A Chairman Bowed Formally Three Times

(China Youth Daily; backup Chinese-language copy here)  The Three Formal Bows by the Chairman.  By Lung Ying-Tai (龙应台).  November 23, 2005.

[in translation]

October 31, China News -- On October 30, for the first time ever, Chinese Kuomintang chairman Ma Ying-jeou appeared as party chairman to attend an autumn memorial service for the "political victims" of the 1950's.  On that day, he represented the Kuomintang and apologized thrice to the victims of the "White Terror."

According to Hong Kong's Wen Wei Po citing Taiwan media reports, Ma Ying-jeou pointed out that even though he was just a small boy during the "White Terror" era, he is now the chairman and he must bear the past responsibility of the Kuomintang.

According to the report, on October 30, Ma Ying-jeou attended an event titled "Autumn memorial of the political victims of the 1950's."  In his speech, he pointed out that he had attended this event four times in the past, but this was the first time that he came in the capacity of the Kuomintang chairman.  He wanted to apologize to the families of the victims on behalf of the Kuomintang.  Ma Ying-jeou apologized thrice to the victims.  He was also the first Kuomintang chairman to openly apologize about the "White Terror" episode ever since the Kuomingtang moved to Taiwan in the 40's.


During the period when terrorist bomb attacks were common in Northern Ireland, you walk into a restaurant and your friend would say, "Hmmm ... don't sit next to the window.  When the terrorists start spraying the street with machine guns, the people near the window catch it first."

When you take the public bus from Old Jerusalem to the Jewish settlers' area, your friend might hold you back and say, "Don't take the public bus, because it is the biggest target for suicide bombers."

The tall buildings of New York City, the underground subway of London, the hotels of Baghdad and the markets of Jakarta are under the shadow of threats.  People don't dare to visit them anymore.  The common space that is unavoidable in daily life has become a zone of terror.

Terrorists -- those people who wear bombs on their bodies and rush into supermarkets -- what are they doing?

First, a terrorist kills innocent people.  If he just targets those "who deserve to die", then the shock would be less.  Most other people feel that it does not concern them, and they can go on with their lives.  But once innocents are wantonly killed, then everyone is terrorized.  Thus, he can achieve his effect.

Secondly, in his mind, his goal is correct and just.  When the goal is lofty and superior in terms of morality, it is essential to use killing innocents as a tactic.

If such is the core definition of terrorist activities, then any governing authority which uses public power to eliminate dissidents is also engaging in state terrorist activity.


My first memory was from the fifth-year in elementary school.  In 1962, we were listening to the lecture by the young mathematics teachers whom we all liked.  Suddenly, there came the sound of hurried footsteps on the floor outside the classroom building.  A group of people wearing yellow khaki clothes and carrying guns in their hands rushed up.  The mathematics teacher dashed out the door and raced towards the end of the corridor.  The children scattered everywhere in fright.

We leaned on the railing of the fourth floor and looked down.  The footsteps of the pursuers were still pounding on the stairwell.  On the playground covered with yellow sand, the body of the mathematics teacher lied spread-eagled.  His face was turned upward, and he looked right at us.  The yellow sand seemed be to indifferent and desolate.

That was the first time that I heard the term "Communist spy (匪谍)."

Afterwards I heard it quite a lot more.  Sometimes a teacher would disappear during the school term.  The odd thing was that nobody asked and nobody spoke.  A person who was by your side every day can suddenly "evaporate."  Yet, everybody pretended that this did not happen.

Whispers.  Even whispers were rare.  I only knew that the eldest son of the family next door was taken away by a jeep and never returned.  But even his parents did not say anything.  The father continued to go into the boat and fish.  The mother sat barefooted on the ground to mend the fishing net.  It was a big net which can cover an entire boat.  The children loved to go into it.  Once trapped, they cannot get out.

In 1972, I was in the second year of university.  Suddenly, several fellow students disappeared.  "Xiaopang's boyfriend was seized last night."  This was the only full sentence that I ever heard.  For the next few decades, that matter never surfaced again into the sunlight.

