In 1945, Chiang Kai-shek, as the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the China war zone, was authorized by the General Order No. 1, formulated by the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, to “represent” the Allied Forces in accepting the unconditional surrender of the Japanese forces in China, excluding Manchuria, Formosa, and French Indo-China north of 16 degrees of north latitude, but instead his delegates arbitrarily took over Formosa and the Pescadores and established a “de facto” rule over the former Japanese colony. Due to improper administration, Taiwan’s economy plunged into hyperinflation after the war, and in the disorder created by a lack of supplies and rampant disease, the people’s grievances grew deep, setting the scene for the February 28 Incident in 1947. Following this, the Chinese Nationalist government was defeated in the Chinese Civil War and relocated to Taiwan. In 1949, martial law was declared and Taiwan entered the White Terror period, which was characterized by abuse of power by military and police, miscarriages of justice, and severe restrictions on speech and thought. Facing the Chiang regime’s purges and repressive rule, some intellectuals went into exile or studied abroad. Having experienced intellectual pluralism and breathed the air of freedom, these young people could no longer believe in the illusion of democracy constructed by the Chinese Nationalist regime. As well as organizing student societies and Taiwanese compatriot associations to fight for the right to interpret Taiwan’s sovereign status and position within the world, they also stood up against the party-state authoritarian dictatorship under the threat of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s overseas espionage system. In spite of all kinds of suppression, the overseas Taiwanese community continued to grow and strove to connect with international resistance forces. By awakening Taiwanese consciousness, rescuing political prisoners, and assisting in the island’s struggle for democracy, young Taiwanese expatriates gathered up the strength of their community and helped their home country walk the road to democracy and independence.
Promotion materials released by Taiwanese independence activists in Japan describe a parade held in downtown Ginza, Tokyo commemorating the February 28 Incident on February 26, 1965. Approximately 60 Taiwanese living in Tokyo participated, holding banners with slogans such as “Long live Taiwanese independence,” “Formosa for Formosans,” and “The Chinese Nationalist government must leave Taiwan.”
In 1965, the University of Wisconsin in the United States held an international flag parade. The Formosan Affairs Study Group used this event to express the aspirations of the Taiwanese, discarding the flag of the Republic of China and waving a homemade symbolic “flag” instead. In this flag, a blue background symbolizes the ocean¸ while Formosa and the Pescadores appear in white, and the word “Formosa” is written in gold.
Based in New York, the Formosan Readers Associates published an English brochure Formosan Nation Speaks to advocate the self-determination of the Taiwanese people to an international audience.
World United Formosans for Independence (WUFI) hired a light aircraft to hang a banner that read “Long live Taiwanese independence GO GO Taiwan” over the Little League World Series in Williamsport, where a baseball team from Tainan was also playing. The move shocked the Chinese Nationalist authorities in Taiwan.
After the February 28 Incident, the Chinese Nationalist authorities maintained a party-state dictatorial rule of the island through military crackdowns (so-called “pacification” and “village cleansing”), martial law, and intelligence agencies. Intense political repression, an oppressive society, and a desire to pursue economic development resulted in people continuously choosing to leave their homeland for overseas. During the 40 years from the February 28 Incident to the lifting of martial law, the factors behind the emigration of Taiwanese people can be divided into three categories: political factors, education development, and economic emigration.
The February 28 Incident gave rise to Taiwan’s first post-war wave of political refugees of varying political standpoints. In 1949, the Chinese Nationalist Party lost the Chinese Civil War and the Communist Chinese government was thus established. As a result, Taiwanese intellectuals and political activists on and off the island embarked on differing political courses. Anti-imperialist, socialist, left-wing nationalists such as Su Xin and Hsieh Hsueh-hung turned to China, whereas Peter Huang, Thomas Liao, Ong Iok-tek, Eikan Kyu, and Su Beng embarked on the path of seeking independence for Taiwan.
In the early years after the war, most Taiwanese who went abroad to study chose Japan due to language and cultural factors. After the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, the United States provided military and economic assistance to the Chinese Nationalist government for the purposes of containing communist expansion. It also actively used cultural diplomacy and educational exchange programs to cultivate pro-American ideas and expand influence in Taiwan. In addition, from the late 1950s, American universities one by one started to offer scholarships to attract highly talented international students from the “Free World.” The Ministry of Education in Taiwan resumed publicly funded study abroad scholarships in 1955, and in 1964, the Chinese Nationalist authorities revised the regulations on studying abroad, making it easier for scholarship winners to secure emigration permits. Studying in the United States became mainstream after the 1960s. Because of language reasons, only a small number of students studied in Europe. In addition to the option of applying for church scholarships, Western European countries also provided scholarships to Taiwanese students in the 1960s. Due to the excellent working and living conditions abroad, only 13% of overseas students returned to Taiwan after completing their studies over the next 20 years. The expansion of the overseas Taiwanese community facilitated the growth of the Taiwanese independence camp.
