White Terror (Taiwan)

In Taiwan, the White Terror (Chinese: 白色恐怖; pinyin: Báisè Kǒngbù) was the suppression of political dissidents following the February 28 incident by the Government of the Republic of China ruled by the Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist Party).[1]

White Terror
Literal meaningWhite Terror

The period of martial law lasted 38 years and 57 days from 19 May 1949 to 15 July 1987.[2] Taiwan's period of martial law had been the longest period of martial law in the world at the time it was lifted, but has since been surpassed by the Syrian 48-year period of martial law, which lasted from 1963 to 2011.[3]

Time periodEdit

The term "White Terror" in its broadest meaning refers to the entire period from 1947 to 1987.[4] Most prosecutions took place between 1950 and 1953. Most of those prosecuted were labeled by the Kuomintang (KMT) as "bandit spies" (匪諜), meaning communist spies, and punished as such.[citation needed]

The KMT mostly imprisoned Taiwan's intellectual and social elite out of fear that they might resist KMT rule or sympathize with communism.[2] 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; in 1968 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.[5] Many of the mainland Chinese who survived the White Terror in Taiwan, like 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.[6]

Fear of discussing the White Terror and the February 28 Incident gradually decreased with the lifting of martial law after the 1987 Lieyu Massacre,[7] 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.[8]


Around 140,000 Taiwanese were imprisoned during this period, of whom from about 3,000 to 4,000 were executed for their real or perceived opposition to the Kuomintang (KMT, Chinese Nationalist Party) government led by Chiang Kai-shek.[2] Most of the victims of the White Terror were men, however, a number of women were tortured and/or executed.[9]



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. Many descendants of victims remain unaware that their family members were victims, while many of the families of victims from Mainland China did not know the details of their relatives' mistreatment during the riot.[citation needed]



  • 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.[47][48][49][50]
  • 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.[51][52]
  • Julie Wu's The Third Son in 2013 describes the event and its aftermath from the viewpoint of a Taiwanese boy.[53]
  • 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.[54]
  • Shawna Yang Ryan's Green Island in 2016 tells the story of the incident as it affects three generations of a Taiwanese family.[55]
  • 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.[56]


  • 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.[57]
  • 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."[58]
  • 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.[59]
  • 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.[60][61]
  • 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.[62][63]


See alsoEdit



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English languageEdit

Chinese languageEdit

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External linksEdit