CHAPTER XI

APPORTIONING THE BLAME

 

 

A rebellion is, of course, the result of violently conflicting aims and the Formosans, as has already been mentioned, made their objects quite clear during the rebellion. These were given in detail by Mr. Chang, President of the Political League, when broadcasting from the Taipei radio station on March 5th. He said that there was no attempt to change from the Chinese Government but only from their methods of governing, and maintained -

(1) The responsibility for the trouble was the Government's.

(2) Half the Government Department heads should be Formosans.

(3) The Trade Bureau and the Monopoly Bureau should be abolished.

(4) In taking over factories, responsible position should be given to Formosans who had the qualifications.

(5) The mayor and city councillors should be elected by the people. (The mayor, particularly, was a Government nominee, frequently having a military background, and possessed full powers of veto).

(6) Freedom of speech, discussion, publication, assembly and organisation of parties were their right.

(7) The Government should guarantee the people's lives, property and rights.

On the other hand, on March 19th or 20th 1947, the Formosan Provincial Government newspaper "Hsin Sheng" published an editorial entitled, "Who are the Criminals", as follows:

"(1) Industrialists who co-operated with Japan still dream that Formosa should go back to Japan so that they could regain prosperity under Japanese rule. But the present Government is not going to allow middle-men to make profits. The profits should be for the country. The industrialists therefore agitated the young people to rebel against the government.

(2) The leaders of the Formosan Political Promotion Association, because they have political ambitions, and have attacked the Government from every angle in the past. This trend has led the young people to revolt.

(3) Newspapermen who stir up the students and have opposed the privilege of freedom of speech and expression of thought in attacking the Government frequently.

These three groups are responsible for this incident. In the past the Chinese Government was too generous to the people and, since this incident is a well-planned revolt against the nation, these people will be punished according to the law. Good people should not worry about their lives. The Government will protect them and the soldiers are sent over here to do so."

To anyone not familiar with the background, and unaware of the real facts the Government statements might appear reasonable enough, but UNRRA officials had long learned to take Chinese official publications with several grains of salt. Some had found that the opposite to the published statements was frequently more correct.

As an example of the liberties with what Westerners call "truth" may be quoted the experience of an UNRRA official who visited the office of a Government Department and found that the person he was to see was, at the time of the visit, preparing a report for the Department to present to General Wedemeyer who was coming to Formosa very shortly afterward. The UNRRA official happened to see the report on the desk and, as it concerned work in which he was co-operating with the Government, he examined it more closely. He found that much of the report was taken up with describing, as actual accomplishments, plans which would really take another year to develop. So he pointed it out to the Government official saying, "You state we have done all that, but we haven't. They are only proposals."

He was amazed to receive the reply, "Yes, that is so, but what difference does it make?"

Lest anyone might believe that the Chinese had thus successfully misled General Wedemeyer, Americans in Formosa who met him were confident that, as they put it, "he knew the score".

There therefore is much more in the "Hsin Sheng" editorial than appears on the surface. The most outstanding point is that the three groups mentioned were the groups which, for various reasons, the Government officials would like to liquidate, namely, the industrialists, the Formosan political Promotion Association and newspapermen. In Japanese times, private industry was frequently profitable, but under the Chinese it is slowly dying. The immediate reasons have already been given in previous chapters. But the decay arises mainly from restrictive regulations, and I do not think I am unfair in suggesting that, when the Formosan industrialists are finally forced to give up the struggle, their industries may be bought by the Chinese officials on Chinese terms. The officials could then arrange among themselves to have the restricting regulations removed and private industry would flourish once more - in Chinese hands, and all done very legally. On the other hand, should my suggestion not be correct, it works out almost as well for the officials to have industry, which was previously in private hands, turn into Government channels. The opportunities for getting rich from the extra "squeeze" that could be obtained, could be as great as if the officials owned their own private companies.

But the remaining part of the editorial paragraph relating to private industry the Formosans seemed to consider as merely childish bluff. It was simply farcical for the Government to claim openly that the profits should be for the country when shiploads of rice, coal and sugar were going to the mainland, and shiploads of salt to Japan, but no money nor goods were coming back in return to Formosa: but to say that the profits should be for the country was good window-dressing which impressed those ignorant of the facts. And the industrialists, instead of stirring up young people to rebel, were largely against the rebellion. They were too practical and hardheaded not to realise that it had no chance as soon as reinforcements arrived from the mainland; and they knew, too, that there was a danger of their property being confiscated, or even their lives lost, in the lawlessness that characterized such times.

From the Chinese officials' point of view, then, the smearing of industrialists could lead to very profitable business.