We lived normal and happy lives and we looked forward to our future: study, exams, graduation.  Romance, overseas study, marriage.  In addition, we continued to love our country and support our leader.  It is true that we could see the little traces.  For example, sometimes there may be a small block of news about the size of a cube of dried bean curd: "XXX, XXX and XXX who collaborated with the evil bandits, were executed yesterday morning."  We brushed it aside like the spider web in the sunlight.  We wiped our faces clear and we continued to march into the light earnestly.


Those who were tossed into the darkness continued to rot.  Who were the people thrown into the darkness by the country?

It was someone like the illiterate fisherman Wang Zhipeng.  On a certain morning of July 1964, the weather was especially clear and bright, and Wang Zhipeng said: "The weather is very good today.  The wind and the tide are not bad.  We can get near the mainland very quickly."  The ship owner heard what he said and immediately filed a report.  Wang Zhipeng became an "treasonous criminal."

The court decision read: "... Since the Communist bandits stole the country, the world can see how they have hurt the country and the people.  The patriots on the mainland gamble with their lives to break through the iron curtain to seek freedom.  Wang and Lin are stupid and ignorant, and their desire to go over to the side of the bandits is pitiful but also unforgivable.  Based upon the fact that Wang and Lin are shallow and not knowledgeable plus our counter-attack policy needs to show mercy, the sentences will be reduced to a jail term of five years.  May those who want to test the law use their examples as caution."

It was someone like middle-school English teacher Ke Qihua.  An entire generation of people read his "New English Grammar" and entered high school, university and overseas study.  But nobody knew that he was imprisoned for 17 years due to "leftist tendencies."  Supposedly, one piece of evidence was that he possessed a copy of <<The Adventures of Tom Sawyer>>, written by Mark Twain (马克Ě吐温) who was connected to "Marx (马克思)" -- both their names are "Mar ()."

It was someone such as progressive youths like Lin Xueyang and Chen Mingzhong.  By participating in civil movements against corrupt officials, they were arrested repeatedly.  Lin Xueyang was jailed for 35 years, and Chen Mingzhong for "only" 21 years.  It was Central Daily News editor-in-chief Li Jingsun, it was the writer Chen Yingzhen who cared about the working common people, it was Taiwan University doctor Guo ?Cong, it was writer-editor Bai Yang for a sarcastic illustration.

They were young intellectual university students of our generation who formed private study groups to study <<Das Kapital>>.  Many of them were sentenced to 20-25 years.  Even before their terms were up, some people had become mentally ill in prison.

Of course, there were genuine "bandit spies" such as Zhu Chenzhi, who insisted on their political beliefs until the last moment.


Many years, many years later, we found out that during the "White Terror" era of the 1950's, the military court processed 29,407 political cases involving about 140,000 victims.  The Ministry of Justice had even large numbers at 60,000-70,000 cases; if each of these cases involved 3 people on the average, then the number of political victims by military justice should be more than 200,000.  If we count all these families and relatives, then about 1 million people suffered from political persecution.

Many years, many years later, we found out the reality behind those little pieces of news about the size of dried bean curd: using the first five years of the 1950's era, the Kuomintang government killed at least 4,000 people in Taiwan and jailed more than 8,000 "bandit spies."  Among these "bandit spies," a very small percentage are really Communists.  Most of them are intellectuals and culturati who were unhappy with the situation and had ideals; there were workers and farmers who have a sense of righteousness; there were citizens who had no idea how they were framed.  In the impoverished 1950's, an average person earned $200 a month, but informing on a "bandit spy" can bring in as much as $200,000 in reward money.

The system encouraged frame-ups.  The system created misjudged cases.

In December 1984, the last two political prisoners of Taiwan left prison.  They served their full 34 years 7 months of thought prison term, and they stepped into the unfamiliar sunshine.


So many "innocent" people suffered because those in charge must "indiscriminately slaughter innocents" in order to achieve the intimidation effect: only when innocent people also suffer will people really feel terror in their hearts and knuckle under.