Although the Chinese Nationalist regime on Taiwan could control capital and brain drain in the early years, it could not prevent economic emigration. As early as the 1950s, there were Taiwanese people who used Japanese channels to purchase employment letters of offer to go to Brazil, where there was urgent demand for agricultural laborers. In the 1960s, many South American governments expressed their welcoming of Taiwanese, so the smuggling of immigrants sometimes occurred. In 1965, the United States amended its Immigration and Nationality Act and Taiwan entered a period in which large numbers of Taiwanese emigrated to the United States. After the 1970s, the Chiang regime’s international position became increasingly grave. Its withdrawal from the United Nations and the breaking down of diplomatic relations with the United States undermined the people’s confidence in the survival of the Republic of China regime on Taiwan. With the United States now offering a welcoming open door to professionals, many people left Taiwan through skilled immigration programs.
Thomas Liao originally advocated “provincial autonomy of Taiwan alongside other Chinese provinces.” After the February 28 Incident, he started to advocate that “Taiwan should first become a trust territory of the United Nations before Taiwanese people determine their future via referendum.” Because of this, Thomas Liao was listed as one of the most wanted rebel leaders by the Chinese Nationalist government and was forced to flee to Japan in 1949 via Shanghai and Hong Kong. Later, in Tokyo, he established the Provisional Government of the Republic of Taiwan and Formosanism.
The article titled “Member of the Control Yuan Chiu Nien-tai disbelieves there is a Taiwanese underground organization operating in Japan” was published on August 25, 1948, showing that Thomas Liao’s contribution to the Taiwanese independence movement had attracted international attention.
Ong Iok-tek (left) was the younger brother of the prosecutor Ong Iok-lim (right) who was killed in the February 28 Incident. Ong Iok-lim was arrested and executed in retaliation by high officials whom he had previously prosecuted, and his body was never found. Afraid of being implicated, Ong Iok-tek fled to Japan via Hong Kong in 1949 and never returned to Taiwan for the rest of his life. He organized the Taiwan Youth Association (the predecessor of United Young Formosans for Independence) in Japan and published the periodical Taiwan Chinglian (Taiwan Youth), advocating Taiwanese independence.
Su Beng, who advocated Taiwanese nationalism, was a left-wing activist in the Taiwanese independence movement. The February 28 Incident and Chiang Kai-shek's military dictatorship had left him deeply dissatisfied with the regime. In 1950, he established the secret organization “Taiwan Independence Revolutionary Armed Force” to make preparations to assassinate Chiang Kai-shek when the opportunity arose. At the end of 1951, the failed plan to assassinate the dictator made him a wanted man of the regime, forcing him to flee to Japan, where he was granted political asylum by the Japanese government as an escaped political criminal in 1952. This was the beginning of the 41 years he spent in Japan as a wanted man in exile.
Overseas student Ho Kang-mei (left) arrived in Belgium for the first time, where she visited the Embassy of the Republic of China in Belgium. She was subsequently placed on a blacklist after forming the Taiwanese Association in Belgium and later served as the chairperson of the European headquarters of World United Formosans for Independence (WUFI) .
Wedding photo of Chen Chung-tung (right) and Tsai Hsien-tzu. Chen Chung-tung met members of United Young Formosans for Independence when he was studying in Japan. On February 6, 1969, he returned to Taiwan due to his father’s illness and married Tsai Hsien-tzu. During his honeymoon, he was followed by secret agents. When he returned home on February 21, Chen Chung-tung was immediately arrested.
According to the official conviction record, Chen Chung-tung had been in contact with Hou Rong-bang, the director of the Organization Department of United Young Formosans for Independence, while studying in Tokyo. He had returned to Taiwan in May 1966 and brought back a large number of promotional materials for secret distribution. After returning to Japan, he formally joined United Young Formosans for Independence and participated in the Taiwanese independence movement.
In the 1980s, more than 80% of overseas students did not return to Taiwan from abroad, which caused domestic concerns about brain drain.
The Independence Evening Post, published in the 1960s. Brazil’s prosperous economy and welcoming immigration policy created a wave of emigration to Brazil. Immigration advertisements were widely seen in newspapers around this time.
