CHAPTER VII

EVENTS LEADING UP TO THE REBELLION

 

 

All the mismanagement, misbehaviour, callousness, indifference, of the mainlanders which has so far been recounted, was actually leading up to the rebellion and therefore each of the preceding paragraphs dealing with this could, of course, just as well find a place in this chapter; but it was the culmination of very many things which drove the Formosans into rebellion. They saw their Island being robbed, their rich becoming poor and their poor suffering from hunger which was in places starvation, while at the same time they saw the mainlanders riding round in luxurious new cars and lacking for nothing. That would have been enough, but with it all the mainlanders adopted an arrogant and superior attitude which the Formosans knew was entirely unjustified. They saw the mainlanders grappling with a situation which they could not understand, endeavouring to deal with a people who in the fifty years' isolation from China had greatly improved mentally, socially, economically and spiritually.

The mainlanders made the mistake of attempting to graft customs of an old civilization on a modern industrial Island. It was like mixing oil and water, and to carry the metaphor on, they laughed and ridiculed the Chinese for stirring in the hope that the two would mix. Their contempt for the Chinese only made the Chinese adopt a more arrogant attitude in self protection and so the circle went on. They saw that the Chinese were, in the main, concerned with getting rich, that there was no question of public service, and even the Formosans were aghast when, for instance, the health authorities were apparently indifferent to the cholera outbreak, and isolation and quarantine were ineffective and casual. Incidentally, UNRRA officials had a difficult time having the quarantine regulations imposed and in keeping them imposed. The Formosans saw that there was practically no attempt at rehabilitating the cities and towns. There apparently was no Government scheme for rehabilitating bombed-out families, who had to live in hovels constructed as best they could. Rather did the Chinese maintain a tax on new houses that the Japanese, in wartime, had imposed apparently to restrict further building. People, after they had managed to obtain cement and material for building, at last, in the black market found, in the first two years after the end of the war, when the house was completed and they thought that their difficulties were over, that they were presented with a demand for tax for four hundred yen because they had built a new house.

Travelling down many of the streets in many of the towns was a distressing sight. The broken bricks and rubble were becoming overgrown with weeds and the concrete skeletons of the buildings overshadowed the draughty hovels that had replaced the once-imposing and comfortable buildings. In some districts the public-minded Formosans formed relief committees and endeavoured to help the less fortunate but, themselves suffering from the financial maladies that the Chinese had inflicted on them, they were not able to deal with the situation in anything like the adequate manner that it demanded. In one relief centre I saw fourteen families living in hovels (about ten persons per family) and the size of each hovel was about twelve feet square. Half of that had a built-up floor for sleeping, Japanese fashion, while the other was a dirt floor. There was dirt, squalor, sores and misery. The children were listless and had many sores. On one boy's hand, for instance, there were more sore patches than there were healthy patches and flies continually settled on his sores. The misery beggars description.

On making inquiries as to why they had not obtained relief from UNRRA, I received the answer that applications had been made to the Chinese Mayor through whom all applications had to pass. He, however, probably due to questions of "face", had not forwarded the application, and so the people had to continue to suffer in their misery.

Unemployment, of course, steadily got worse and the unemployed looked in vain for the factories in which they had worked, particularly the private ones, to start again. Unemployment meant, ultimately, starvation, but they put up a good fight and it was not an uncommon sight to see masses of rubble cleared away and the neighbouring householders developing their own patches of vegetable gardens. Even the green strips on the sides of the tarsealed roads were sometimes brought into cultivation to grow vegetables. I always considered it a tribute to their honesty that, while starvation was so common, one man could plan to grow his vegetables in such a public position without fear of losing them. Unemployment was further increased through the Chinese system of Nepotism whereby relatives, and in the case of Formosa, friends, were given positions in spite of the fact that they had practically no qualifications for those positions. This took place wherever Government officials were employed. Particularly in education was this very apparent. Sometimes the newspapers published news of the dismissal of Formosan principals of schools and named the new principal, but did not give reasons for the change. In the Takao Girls High School, in the beginning of February, when a new Chinese principal had fired four Formosan assistants and put four of his own friends in their places, the Parents' Association of the school requested the principal to stop that policy. This, of course, was the usual Chinese policy where a change of those in authority produced a corresponding change in the personnel of the underlings, who therefore worked more for their own security than for the satisfactory execution of their duties and naturally attempted to "make hay while the sun shone".

An interesting attempt to dismiss a principal arose at the Kagi Agricultural Vocational School. The principal had the reputation of doing his best to carry out his duties at the school and particularly to carry out the administration to conform to the new Chinese requirements. The Chinese inspectors of schools held permanent positions on the staff and some Chinese inspectors were sent to the Kagi Agricultural Vocational School, but used false names to obtain employment at another school, and so received two salaries at the same time. The principal of the Kagi School found this out and fired the inspectors. A new inspector sent to the school tried all possible ways to find fault with the principal, and at last thought that he had incriminating evidence that he had been looking for. This concerned the payment of teachers. All teachers who had taught more than one year received bonuses, and of the twenty-four teachers employed at Kagi twelve received bonuses. The inspector then reported that the principal drew payment for twenty-four teachers but paid only twelve because only twelve got the bonus. The principal was fired, apparently for that reason. The Kagi Town Council members, who were Formosans, protested and later an order came that the principal would be promoted to the Agricultural College at Taichu. It was anticipated that, being removed from Kagi, the principal would lose the support there, having been born and brought up in Kagi, and it would be, therefore, less difficult to obtain his complete dismissal in Taichu.

