White Terror (Taiwan)

In Taiwan, the term White Terror (Chinese: 白色恐怖; pinyin: Báisè Kǒngbù) describes the political repression of civilians living on the island and surrounding areas under its control by the government, under the rule of the Kuomintang (KMT).[2] The period of White Terror is generally considered to have begun when martial law was declared in Taiwan on 19 May 1949, which was enabled by the 1948 Temporary Provisions against the Communist Rebellion, and ended on 21 September 1992 with the repeal of Article 100 of the Criminal Code, allowing for the prosecution of "anti-state" activities. The Temporary Provisions were repealed a year earlier on 22 April 1991 and martial law was lifted on 15 July 1987.[3][4]

White Terror (Taiwan)
Part of Chinese Civil War, Retreat of the government of the Republic of China to Taiwan, and Cold War
228 by Li Jun.jpg
The Horrifying Inspection by Taiwanese printmaker Li Jun. It describes the hostile environment in Taiwan shortly after the February 28 incident, which marked the start of the White Terror period.
LocationTaiwan and other ROC-controlled islands
Date1947–1987
TargetLeftists, political dissidents, intellectuals
Attack type
Politicide, mass murder, political repression, police state
DeathsAt least 3,000 to 4,000 executed, not including 228 incident (18,000 to 28,000 killed) or extrajudicial executions[1]
VictimsAt least 140,000 imprisoned
PerpetratorsGovernment of the Republic of China (Taiwan) under the Kuomintang (KMT)
MotiveConsolidate rule over Taiwan after retreat from mainland China

The period of White Terror generally does not include the 228 Incident of 1947, in which the KMT killed at least 18,000 Taiwanese civilians in response to a popular uprising, and also summarily executed many local political and intellectual elites. The two are frequently discussed in tandem as it was the catalyst that motivated the KMT to begin the White Terror.[5][6] Martial law was declared and lifted twice during the 228 Incident.

Following the 228 Incident, the KMT retreated from mainland China to Taiwan during the closing stages of the Chinese Civil War in 1949. Wanting to consolidate its rule on its remaining territories, the KMT imposed harsh political suppression measures, which included enacting martial law, executing suspected leftists or those they suspected to be sympathetic toward the communists.[7] Others targeted included Taiwanese locals and indigenous peoples who participated in the 228 Incident, such as Uyongʉ Yata'uyungana, and those accused of dissidence for criticizing the government.[8]

The KMT carried out persecutions against those who criticized or opposed the government, accusing them of attempting to subvert the regime, while excessively expanding the scope of punishment throughout this period.[9] It made use of the Taiwan Garrison Command (TGC), a secret police, as well as other intelligence units by enacting special criminal laws as tools for the government to purge dissidents.[10] Basic human rights and the right to privacy were disregarded, with mass pervasive monitoring of the people, filings of sham criminal cases against anyone who were suspected as being a dissident, as well as labelling any individuals who were not conforming a pro-regime stance as being communist spies, often without merit.[11] It is estimated that about 3,000 to 4,000 civilians were executed by the government during the White Terror.[1] The government was also suspected of carrying out extrajudicial killings against exiles in other countries.[a]

Pro-democracy demonstrations attempted during this period, such as the Kaohsiung Incident, were harshly suppressed. The KMT ruled as a one-party state, with the existence of any other political parties strictly outlawed, resulting in non-existent competitive elections; unapproved tangwai candidates that won elections such as Hsu Hsin-liang would be spuriously impeached and often forced into exile.[12] Even so, such restricted elections were marred by overt voter fraud, most notably during the Zhongli incident.

The ideology, theory and repression ruling pattern of Chiang Kai-shek's KMT's regime in mainland China and subsequently in Taiwan has been compared by some academics and scholars to fascist regimes elsewhere, such as Nazi Germany,[13] with the National Revolutionary Army heavily dependent and inspired by the German military mission during the Sino-German cooperation (1926–1941) until Adolf Hitler decided to withdraw in 1938 to align with Imperial Japan.[14][15][16] When Chiang retreated to Taiwan in 1949, his regime refused to establish a parliamentary democracy, but continued a variation of the fascist state in Taiwan. The legacy of authoritarianism and fascism during the White Terror in Taiwan has persisted until today, and political discussions about this topic continues to be highly controversial on the island.[17]

Time periodEdit

White Terror
Chinese白色恐怖
Literal meaningWhite Terror

The White Terror is generally considered to have begun with the declaration of martial law on 19 May 1949. For its ending date, some sources cite the lifting of martial law on 15 July 1987,[18] while others cite the repeal of Article 100 of the Criminal Code on 21 September 1992, which allowed for the persecution of people for "anti-state" activities.[3] Martial law officially lasted for almost four decades,[b] which had been the longest period of martial law in the world at the time it was lifted. It is now the second longest, after Syria's 48-year period of martial law which lasted from 1963 to 2011.[19]

Most prosecutions took place between the first two decades as the KMT wanted to consolidate its rule on the island. Most of those prosecuted were labeled by the Kuomintang (KMT) as "bandit spies" (匪諜), meaning communist spies, and punished as such, often with execution.[18] A Wang Jingwei quote, often misattributed to Chiang Kai-shek, once famously said that he would rather "mistakenly kill 1,000 innocent people than allow one communist to escape".[20][21]