At the same time, those in charge believed that their motives were noble and their objectives were proper.  "Taiwan is the basis to fight against Communism and Russia.  All those who live in Taiwan -- male, female, young, old -- must have the will to defend Taiwan to the death.  At the same time, we must have the determination to win back the mainland ... if anyone is so perverse and sick enough to collaborate with the evil bandits ... that death will not be enough for them." (Editorial in the Central Daily News on July 17, 1950)

For a self-declared "lofty" goal, dissidents were cleansed and innocent people were slaughtered wantonly in order to intimidate.  When civilians do it, it is known as terrorism.  What the government does it, it is known as state terrorism.

Thousands or tens of thousands of people who should be our esteemed teachers, our dependable colleagues, our treasured children and our beloved lovers were sighing, crying, going insane, bleeding and falling into ground with mouths full of dust in dark corners which we cannot see or hear.  At the same time, we were pursuing our personal happiness in the sunshine of our school campuses, our economy was taking off, our society was getting prosperous and national construction was moving in huge steps.

You seem to think that those who were shot without a trial and those who tossed into the darkness and left to rot is the price for social progress: their decomposing bodies can fertilize our economic development.

But there is a problem that cannot be avoided: we consented to the existence of darkness over such a long time because we were na´ve.  In our na´vetÚ, the values taught to us by the power-that-be were still justice, righteousness, truth and all that.  He must teach that, because otherwise he cannot make us believe that his goals are lofty and correct.  Yet, we took it seriously.

Because we were na´ve, therefore we took it seriously  The more na´ve a person is, the more serious he/she will take it seriously  Once social prosperity reaches a certain level, we will unavoidably go back and ask him for a comparison and attempt to see and understand just where justice and righteousness were.

No matter how na´ve you are, you cannot fail to see the spider webs everywhere and you cannot fair to hear the ghost-like signs or step or the white bones in the grass mounds.


Press release from the Taipei City Ministry of Culture.

Release date: December 17, Year 90 of the Republic of China

<<Burial at Liuzhangli -- the Ministry of Culture will designate white terror "mass burial mound" as historical building>>

In Year 41 of the Republic of China, Hakka person Xu Qinglan of Miaoli was arrested for rebellion.  He was executed in August of the same year at the Machangting execution field and his body disappeared afterwards.  On May 28 of Year 82 of the Republic of China, his younger brother Zeng Meilan worked unceasingly to find the burial place in the bamboo forest at the Liuzhangli public cemetery.  After sorting out things, a total of 201 tomb markers of the victims of the White Terror were found.  A piece of history that vanished for almost half a century has finally emerged out of the earth.

On the afternoon of October 17, Minister of Culture Lung Ying-tai went with Taiwan University History Department professor Wang Xiaobo, Taiwan University Urban & Rural Studies professor Xia Zhujiu and Zhongyuan Architecture Department professor Xian Er went to the Liuzhangli public cemetery to observe the historical value for preserving the White Terror era tombs.  Professor Wang Xiaobo, whose mother was executed for being a "bandit spy," said that during the cold war period after WWII, the Kuomintang government imposed controls on speech and executed many dissidents between 1949 and 1954.  The poor souls who were buried in shallow graves at the Liuzhangli public cemetery were the executed victims whose bodies had not been claimed by their families for burial.

Last Tuesday, the Ministry of Culture had a review based upon the life of etch painter Huang Rongcan.  The burial site has been put in some kind of order by the families of the victims, but the overall conditions were not ideal for preservation.  There was no explanation about this history at the site.  The Ministry of Culture hopes that based upon guidance for historical building and sites to confirm the scope and cultural value for these graves.  The emergence of the history of the White Terror should have a positive cultural meaning.

Lung Ying-tai said that the directive today has three levels of meaning: the first is to move beyond using only "architecture" or "aesthetics" to identify ancient sites or historical buildings.  Instead, the historical viewpoint can make the internal content of the so-called "cultural capital" even deeper.  The second is to transform the dark burial grounds and horrible memories into an active site of historical pedagogy so that the next generation can more thoroughly understand the disastrous consequences when the government abuses its powers.  The third level of meaning is that the mass burial site of the victims can be made into the object of protection under the laws of cultural protection, so that they will not be damaged.

After the legal process for designating historical buildings has been completed, the Ministry of Culture will assist the Social Bureau to turn the mass burial site into a memorial cemetery for the victims of the White Terror.


