Mon, Aug 14, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Indonesia honors Taiwanese fighters

NOT LEAVING:At least two former Taiwanese volunteers in the Japanese Imperial Army decided to remain in Indonesia after World War II to fight the Dutch with the local resistance

Staff writer, with CNA, JAKARTA

Indonesia is to mark the 72nd anniversary of its independence from Dutch colonial rule on Thursday, and a group of Taiwanese has been recognized for contributing to the cause.

Li Po-ching (李柏青), whose Japanese name was Eiji Miyahara, was born in 1922 in Tainan, when Taiwan was under Japanese colonial rule.

More than 70 years ago, he volunteered for the Japanese Army and was posted to Indonesia during the Second World War.

At the end of the war, approximately 900 remnants of the Japanese Imperial Army, including Li, joined local Indonesian guerrilla fighters, providing weapons, supplies and training to expel the Dutch colonial government.

Over half of them were killed or went missing for the cause.

The Indonesian War of Independence took place between 1945 and 1949 between Indonesia and the Netherlands, which was then the occupying colonial administration.

After independence, Li and approximately 300 of his comrades decided not to return to Japan, but to stay in Indonesia.

In 2005, Li was invited to attend a ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of Indonesian independence and was awarded a hero’s medal by then-President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for his dedication and service in the war, making him the first foreigner to receive such an honor.

He died on Oct. 16, 2013, at the age of 93 and received a hero’s burial at the Kalibata Heroes’ Cemetery in Jakarta.

While Li was alive, he founded the Yayasan Warga Persahabatan foundation to promote friendship between Indonesia and Japan.

Poppy, a worker at the foundation, spoke highly of Li, referring to him as kind, not a man of many words, and someone who never forgot his roots.

Poppy said that even though Li conversed with everyone in Indonesian, he taught his children to be fluent in Chinese.

Li’s foundation has had many visitors from Taiwan and has also received Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe three times when he came to pay his respects.

In an earlier interview with Li, he said he was concerned that he might be imprisoned when he made a trip to Taiwan in 1974, when the nation was still under martial law, as he had also fought in the Japanese army against the Chinese Nationalist revolutionary army in Myanmar.

Li left Taiwan in a hurry after a brief meeting with his parents.

Li’s grandson, Jevan Purnawan said that his grandfather often told him stories of the war and was proud of fighting in the Indonesian War of Independence.

Another Taiwanese contribution that was recognized was that of Chen Chih-hsiung (陳智雄), who was referred to as a “national guest” by the first president of Indonesia, Sukarno.

He was also dispatched to the Dutch East Indies by the Japanese foreign ministry during the Second World War.

Chen stayed in Indonesia after the war and sided with Sukarno by helping to arm Indonesian fighters, for which he was imprisoned by the Dutch colonial administration for approximately a year.

After Indonesian independence, Sukarno granted him honorary citizenship.

Chen went back to Taiwan, but was imprisoned in 1962 by the Taiwan Garrison Command and executed in 1963 for his involvement in promoting Taiwan independence.

His daughter, Vonny Chen (陳雅芳), who grew up in Indonesia, said she only learnt about the stories of her father’s fight for democracy when she came to Taiwan in March 2013 to attend a commemorative event held for her father.

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