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On 19 May 1949, the Governor of Taiwan Province, Chen Cheng, and the Ministry of National Defense of the Republic of China (ROC) promulgated the "Order of Martial Law" to announce the imposition of Taiwan martial law (Chinese: 臺灣省戒嚴令; pinyin: Táiwān Shěng Jièyán Lìng).[1] Until the order was lifted by the President Chiang Ching-kuo on 15 July 1987,[2] Taiwan had been under martial law for more than 38 years, which was qualified as "the longest imposition of martial law by a regime anywhere in the world"[3] at that time. (It has since been surpassed by Syria.)


History of martial law in the ROCEdit

The history of martial law of the ROC could be dated back to the final year of the Qing dynasty. The outline of a 1908 draft constitution—modeled on Japan's Meiji Constitution—included provisions for martial law.[4] The ROC government promulgated the Provisional Constitution in March 1911, which authorized the president to declare martial law in times of emergency. Then, a series of regulations related to martial law were issued by ROC in mainland China later in 1920s to 1940s. However, the factual legal basis for the martial law in effect between 1948 and 1987 promulgated by ROC was the "Temporary Provisions Effective During the Period of Communist Rebellion" adopted by the ROC National assembly in April 1948. In December 1948, in the face of the mounting nationalists' defeats, Chiang Kai-shek announced the imposition of martial law throughout the country. However, remote areas such as Xinjiang, Tibet, Qinghai, as well as Taiwan Province are not within the scope of the influence. On 20 May 1949, Taiwan Province was officially included under the influence of the martial law.

Influence of martial lawEdit

After the surrender of Japan in 1945, Taiwan was handed over to the ROC. In December 1949, the ROC government, led by President Chiang Kai-shek, retreated from Nanjing to Taipei, Taiwan's largest city. The ROC continued to claim sovereignty over all "China", which the ROC defines to include mainland China, Taiwan, Outer Mongolia and other areas while the Communist People's Republic of China claimed to be the only China and that the ROC no longer existed. Thus, the two regimes entered a new era of confrontation and the martial law became one of the most important laws to "suppress Communist and Taiwan Independent activities in Taiwan", issuing the emergency declaration.

Also in the year 1949, a series of relevant regulations were promulgated by ROC government, including the Regulations to prevent unlawful assembly, association, procession, petition, strike under martial law, the Measures to regulate newspapers, magazines and book publication under the martial law and the Regulations for the punishment of rebellions.

Under the martial law, the formation of new political parties was prohibited except the Kuomintang (KMT), the Chinese Youth Party and the China Democratic Socialist Party. In order to implement the strict political censorship, the lianzuo or collective responsibility system was adopted among the civil servants from 9 July 1949 and soon spread to all the enterprises and institutions, according to which no one would be employed without a guarantor.

The government was authorized by the martial law to deny the right of assembly, free speech and publication in Taiwanese Hokkien. Newspapers were asked to run propaganda articles or make last-minute editorial changes to suit the government's needs. At the beginning of the martial law era, "newspapers could not exceed six pages. The number was increased to eight pages in 1958, 10 in 1967 and 12 in 1974. There were only 31 newspapers, 15 of which were owned by either the KMT, the government or the military."[5]

Taiwan Garrison Command had sweeping powers, including the right to arrest anyone voicing criticism of government policy and to screen publications prior to distribution. According to a recent report by the Executive Yuan of Taiwan, around 140,000 Taiwanese were arrested, tortured, imprisoned or executed for their real or perceived opposition to the KMT and 3000–4000 people were executed during the martial law period. Since these people were mainly from the intellectual and social elite an entire generation of political and social leaders was decimated. It was not until 2008 that a public apology was made for those actions. No form of restitution or compensation has ever been made (as of 2010).

Lifting of martial lawEdit

Enforcement was relaxed after Chiang Kai-shek's death in 1975. The lifting of martial law was proclaimed by President Chiang Ching-kuo on 14 July 1987 followed by the liberalization and democratization of Taiwan.[6] Before that, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was illegally established in September 1986 and won 21.6 percent of the vote in December legislative elections that year.

Lifting of martial law permitted opposition political parties to be formed legally for the first time, giving Taiwan's fragmented but increasingly vocal opposition a new chance to organize. But even after the law was lifted, tight restrictions on freedom of assembly, speech and the press remained in place, having been written into a National Security Law, which had been passed a few days before the lifting of martial law.[7]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Han Chueng (15 May 2016). "Taiwan in Time: The precursor to total control". Taipei Times. p. 12. Retrieved 15 May 2016.
  2. ^ "Declaration of the Lifting of Martial Law Starting 12AM on 15 July 1987". National Central Library Gazette Online. Retrieved 14 July 2017.
  3. ^ Mulvenon, James C (2003). A Poverty of riches: new challenges and opportunities in PLA research. Rand Corporation. p. 172. ISBN 0-8330-3469-3.
  4. ^ Mulvenon (2003), p. 171.
  5. ^ "Taiwanese Society Under Martial Law Remembered". 15 July 2007. Retrieved 20 September 2011.
  6. ^ "Taiwan Ends 4 Decades of Martial Law". The New York Times. Associated Press. 15 July 1987. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  7. ^ Gluck, Caroline (13 July 2007). "Remembering Taiwan's martial law". BBC News. Retrieved 20 September 2011.