Fri, May 20, 2005 - Page 2 News List

White Terror exhibit unveils part of the truth

A 10-day exhibition at Taipei Railway Station takes a look at one of the darkest chapters in Taiwan's history: the White Terror era. It lasted for decades and many questions remain unresolved today

By Huang Tai-lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

On May 19, 1949, the Taiwan Provincial Government, headed by Chen Cheng (陳誠), implemented Martial Law.

During following years of the White Terror, thousands of people were arrested, imprisoned, tortured and murdered through the web-like secret agent system of the KMT's KGB-style security apparatus, the Taiwan Garrison Command.

The scene could take place anywhere at any hour, day or night: family or friends would watch their loved ones being dragged off by armed men, or passers-by would witness a person being seized by armed men off the street, tied up, blindfolded, bundled into a car and driven to police headquarters.

The reason for arrest was usually on suspicion of being "subversive." Many of the victims underwent brutal torture, beatings and violations of their human rights.

In many cases the victims were executed on fabricated or groundless charges of espionage or treason without a fair trial, and would simply vanish after being taken away by government intelligence agents.

"In those days, many people perished," said Lee Shiao-feng (李筱峰), professor of history at Shih Hsin University.

"They would disappear and never be found again," he said.

According to a study that was conducted by former DPP legislator and political prisoner Hsieh Tsung-min (謝聰敏), and cited by the investigative committee, there were about 29,000 cases of political persecution during the Martial Law era, involving 140,000 people. An estimated 3,000 to 4,000 people were executed.

Martial Law was not lifted until July 15, 1987.

Ten cases in point

Among the ten cases chosen by the committee, some are familiar to most people, while others are less known. Yet, to those who lived through the era, these incidents are indelibly etched in their hearts and minds.

The 10 cases include the Shantung student refugee incident of 1949; the Chungli Yimin Middle School incident of 1952; the Luku incident (鹿窟事件) of 1952; the arrest of Aborigines Tang Shou-jen (湯守仁) and Kao Yi-sheng (高一生) in 1953; the Su Tung-chi (蘇東啟) case of 1961; the arrest of writer Chen Yin-chen (陳映真) and Chiu Yen-liang (丘延亮) in 1968 for supporting Taiwan's independence; and the case against Huang Chi-nan (黃紀男) and Chung Chien-hsun (鍾謙順) in 1972. The cases concerning Lei Chen (雷震), Peng Ming-min (彭明敏) and the Kaohsiung Incident are also among the unjust political cases in the exhibition.

Lei, a founder and publisher of the Free China Journal was arrested on Sept. 4, 1960, for treason and sentenced to 10 years in prison at the behest of former president Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) because of the magazine's pro-democracy stance.

The magazine, which was launched in 1950, was then closed. Peng was the co-author of the 1964 Declaration of Taiwan Self-Salvation. Publication of the declaration landed him in jail. He later spent more than 20 years in exile.

The Kaohsiung Incident occurred on Dec. 10, 1979 when the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government imprisoned participants of an anti-government parade organized by Formosa magazine; the crackdown is also known as the Formosa Incident.

The Kaohsiung Incident galvanized Taiwanese on the island and overseas into political action. The dangwai ("outside the party") democratic opposition started to question the KMT's anachronistic claim of representing all of China, and began to work towards lifting the 40-year old Martial Law.

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