Sun, May 31, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Conference remembers uprising

By Loa Iok-Sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Former political prisoners, historians and pro-independence activists yesterday gathered at a conference to commemorate the 39th anniversary of an uprising against the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime at Taiyuan Prison in Taitung County.

“We all knew it was impossible [to overthrow the old KMT regime], but we still had to tell the world what we Taiwanese wanted and hopefully others would follow our call for action,” former political prisoner Tsai Kuan-yu (蔡寬裕) recounted at the conference. “We expected to sacrifice ourselves.”

Tsai was one of the political prisoners jailed at Taiyuan Prison in 1970 who took part in planning the uprising. At the time, about a dozen pro-independence political prisoners — many former soldiers in the Japanese or Republic of China (ROC) military — thought it was time to overthrow the KMT government to make way for a sovereign and independent Republic of Taiwan.

Tsai said it had become clear in 1970 that it was only a matter of time before the ROC would be expelled from the UN.

“We were worried that China may quickly take over Taiwan as soon as the KMT regime lost international recognition and support,” he said.

Dictator Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) denial then that there was any call for independence in Taiwan and the successful escape of independence leader Peng Ming-min (彭明敏) — who was under house arrest by the KMT regime for five years — that same year, persuaded Taiyuan political prisoners to take action, Tsai said.

He said according to the plan, six prisoners would grab weapons and ammunition from prison guards, take control of the prison, free all prisoners, occupy a nearby radio station and power plant then broadcast a pre-written declaration of independence.

Things did not go smoothly when the day came.

On Feb. 8, 1970, the six prisoners attacked prison guards and captured their guns. However, a military officer Hsieh Chin-sheng (謝金聲), who was an ethnic Taiwanese, stopped them.

“[One of the prisoners] Cheng Chin-ho [鄭金河] asked Hsieh to join, but Hsieh refused,” recounted Chen Yi-shen (陳儀深), a historian who has researched the uprising. “Since Hsieh was an ethnic Taiwanese, Cheng didn’t want to kill him, and for the same reason, Hsieh let the six prisoners escape instead of arresting them.”

All six were captured in the weeks after the failed uprising. Five of them — Cheng Chin-ho, Chiang Ping-hsing (江炳興), Chen Liang (陳良), Hsieh Tung-jung (謝東榮) and Chan Tien-tseng (詹天增) — were executed on May 30, 1970, while Cheng Cheng-cheng (鄭正成) was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Although hundreds of other prisoners were involved in the planning and later actions, the six shouldered all responsibility and refused to betray others.

“They were tortured and even lost their lives, but they loved their comrades and this country more than they loved their own lives,” said Kao Chin-lang (高金郎), another former political prisoner who was involved in the uprising. “I admire them, they’re true martyrs.”

The Taiyuan Uprising and an assassination attempt on Chiang Kai-shek’s son, Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) in New York later that year, forced the KMT to open up a little, Kao said.

“After the two incidents, the KMT realized it risked being overthrown in a large-scale uprising, hence it started allowing ethnic Taiwanese to take Cabinet positions, held small-scale legislative elections and reduced jail time for some political prisoners” he said.

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