the government's attitude and standpoint in handling his case.

Due to the inadequacy of official records, studies done in the past showed that conjecture often far outweighed historical study. By examining the invaluable resources at the MND, one can concretely observe how the state machine used formalistic procedures to persecute an individual under martial law.

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