"In 1999, I was editing the photograph album <<20th Century Taiwan>> and I was looking for valuable historical photographs in the file rooms of many offices.  One evening, I found a packet of photographs filled with dust at the bottom of the photo file cabinet at a newspaper which used to be very influential.  I opened the packet and I saw a stack of bloody execution photographs.  The issuing unit was the 'Military News Agency.'  The release date was 1950, and these photos were sent by the 'Ministry of Defense' to specially designated news offices for publication in the newspapers as warning.  But perhaps because they were too bloody, most of them were never published.  Later on, I purchased these valuable photographs from the newspaper and I was not sure in what form I was going to release them to the outside world.

"In 2000, I mentioned to this matter to Taipei City Minister of Culture Lung Ying-tai and I showed her the photographs.  Finally, we decided to hold a special exhibition in the name of the Ministry of Culture in the basement of the 2.28 Memorial Museum.  This was an extremely courageous decision.  Taiwan society has not reached the level of maturity to objectively look at those who gave up their lives for various different colors of politics.  Under 50 years of anti-Communist education that did not allow a drop of water to seep through, it is not going to calm sailing to present Communist Party members in a straightforward fashion, no matter how much one emphasizes the human rights or humanitarian aspects.

"On August 25, 2000, the special exhibit <<Machangting in mid-summer of 1950 -- reflections on war, human rights and peace>> opened at the 2.28 Memorial Museum.  This exhibit broke all the taboos, and objectively described how the Kuomintang government executed large numbers of Communist Party members and leftists at the Taipei Machangting execution ground in the early 1950's.  Since the subject was special and new historical materials were revealed, this exhibit was broadly reported in the media.  The exhibit area was packed with people each day.  It would not be too much to say that this was the most influential exhibit ever since the museum opened." Xu Zhongmao, Asia Weekly, November 6, 2005.


I remember that noon.  It was the noon break.  Xu Zhongmao laid out the photographs on my desk  The sunlight came through the blinds and fell in stripes over the photographs to create a whiteness.  There were quite a few photographs that were frontal close-up headshots of the executed people, as proof that the death sentence was carried out.  The eyes of the dead were dull and protruding, pointed right at the camera eye.

I looked outside the window.  That skyscraper was half built.  The trolley car was gliding in the air.  Workers who were as tiny as ants were waving their hands from inside the elevator.  There was the screaming siren of a fire engine coming from far to near and then from near to far.  Would the people who were executed in the 1950's for their political beliefs know that the world's tallest building will soon appear in this bustling city?  What kind of standard can be used to measure whether their sacrifices were worth it?  Who is qualified to say so?

Xu Zhongmao understood my situation completely: these black-and-white photographs are of the people who were brutally killed by the Kuomintang government.  Today, in the year 2000, this is the time when the Democratic Progressive Party is in charge.  To hold this exhibit, I will likely be attacked by two camps.  Those who support the Kuomintang will believe that I used this ugly piece of history to attack the out-of-power Kuomintang.  Those who support the Democratic Progressive Party will believe that I am trying to defend the Chinese Communist Party; they may even think that I deliberately emphasize that many "non-Taiwanese" were killed during the White Terror period in order to lessen the corresponding crime in which the Kuomintang killed "Taiwanese" in the 2.28 incident.

The political storm was unavoidable.

I looked at Xu Zhongmao and said, "Let's do it."  But I requested to him that all the frontal headshot photographs of the executed persons should have a black veil cover with the words on the side: "Out of respect to the deceased and the potential surviving members of their families, we have added a black veil.  If you wish to look, please lift the veil up yourself."

When the exhibit opened, the people responded enthusiastically.  But the attacks came in waves.  I was called "butcher," "victimizer," "cultural Hitler," "Communist fellow traveler" ...


Actually, I don't believe that human rights should be distinguished by political stance.  Kuomintang, Communist Party, Democratic Progressive Party, any f*cking party ... if human dignity is not your core value, if you permit human rights to be decided by authority, then you are just the target that I despise.  You don't scare me.

