Thu, Jul 16, 2009 - Page 4 News List

REMEMBERING THE WHITE TERROR: Letters from the White Terror era

By Hsieh Wen-hua  /  STAFF REPORTER

Chang Yi-jung poses behind a computer screen showing a photograph of her grandfather, Huang Wen-kung, taken when he was a dentistry student in Japan, in Taipei on July 5. Huang was executed during the White Terror period.


As is the case with many victims of political repression during the White Terror era, the death of dentist Huang Wen-kung (黃溫恭) was long a taboo subject in his family.

Now, a secret that even Huang’s wife and his daughter did not know has been pieced together and brought to light by his 29-year-old granddaughter, Chang Yi-jung (張旖容).

“I was amazed to see that my grandfather had written five letters to express his dying wish before he was executed 56 years ago,” Chang said.

Because Huang’s executioners did not give his last letters to his family, his wish that his body be used for research went unfulfilled. Instead, he was buried at the Liuzhangli (六張犁) cemetery in Taipei. It was also to the Huang family’s regret that his widow was not able to read her husband’s words of love and sorrow at parting.


Huang was executed by firing squad soon after Chang’s mother, Huang Chun-lan (黃春蘭), was born, so he never had a chance to see his daughter.

Chang said her family hardly ever mentioned her grandfather during her childhood.

But when she was in senior high school, she came across a sentence in a book her uncle was writing about hypnosis: “My father was executed by the Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT].” It was only then that she realized there was more to her grandfather’s death than she had been told.

Chang tried to get some answers from her family, but all her mother would say was: “He died, that’s all.” After that, Chang decided to try and dig up government files about her father’s case.

Chang knew her grandfather’s full name from her mother’s identification card. While reading A People’s History of the 228 Incident and the White Terror by Lan Po-chou (藍博洲), Chang found an account of her grandfather’s arrest.


Two years ago, when the Ministry of Education under the then-Democratic Progresive Party (DPP) administration held an exhibition entitled Farewell, President Chiang [Kai-shek], someone also came across an online copy of a document signed by Chiang ordering Huang Wen-kung’s execution.

Chang found out that her grandfather had originally been sentenced to 15 years in prison, but dictator Chiang changed it to a death sentence at the stroke of a pen.

Last year, when Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), chairman of China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, visited Taiwan, it brought back memories of the Martial Law era to some, prompting them to post requests for stories about the Martial Law period on Internet bulletin boards.

A post by Chang reads: “Martial law is really not so far away. At the least, my family was affected by it.”

In response to her comment, a student at National Taiwan University wrote her a letter suggesting that she visit the National Archives Administration and ask to view the dossier on her grandfather’s case.


When Chang opened the more than 300-page file on Huang Wen-kung, she was astonished to find in it five letters written by Huang to his wife, sister and his three children shortly before his death.

“Dear Chun-lan, I was arrested when you were still in your mother’s womb. What a pity that we, father and daughter, can never meet! What could be more tragic than that? Although I have never seen you, held you or kissed you, I love and care for you just the same. I am so sorry that I cannot do my duty as a father, Chun-lan! Can you forgive your poor old dad?” Huang Wen-kung wrote.

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