The KMT mostly imprisoned Taiwan's intellectual and social elite out of fear that they might resist KMT rule or sympathize with communism.[1] For example, the Formosan League for Reemancipation was a Taiwanese independence group established in 1947, which the KMT believed to be under communist control, leading to its members being arrested in 1950. The World United Formosans for Independence was persecuted for similar reasons. However, other prosecutions did not have such clear reasoning, such as in 1968, when Bo Yang was imprisoned for his choice of words in translating a Popeye comic strip. A large number of the White Terror's other victims were mainland Chinese, many of whom owed their evacuation to Taiwan to the KMT.[22]

Many mainlander victims of White Terror, such as Bo Yang and Li Ao, moved on to promote Taiwan's democratization and the reform of the Kuomintang. In 1969, future president Lee Teng-hui was detained and interrogated for more than a week by the Taiwan Garrison Command, which demanded to know about his "communist activities" and told him "killing you at this moment is as easy as crushing an ant to death." Three years later he was invited to join the cabinet of Chiang Ching-kuo.[23]

Fear of discussing the White Terror and the February 28 Incident gradually decreased with the lifting of martial law after the 1987 Lieyu massacre,[24] culminating in the establishment of an official public memorial and an apology by President Lee Teng-hui in 1995. In 2008, President Ma Ying-jeou addressed a memorial service for the White Terror in Taipei. Ma apologized to the victims and their family members on behalf of the government and expressed the hope that Taiwan would never again experience a similar tragedy.[25]

VictimsEdit

 
A Taiwanese political dissident after and prior to his execution

Around 140,000 Taiwanese were imprisoned under harsh treatment during this period, with many either indirectly dying or suffering various health problems in the process. About 3,000 to 4,000 were directly executed for their real or perceived opposition to the KMT's Chiang Kai-shek government.[1] Most of the victims of the White Terror were men, however, a number of women were tortured and/or executed.[26][27]

ExamplesEdit

LegacyEdit

Since the lifting of martial law in 1987, the government has set up the 228 Incident Memorial Foundation, a civilian reparations fund supported by public donations for the victims and their families. However, there was never a proper truth and reconciliation commission. Many descendants of victims remain unaware that their family members were victims, while many of the families of victims, especially from Mainland China, did not know the details of their relatives' mistreatment during the riot.

FilmEdit

LiteratureEdit

  • Vern Sneider's novel A Pail of Oysters in 1953 was based on the officer's personal field survey revealing people's life in Taiwanese society under suppression in 1950s, was banned by Chinese Nationalists' authorities until being reissued in 2016 – 35 years after his death.[84][85][86][87]
  • Tehpen Tasi's autobiography Elegy of Sweet Potatoes (Japanese: 臺湾のいもっ子) in 1994, based on his testimony with the other political prisoners together for 13 months in 1954–1955.[88][89]
  • Julie Wu's The Third Son in 2013 describes the event and its aftermath from the viewpoint of a Taiwanese boy.[90]
  • Jennifer J. Chow's The 228 Legacy in 2013 focuses on how there was such an impact that it permeated throughout multiple generations within the same family.[91]
  • Shawna Yang Ryan's Green Island in 2016 tells the story of the incident as it affects three generations of a Taiwanese family.[92]
  • Ken Liu's The Paper Menagerie & Other Short Stories in 2016 includes a short story titled The Literomancer which references the 228 incident from the perspective of a young American girl who had recently moved to Taiwan, and asks both her father, who works on an American military base, and a neighbor, and old man named Mr. Kan about the incident. It develops on these two different perspectives throughout the story, becoming progressively darker.
  • Principle Jian Tian-lu's Hushen, a 2019 literature award winner expresses the humanity concern in contrast with the brutality on the first scene of 1987 Lieyu massacre.[93]

GamesEdit

  • In 2014, Sharp Point Press and Future-Digi publicized the Rainy Port Keelung with 3 light novels telling a love story in the background of Keelung Massacre during the Feb. 28 incident.[94]
  • In 2017, Taiwanese game developer Red Candle Games launched Detention, a survival horror video game created and developed for Steam. It is a 2D atmospheric horror side-scroller set in 1960s Taiwan under martial law following the 228 incident. The critically acclaimed game also incorporates religious elements based on Taiwanese culture and mythology. Rely On Horror gave the game a 9 out of 10, saying that "every facet of Detention moves in one harmonious lockstep towards an unavoidable tragedy, drowning out the world around you."[95]
  • In 2017, Erotes Studio produced Blue Blood Lagoon with the story of high-school students running for life to escape from the bloodshed of military conscription arrest, prosecution and execution during the July 13 Penghu incident.[96]
  • In 2019, Team Padendon publicized a ghost RPG PAGUI based on a true family story of the Kaohsiung Massacre victims in Feb. 28 Incident: An orphan raised by a temple uncovered his identity and looked for his dispersed family for over 60 years with no result until he died; an old lady in her 90s heard the news arrives but only find her son in the coffin.[97][98]
  • In 2020, MatchB Studio produced an adventure puzzle Halflight with two brothers playing near a base witnessed an execution site upon the Feb. 28 incident, and one fell missing in chaos, followed by the family being persecuted apart, so the little boy went back trying to find the younger brother, but only stepped into the worse ending in 50 years.[99][100]

MemorialsEdit

See alsoEdit

Notes and referencesEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ See Henry Liu and Chen Wen-chen.
  2. ^ 38 years and 57 days.

CitationsEdit

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Works citedEdit

English languageEdit

Chinese language (Traditional)Edit

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External linksEdit