White Terror (Taiwan)
|Literal meaning||White Terror|
The period of martial law lasted for 38 years and 57 days from 19 May 1949 to 15 July 1987. 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 incumbent Syrian 48-year period of martial law, which lasted from 1963 to 2011.
The term "White Terror" in its broadest meaning refers to the entire period from 1947 to 1987. 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. Most actual prosecutions, though, took place in 1950–1953. Most of those prosecuted were labeled by the Kuomintang as "bandit spies", meaning spies for Chinese communists, and punished as such.
The KMT mostly imprisoned Taiwan's intellectual and social elite out of fear that they might resist KMT rule or sympathize with communism. 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. Often, after having come unaccompanied to Taiwan, these refugees to Taiwan were considered more disposable than local Taiwanese. 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.
Fear of discussing the White Terror and the February 28 Incident gradually decreased with the lifting of martial law in 1987, 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.
- 1949: 713 Penghu incident or the Shantung student refugee incident, where secondary school students, refugees from Shandong province, were conscripted by force as child soldiers on July 13.
- 1952: Chungli Yimin Middle School incident
- 1952: Luku incident
- 1953: Aborigine leaders Tang Shou-jen and Kao Yi-sheng are arrested and executed in 1954.
- 1960: Arrest of Lei Chen, publisher of the Free China Journal
- 1961: Su Tung-chi case
- 1968: Arrests of writers Chen Yin-chen and Chiu Yen-liang, who supported independence
- 1972: Trials of Huang Chi-nan and Chung Chien-hsun
- 1979: Eight pro-democracy activists are arrested following a riot on December 10, later known as the Kaohsiung Incident.
- 1980: The mother and twin daughters of democracy activist Lin Yi-hsiung (arrested following the Kaohsiung incident) are stabbed to death on Feb. 28.
- 1981: Professor Chen Wen-chen is found dead on July 3 after a long interrogation session with government officials.
- 1984: Journalist Henry Liu is assassinated at his home in Daly City, California for writings disparaging Chiang Ching-kuo.
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. Those who have received compensation more than two times are still demanding a trial of the still-living soldiers who were responsible for death of their loved ones.
In her 2013 novel, The 228 Legacy, author Jennifer J. Chow brings to light the emotional ramifications for those who lived through the events yet suppressed their knowledge out of fear. It focuses on how there was such an impact that it permeated throughout multiple generations within the same family.
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 game also incorporates religious elements based on Taiwanese culture and mythology. The game has received favourable reviews from critics. 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."
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- Remembering Taiwan's White Terror – The Diplomat