The Formosans were well aware of the advantages of a good education, and under the Japanese system the cost of education, both regarding school fees and school books, was so cheap that it was available to almost every child. The Chinese arrived and immediately insisted that Mandarin be spoken in the schools and in all Government offices; and an interesting incident arose when, on coming by road to a railway station, I found what I thought was chanting in progress. On looking closer, I found all the Formosan employees assembled in one room being taught Mandarin. This, I found later, was a common occurrence anywhere where Formosans were employed. As a result of this attempt to drive out the Japanese language, the ordinary class subjects were largely discontinued and Mandarin became the all-important subject. Of course, all Japanese textbooks were scrapped and Mandarin textbooks were put in their place. Nevertheless, for the Formosans there were no Mandarin books which would deal with algebra, geometry or trade subjects. A Chinese "Professor" who came from the mainland to a school commenced to take a class in mathematics by asking elementary questions about the number of legs that various numbers of chairs had altogether. After suffering this for some time, one bright boy in the class proffered the information that the last lesson they had received was on the theory of quadratic equations. The "Professor", finding that this was algebra, had to admit that he did not know algebra and retired: and, at the time my informant told me, mathematics was still not being taught at the school. Similarly, the only qualification that a certain teacher of English had was that he had spent six months in Hong Kong, and he and I found English practically impossible as a medium of conversation.

All this indicates that the standard of education had slumped and the Formosans latterly became suspicious that it was an attempt to reduce them to an illiterate race. They recognized the loss of "face" suffered by the Chinese in finding that the standard of intelligence and literacy were very much higher than on the mainland. Whether their suspicions in this particular regard were well founded or not I do not know, but one official once asked why four expresses a day should be allowed to run between Taipei and Takao when there was only one a day between Shanghai and Nanking.

As I went round the Island, I noticed the tension rising, and report of strikes due to the Formosans being replaced by mainland Chinese became fairly common. On October 10th in the Takao factory of the Taiwan Steel Manufacturing Company, all the workers, comprising 960 men, went on strike as a result of trouble with the police. The workers objected to Chinese being put over them and capable Formosans being replaced. When the police were called in they came with drawn revolvers but they were attacked and disarmed, the Formosans expressing the hope that the matter could be settled amicably and with Justice. Further police were called in and the workers walked out. Agreement was reached after two or three weeks. In the Taiwan Alkali Company's plant at Takao on October 28th 1946, 2,000 men struck for reasons similar to those in the steel manufacturing company, and demanded equal treatment with the Chinese. They returned when the management acceded to their requests. Similar action took place in the cement factory in Takao. In the Taiwan Development Company much higher officials were evidently involved. This Company was organized by the Japanese to develop agriculture, commerce and engineering and under the Chinese regime, in September 1946, a thousand employees struck against the reorganisation of the Company with Chinese heads and high officials. As a result, Governor Chen Yi decreed that the organisation could not be changed and that the Formosan officials should be retained.

The Formosans realised that the aftermath of war brought its own difficulties, but they were incensed not only at the indifference of the Government to their troubles, but also at their greed and tyranny, all of which had multiplied their difficulties immeasurably. I have pointed out that the regulations were frequently trivial, but they all had the effect of increasing the possibilities of obtaining money, either for the Government or the officials personally, or both. The increasing restrictions on trade were leading to bankruptcies and ruin, particularly of the small trader with very little financial backing - ruin which was the first stage to starvation in view of the shortage and high price of rice. The small shopkeeper and tradesman usually had no plot of land whereby they could augment their food by growing vegetables.

So, therefore, with increasing unemployment and idle mobs becoming hungrier, it was obvious, even to the most obtuse, that the Island was heading for trouble. If the Government was aware of what was going on, it did not produce any change in its policy. The climax came on February 28th 1947 when, owing to a new regulation forbidding the sale of foreign cigarettes, police were attempting to enforce its application on street sellers.

Owing to the difficulties of the times, pedlars and kerb-side sellers of cigarettes were a feature of the streets. They comprised people of all ages, from small boys and girls to old men and women. Some had stands which stood on the edge of the street and some, particularly the youngsters, had small trays containing about 50 packets of cigarettes, supported by string round their necks. They darted in and out of restaurants, offices or anywhere they saw what they considered was a prospective customer Their condition was often pitiable, and although they were a nuisance, very few seemed to have the heart to drive them away. For instance, one would take up his stand outside an office door on the slight chance that someone would come out and buy a packet. Their sales could not have been large and it must have been an extremely poor living, but still it helped. The foreign brands of cigarettes were by far the most popular and very small sales took place of the many Chinese brands. Therefore, the order to cease the sale of foreign brands meant ruin to the street-sellers but, as with all regulations of this kind no notice was taken of it, and probably if the police had not been so officious, the evil day of rebellion merely would have been delayed.

It appears that a policeman of the Monopoly Bureau had forbidden a particular woman to sell foreign cigarettes and she had replied that that was the only means she had to support her family. If he wanted to stop it why did he not stop the "higher-ups". The policeman knocked her down. The infuriated bystanders immediately attacked the policeman, who managed to free himself and fled. Other policemen, instead of coming to his aid, fled also and one of them, in a fit of fear, turned round and fired into the mob which was pursuing them, killing one person. The mob then marched on to the Monopoly Bureau and burned it down while the Chinese employees fled - and the rebellion was on!