CHAPTER X

THE AFTERMATH

 

 

Any rebellion leaves behind its sorrow, misery, bitterness, anger, hatred and revenge and the Formosan rebellion was no exception. The Island, of course, was under martial law and what security and safety of life and property existed before the rebellion, had now entirely vanished. Soldiers, using the excuse of making a search, entered homes and took what they fancied at will. But much worse was the fact that relatives disappeared without leaving any indication as to whether they had been carried off and killed, or merely thrown in prison, or had gone into voluntary hiding. In the last case, the less relatives knew of the matter, the less could be extorted from them by beatings. For weeks after the rebellion, the mornings found the dead bodies of people in the streets who had been shot during the night, and bodies were still floating down the rivers.

The authorities, of course, endeavoured to disarm the Formosans and made promises of amnesty, but the Formosans had been tricked once and were very suspicious. As it was, stories of men who, relying on the promise, had come out of hiding only to be taken off by the police, were common. All arms, of course, were to be surrendered and, while it is true that some rifles were given up, if what I saw in the military headquarters in Takao was a criterion, the weapons surrendered were largely of the sword, spear and lance types. Actually the Formosans were pitifully short of arms. The only rifles I saw, apart from those surrendered, were about half a dozen shared by a truckload of young men careering down the street. In the initial stages of the rebellion I was told that the arms were being obtained from the Chinese soldiers who, when attacked, flung their arms away and ran. But the reinforcements Governor Chen Yi summoned from the mainland were of a different calibre, and the sticks and spears of the Formosans, combined with ruses and trickery, were no match for a determined soldier with a rifle, not to mention a machine-gun or hand grenade.

The mortality among the Formosans must have been very great, but it gave evidence that they were a brave, determined people goaded to desperation.

As was to be expected, there was a marked change in the bearing of the Formosans in the streets after the rebellion, and nowhere was it more noticeable than among the children. Like many other places in the East, the streets contained a large proportion of children and, riding in our jeeps in various parts of the Island, we had always been greeted with cheers and waves from the smiling children. This was particularly the case when we passed through the various villages on the way to our billets from the office. Sometimes they called out, "Hello", or "O.K.", and sometimes a word of their own coining, a combination of both greetings which became "Hellokay". But after the rebellion there were few people in the streets and the sad-looking children were in no mood to give us cheery greetings. Sometimes, too, we saw boys or women struggling behind a plow and wondered whether they were trying to carry on the work of a father who had died to regain freedom for his country.

But what did the Formosans die for, and what were their sins? From some of the preceding chapters some of the reasons will be evident, but the statement of the aims of the rebellion that they broadcast to the world is of considerable value.

It seems that on or about March 5th, the Island was almost in complete control of the rebels, the troops from the mainland not yet having arrived. That evening, Mr. Chang, President of the Political League, broadcast from the Taipei radio station an outline of events leading up to the rebellion. He also gave an outline of the objects of the rebellion, which will be discussed in the next chapter. But there was nothing in their objects that was unreasonable. They were only asking for ordinary democratic rights. Obviously that was the time when the authorities could have averted the rebellion. It may be, however, that the Governor and the Army had lost so much "face" at the hands of the Formosans that they were determined that nothing should be left undone to regain it. But it also appears that the fact that such demands should be followed by what has been aptly described as a "blood bath", lays the Government - and particularly Governor Chen Yi - open to the charge that they did not want to do justice.

Chen Yi was the first Governor of the Island to be appointed by the Kuomintang, and was a member of the Liberal Political Science Group within that party. From 1934 to 1941 he had been Governor of the Fukien Province on the mainland and, after a criminal record of economic ruin and bloodshed, was expelled. Yet the methods which had produced disaster in Fukien were the same ones that he introduced in Formosa. They, of course, had the big advantage that they were very lucrative for the officials, as was soon found in Formosa. The Kuomintang and Chiang Kai-shek were fully informed by competent neutral observers of what was going on in the rebellion and received first news from this source within three days of its commencement. Still Chen Yi was allowed to pursue his bloodthirsty course, and it was not till two months later that he was removed from office, by which time he had done irreparable damage to the relations between the Formosans and the mainland Chinese. It will be noted that Mr. Chang broadcast that they did not wish to secede from the mainland, but by the time the rebellion had been quelled the Formosans had entirely changed their ideas. They realised that no freedom, social, economic or spiritual, would be obtained at the hands of the Chinese.