Ever since I saw the spread-eagled body of the mathematics teacher on the yellow-sanded playground when I was ten years old, I was probably marching slowly to where I am today.


After the "two bullets," democracy in Taiwan was probably the butt of jokes by many people and treated as negative educational material. Yes, after democracy came, there was still abuse of authority, collusion between government and business, violence of the majority, vulgarity ruled over taste and chaotic impotence replaced efficiency.  On the television, the screaming and bloodletting became the registered trademarks of Taiwan democracy.  Outsiders ridicule with glee while the Taiwan people lowered their heads in shame.

I just wonder just why you don't see the place where the water flows deeply?


August 30, 1987.  Formation of "Taiwan Political Victims Association."

September 27, 1988.  Formation of "Taiwan Area Political Victims Mutual Aid Society."

1992.  Criminal law article 100 was terminated.  Criminal law article 100 was the legal basis by which the "crime of speech to incite internal rebellion" was linked with the "regulations to quell rebellion" during the time of "mobilization period" to cause 4,000 people to be executed and more than 10,000 people to be imprisoned for long periods of time.

September 26, 2007.  Formation of "Association to Promote the Revindication of the White Terror Cases in the 1950's."  The major demands: 1. Promote the vindication activities.  2. Urge the government to release the related materials.  3.  Establish the "White Terror Memorial Park" at Liuzhangli and Machangting.

June 17, 1998.  Announcement of <<Compensation Gift Regulations Cases Of Improper Sentences As Rebels And Spies During the Martial Law Period>>.  September 5 "Financial and Legal Foundation on Compensation Gift Regulations Cases Of Improper Sentences As Rebels And Spies During the Martial Law Period" and begin release compensation funds to the families of the victims.

1999.  The <<Publishing Laws>> that formed the foundation for restricting and punishing free speech was eliminated.

August 2000.  Over the terms of two Taipei City mayors, the Machangting Memorial Park was established in memory of all the political prisoners who were executed by firing squad here.

December 2000.  The Taipei County government erected a stele to commemorate the Luku incident.  On December 29, 1952, the military police surrounded the Luku mountain district in Taipei county to arrest underground Communist Party members.  Over four months, more than 200 people were arrested.  This was the biggest political case in Taiwan during the 1950's.

2001.  A revision of the <<Army, Navy and Air Force Criminal Law>> to protect the human rights of soldiers in accordance with the constitution.  Of the 44 items that resulted in "only the death penalties," only two remain after the revision.

2001.  Revision of the <<Wrong Conviction Compensation Law>> to expand the scope of compensation to include hooligans.

2002.  Elimination of the <<Punishing and Administering of Bandits and Thieves Law>>.

June 2, 2002.  A human rights stele was erected on Green Island, where major political prisoners were kept for long periods of time.  The words on the stele were written by writer Bai Yang, who was imprisoned here for 12 years: "During that era, how many mothers have cried for their children imprisoned there through the night?"

January 11, 2003, the "mass burial site" at Liuzhangli was formally established as the "Memorial Park for the Political Prisoners of the Martial Law Period" and opened to the public. 


<<Compensation Gift Regulations Cases Of Improper Sentences As Rebels And Spies During the Martial Law Period>> is a heartbreaking cure.  "Compensation gift (补偿) regulations?"  Why not "Compensation (赔偿) regulations?"  The first term means that you were being generous to me, whereas the second term means that you are admitting fault to me.  The victims' families demanded the government to change the language, but the government was embarrassed: if they use the second term, does it mean that all the previous laws were wrong?  Should all the judges, police officers, prison officers, public servants and soldiers be held responsible and sentenced to jail?

"Compensation gifts" is a temporary compromise to stop the pain . From September 2004, 7,454 cases have been processed under the regulations.  Of the 18,046 applicants, 5,984 have received compensation, including 594 death sentences.  The highest compensation amount was NT$6 million.

Wrongfully judged cases were included in the compensation plan.  But how about genuine Communists who came to Taiwan to act as "bandit spies," got arrested and executed?  Will there be compensation gifts or not?


