Film on 228 sheds light on tragedy

POLITICAL PRISONERS: The new documentary focused on presenting the 228 Incident and the White Terror era through the eyes of the victims

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Fri, Feb 09, 2007 - Page 4

A series of events to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the 228 Incident and the 20th anniversary of the end of martial law began yesterday with the release of a documentary.

The 228 Incident took place in 1947, when Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) troops suppressed an uprising, leaving tens of thousands dead, missing or imprisoned.

After the uprising, martial law was briefly imposed and then maintained from 1949 until 1987.

The documentary, Taiwan's Love, was sponsored by the Council for Cultural Affairs (CCA) with the goal of presenting the 228 Incident and the White Terror era through the eyes of the victims, filmmaker Peng Chia-ju (彭家如) said.

Most films focusing on these events are rather political, Peng said, "so we wanted to present a more objective approach to this topic."

Former political prisoners are the focus of the documentary, in which they talk about their personal experiences and emotions during and since the 228 Incident and White Terror.

"It's been almost 40 years since I got out of jail and I haven't made any new friends," said Chen Meng-ho (陳孟和), a former political prisoner.

Chen was arrested for "reading socialist books" in 1949 and imprisoned for 15 years.

"I've never gotten in touch with my old friends either. I've been too afraid that people would be afraid of me," he continued. "I've imprisoned myself," he said.

Chen explained the source of his fear.

He once ran into a close cousin on the street after his release. As he approached his cousin, his cousin said: "I don't know you," and quickly turned away.

"He [the cousin] was not the only person like that," Chen added.

Another political prisoner pre-sents his story. Huang Chiu-shuang's (黃秋爽) entire family was arrested in 1950 because a friend of her father supportive of socialism had once stayed at their home, she said.

"They arrested my parents, my brother, my two sisters, my sister's child and me," Huang said.

Her father was quickly executed, and the rest of the family was released afterwards, she said.

However, they had to live under constant harrassment from the secret service, she said.

"Whenever we moved to a new place, secret service agents would talk to neighbors about us and the landlord would kick us out," she said.

The secret service even interfered with Huang's intimate relationships.

"Whenever someone wanted to ask me out for a date, they would tell him: `She's the daughter of a communist,' to scare him away," Huang said.

The stories of former political prisoners recorded in the documentary are only the tip of the iceberg.

Roger Hsieh (謝聰敏), former national policy adviser to the president and himself a former political prisoner, said that more than 90,000 people were arrested during the White Terror and 29,407 verdicts handed down.

By making the documentary, the filmmaker hoped to provoke public interest in the issue.

"We can't record everyone's experiences," Peng said, "but we hope whoever watches this documentary will want to find out more about what happened."