With regard to the second-numbered paragraph of the editorial, the Formosan Political Promotion Association was formed to educate the young people in the new Constitution and to train them to be ready for democratic government which was promised when the Constitution was proclaimed in October 1947. Apparently Chen Yi saw the dangers he would have to face if the Formosans were able to establish a democratic form of government. Therefore, on January 10, 1947, he announced that Formosans were too retarded politically to enjoy its full benefits before 1950. My own opinion is that Formosans are much more politically advanced in general than the Chinese and have a consciousness of and consideration for public welfare, of which I saw very little evidence in China proper. A shrewd old political campaigner like Chen Yi, therefore, was fully aware of the dangers that could threaten his totalitarian Government from a strong Formosan Political Promotion Association, and the rebellion gave him the opportunity that he was looking for to remove potential political trouble.

The same remarks refer in general to newspapermen, who, right from the commencement, have the Chinese trouble. Such a corrupt Government could not stand the searchlight of public criticism on their actions, and the rebellion was again most useful.

In fact, the rebellion offered such golden opportunities of tightening Chen Yi's stranglehold on the Island that it suggests that the rebellion was really desired by Chen Yi and his henchmen. After he took over, Formosan history was just a repetition of Fukien history. Formosa had the same kind of organisations which were used to bleed Fukien. True, Chen Yi was finally expelled from Fukien but, profiting from past experience, he probably had plans to prevent that happening in Formosa. The fact that it took two months of strong public protests before he was removed, indicated that he must have had considerable support in the Kuomintang, even though he was responsible for "the greatest atrocity of the post-war world".

Neutral observers have agreed that the Japanese have turned to the original Chinese stock, which they took over in Formosa, into a race superior to the mainland Chinese and, as has been indicated, the Formosans did not take the plundering tactics of the Chinese in a submissive spirit. To goad the Formosans to rebel, then, would be the first stage in reducing them to serfdom, when the rich Island of Formosa could be plundered at will to make huge fortunes and luxurious livings in the "beautiful isle".

Against my suggestion it may be argued that, if Chen Yi had entertained such ideas, he would not have been caught napping and had to wait for reinforcements from the mainland before quelling the rebellion. But he may have misjudged the courage of the Formosans and the cowardice of his own soldiers. Certainly there was no lack of soldiers on the Island with modern equipment, and the place bristled with police of one kind or another, armed with automatics, even before the rebellion. For instance, there were regularly from ten to twelve armed policemen on duty on the main platform on the Taipei railway station. Furthermore, he may have under estimated the fighting spirit and temper of the Formosans. The event might have arrived a little quicker than he had anticipated. To anyone knowing the conditions in Formosa in the beginning of 1947, it was obvious that the whole policy of the Government would produce serious trouble, but not many anticipated that it would come so quickly. In discussing the position in January, I myself ventured the opinion that there might be a rebellion before the year was out.

In support of my contention that it was the considered policy of Chen Yi to goad the Formosans into rebellion, may also be quoted the treatment of the Formosan leaders, irrespective of their actions in the rebellion. I have already drawn attention to the systematic liquidation of leaders, a process which was continued into the schools, and so many students disappeared that even the guiltless were frightened to continue their studies.

Early in May 1947, in the course of my duties, I had to report on the technical equipment of the Formosan University at Taipei. A remarkable thing about my visit to the University, which occupied a whole day, was that although I was told, and given figures to substantiate, that the total number of students attending was 2,000, the grounds and buildings had a completely deserted appearance, with very few students to be seen either in the buildings or outside. When I inquired from the authorities where the 2,000 students were, I received the explanation that they were scattered over the various buildings and, of course, all did not come to University at the same time. Formosans, however, convinced me that the situation was evidence of the terrorism which was going on among the students.

But there was one dastardly liquidation of a leader which deserves much publicity. The facts are irrefutable. At Honglim, on the East Coast of Formosa, there was a doctor named Tiu Chit-Liong. He was an elder in the Presbyterian Church in Honglim, and in 1946 was the representative for Formosa to the National Government in Nanking. He was a prominent leader on the East Coast. He had been the village Chairman (Mayor) and an outspoken advocate of justice and right. Among other things he had inquired about the appropriation of funds at the Prefectural Government, when smaller amounts were received than had been granted. Such inquiries, of course, were not welcomed by officials. He had three sons. Two had recently finished at the medical school and the third had been a medical officer for the Chinese Army on the mainland, but none of them had anything to do with the rebellion. Nevertheless, one night the father and two sons were taken out of their houses by military police and shot. Their bodies were found a couple of days later in a graveyard. The third son was able to prove by his Army certificate that he had been a medical officer for the Chinese Army, so his life was spared, but he was put in prison, and when I heard the story had been there for two months, the authorities being afraid to let him out on account of the trouble he might cause. I was told people from one end of the East Coast to the other wept when they heard of Tiu Chit-Liong's murder.

But what did that matter, when a leaderless Formosa could be much more easily plundered!