I picked up the regulations.  A short 14 items on two thin pieces of paper, but they are as heavy as steel and deep like a dark well.  The language is simple and nimble:

Article 2.  The so-called martial law period in the Taiwan area refers to Year 38 of Republic of China, May 20 to Year 86 July 14 when the martial law ended.  In Jinmen, Matsu, Dongsa and Nansa areas, this refers to Year 37 of Republic of China, December 10 to Year 81 November 6 when the martial law ended.

Article 3. ... for the purpose of handling the confirmation of the judged people and their application for compensation, there will be a "Financial and Legal Foundation on Compensation Gift Regulations Cases Of Improper Sentences As Rebels And Spies During the Martial Law Period."  The board of directors shall include scholars, experts, impartial members of society, judges, government and representatives of those who were judged and their relatives.

Article 6.  The scope of the compensation is as follows.

1. Those who were executed.

2. Those who were sentenced to prison.

3. Those who were sent to be re-educated/re-trained.

4. Those who properties were confiscated.

Article 7.  The foundation should independently fulfill its duties and powers without interference.  It should investigate the facts and related information about the judged and take care of the application for and payment of the compensation.

Article 8.  Those who fall into the following situations are not entitled to compensation:


2.  Based upon the current laws and rules of evidence, if there is sufficient proof that the person was involved in internal rebellion or foreign aggression.

Yes.  Even a genuine "bandit spy" can receive compensation if he/she was not properly tried at the time in accordance with proper legal procedures.


On the afternoon of October 30, 2005, about a hundred senior citizens hunched their backs, used canes and helped each other to walk along slowly.  The autumn wind was blowing strong.  Their hair have turned totally white.

The name of the place is Machangting.  During the past several years, on a certain autumn day each year, they come here to mourn their leftist comrades who died here 50 years ago.  Before the bodies were taken away, there was always a pool of blood.  Then people gathered earth and covered up the blood.  According to legend, this is how an earth mound came into being here.

At the autumn memorial service of October 2005, they dedicated this poem to their eternally young comrades:

Rest in peace!  Fallen comrades, do not worry about the motherland.

The blood that you shed has lit up the road to guide us forward.

You are the glory of the people, you sacrificed yourselves for the love of the country.

The cold and sorrowful winds of winter are the cradle of spring.

Rest in peace!  Fallen comrades, do not worry about the motherland.

The blood that you shed has lit up the road to guide us forward.

In 2005, the Kuomintang chairman half a decade later was also present at the scene.  He bowed deeply and deeply to the seniors, and the seniors nodded slightly in return.

Ma Ying-jeou carried the cross of the Kuomintang to apologize to history.  This is an important symbol, but it is not an isolated or uniquely occurring incident.  It is one of the many road signs on the road to democracy in Taiwan.  When he made the deep bows, it does not only show the internal transformation of the Kuomintang.  The core driving force is the deep structural change of Taiwan caused by democracy in Taiwan.

Without democracy, there would not the bows from Ma Ying-jeou.


On February 27, 2005, the political prisoner Chen Mingzhong who was imprisoned by the Kuomintang authorities for 21 years made history when he stepped into the Kuomintang's party headquarters and delivered a speech.  The title was "The collective memory of distorted history."  The old man's conclusion was as follows:

"I and my wife, and my wife's elder brother were victims of '2.28' and 'White Terror.'  Yet, my purpose today for coming to the party quarters of the Kuomintang was not to ask for justice for my personal and familial tragic experiences.  I only want to make sure that a similar tragedy will not occur in the next generation.  If the various political parties in Taiwan can truly understand and reflect about '2.28,' then it is not enough to apologize or make compensation.  The more important thing is to solve the historical sources by which the tragedy occurred and end the hostility of the state of civil war between the two shores.  The ethnic problem on the island can then easily be solved and an eternal peace can be forged."

The old man was generous and serene, and quite moving.  His was an undefeated soul which refused to be twisted.


But where to begin with "solving the historical roots that created the tragedy"?  If the mound that buried the blood was not opened, if the bodies in the mass burial site were not discovered, if numerous Chen Minzhong rot from their feet to their throats in darkness and if people don't have the courage to lay out the "collective memory of twisted history" underneath the sunshine, then I ask just where do we begin to "solve the historical roots that created the tragedy"?