It was the same day fifty-six years ago.
\nA tragic day before the festive Chinese New Year's Eve in 1949.
\nThe sun was slowly setting on the Huangpu River. Dusk fell on Shanghai. News about the Red Army's victory and Nationalist troops' retreat were flying around town. As the night loomed closer, thousands of passengers swarmed the dock and elbowed their way up toward the Taiping Steamer, the last ship bound for Taiwan before the Lunar New Year. All 508 tickets were sold out, with most tickets snapped up by the rich and important. But the ship nonetheless loaded 1,500 passengers on board, and the Taiping Steamer finally weighed anchor and sailed for Keelung Harbor at 4:17pm.
\nLike 2 million other Mainlanders who fled the Communist forces in China, these emigrants crossed the Taiwan Strait in search of a safer life, not knowing when they would be able to go back to their war-torn homeland. Nor could they have imagined that the steamer they had waited so long to board would herald the end of their lives, rather than a the beginning of a new life.
\nTragedy struck at 11:25pm. With its lights switched off and sailing quietly at a speed of 8 nautical miles per hour, the Taiping Steamer nudged through the sea in hushed night. The ship successfully escaped attack by the Communists, but the safety measures also prevented other boats from seeing it. A smaller boat, the Chienyuan Steamer, struck the giant 2,500-tonne Taiping Steamer in the darkness near the Zhoushan Archipelago.
\nOnly 37 of the 1,500 passengers survived. Of the 74 crew members of the Chienyuan Steamer, only two were saved by a passing US ship, according to reports in the Taiwan Shin Sheng Daily News and the Shun Pao, a daily newspaper in Shanghai at the time.
\nAccording to the survivors and the bereaved families, the victims included military officials, a former provincial chairman, representatives of the National Assembly, bankers and jewelry merchants.
\nMany names of shipwreck victims were lost during the political upheaval and social chaos prevailing in 1949. Five decades on, the tragedy, comparable to the Titanic disaster, has been obscured by the passage of time. The sad tale is mostly passed down in stray fragments in individual memoirs, or lingers in the dimmest corner of some people's memory.
\nA 92-year-old survivor surnamed Yang recalls how he went out on a small boat to look for his wife's body.
\n"It was stormy and dark. The waves were high. We saw oil bubbling and bubbling on the sea. We knew it was right here. But we couldn't see anything but the oil," Yang said, his face reddened by a sudden rush of emotions.
\nAccording to Yang, he and other bereaved families continued searching for three days, but all efforts were in vain.
\n"I really don't know where my courage came from. It was a big turning point in my life. You know, I prefer not to talk about it anymore," Yang said.
\nFor some who lost loved ones in the shipwreck, the unspeakable pain of the past is dulled only by the passage of time. Not many are willing to relive the unpleasant memories by recounting their stories.
\nYuan Chia-chi (
PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES
PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES
‘HONEYMOON’ IS OVER: A political science professor said that the Tsai administration’s popularity peaked after it successfully contained COVID-19, but is waning President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) and Premier Su Tseng-chang’s (蘇貞昌) approval ratings fell significantly this month in the wake of the government’s handling of the distribution of relief funds and stimulus coupons to people and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, a poll released yesterday by the New Power Party (NPP) showed. The poll showed that 68 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with Tsai’s performance, down 8.9 percentage points from last month, while 21 percent said they disapproved of her performance. Her approval among respondents aged 20 to 29 fell 14.7 percentage points, the largest decrease when compared with other age
Food delivery provider Foodpanda had 564 consumer disputes from January to last month and failed to attend many mediation sessions with local governments nationwide, the Executive Yuan’s Consumer Protection Committee said. In a news release earlier this month, the committee said that it investigated consumer complaints and mediations for Foodpanda and rival Uber Eats during the period, when the number of delivery orders jumped due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Uber Eats had 80 consumer disputes, the committee said. Of Foodpanda’s consumer disputes, 368 resulted from delivery drivers canceling orders after customers could not be reached, 108 were related to the quality or quantity
Peggy Chen (陳佩琪), wife of Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲), yesterday said that the Central Epidemic Command Center’s (CECC) claim that Taiwan had warned the WHO about possible human-to-human transmission of COVID-19 was “far-fetched.” The US on April 9 said that the WHO had put politics first and ignored Taiwan’s early warning in December last year, which the WHO denied the following day. The WHO said that it received an e-mail from Taiwanese authorities on Dec. 31 last year, but that “there was no mention in the message of human-to-human transmission.” Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the CECC,
The Taipei City Government yesterday promised to improve its Taipei Card 3.0 application process after a city councilor said that it required applicants to provide irrelevant personal information. Taipei City Councilor Miao Po-ya (苗博雅) said that to activate the card — which can function as an EasyCard, Senior EasyCard, student card and library card, as well as provide discounts for restaurants, arts and entertainment in the city — people must provide personal information such as their passport number, occupation, education level, their spouse’s name, personal income, credit rating and health information. The city government said the system would help it digitalize and