Although the Chinese Nationalist government suppressed overseas Taiwanese from forming associations under the name “Taiwan,” many overseas Taiwanese young people still insisted on setting up student or compatriot associations under the name “Taiwan.” Not only challenging the Chinese Nationalist dictatorship but also advocating democracy and independence, they were placed on a blacklist and could not return home.
◎Taiwan: the Guanziling Meeting Incident
In 1956, Chai Trong-rong was elected chairperson of the National Taiwan University Student Representative Association, and often met with other students who were dissatisfied with the Chinese Nationalist government to discuss political affairs. In 1960, Chai Trong-rong and others who were planning on going abroad to study held a secret gathering in Guanziling. Many participants were arrested after the meeting was exposed. Chai Trong-rong, Chang Tsan-hung, Chen Jung-chen, Lo Fu-chen, Hou Rong-bang, Lin Chi-hsu and Chen Tang-shan, all of whom successfully managed to leave Taiwan to study, continued to promote the Taiwanese independence movement from overseas.
In addition to Thomas Liao and Su Beng, who took armed action to achieve Taiwanese independence, there were also resistance leaders such as Ho Wen-tsan, Chang Chun-hsing, Liao Ming-yao and Eikan Kyu in Japan. In the academic world, Ong Iok-tek promoted independence ideas in his papers. In 1963, Koh Se-kai left the Republic of China Student Association in Japan and established the Taiwanese Students Association in Japan. In 1965, Koo Kwang-ming was appointed as the chairperson of the Taiwan Youth Association, which he renamed United Young Formosans for Independence, clearly setting “Taiwanese independence” as the goal. Su Beng, from the political left, established the Taiwanese Independence Association in 1967. Koeh Eng-kiat, Ng Chiau-tong and others established the compatriot Taiwanese Association in Japan in 1973, whose activities eventually expanded to incorporate the entire Taiwanese expatriate community living in Japan.
【The United States】In the 1950s, a large number of Taiwanese students went to the United States. Among them, John Lin, who had been arrested in the April 6 Incident, began studying at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States in 1952, where he started to advocate for Taiwanese independence. Together with four others, Edward Chen, Tom Yang, Echo Lin and Loo Tsu-yi, he established the organization Formosans’ Free Formosa (3F) in 1956. In 1958, this was reorganized into United Formosans for Independence (UFI), and the alliance was expanded in 1966 to establish United Formosans in America for Independence (UFAI). In the West of the United States, the Taiwanese Alliance for Interculture was established in 1973. In 1978, in order to encourage Taiwanese people to write “Taiwanese” in the race column of the census, it collaborated with the Northern California Formosan Federation and the Formosan United Methodist Church to found the Joint Committee of Taiwanese Americans for the 1980 US Census in conjunction with diverse local associations. In the 1980s, several organizations across the United States cooperated to jointly establish the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA) in order to strengthen lobbying of the United States Congress and communicate the voices of the Taiwanese. In this way, Taiwanese independence work officially entered Washington.
The church system was an important branch of the Taiwanese independence movement overseas. In 1972, Rev. Shoki Coe invited Lin Tsung-yi, Rev. Song Choan-seng and Rev. Ng Bu-tong to launch the Formosans for Self-Determination campaign in Washington. This campaign had 14 branches in the United States, as well as headquarters in Europe and Brazil. It spared no effort in advocating respect for human rights.
【Canada】Following an increase in the number of overseas students after 1950, the University of Toronto established the Taiwanese Students Association in 1961. In 1963, Huang Yi-ming, who taught at Waterloo University, and Taiwanese overseas student Albert Lin together established the Formosan League of Self-Determination (which later changed its name to the Committee of Human Rights in Formosa). In 1982, while Albert Lin was the chairperson of the Canadian headquarters of World United Formosans for Independence (WUFI), the World Council of Churches introduced him to Urban Rural Mission (URM), a type of training that focuses on organizing people to fight for power through non-violent means, and he began to arrange URM training camps for Taiwanese. The first camp was held in Toronto in July 1982 and had seven trainees, including Tsai Ming-shia, Hung Chi-chang and Albert Lin. This “Taiwan URM” training camp was held every year and actively arranged for Taiwanese Presbyterian church pastors and social activists to travel to Canada to receive training. Many leaders of the grassroots resistance movement were cultivated in this way, and the Taiwanese United Church in Toronto was therefore regarded as a Taiwanese independence church.
【South America】Most Taiwanese people in South America live in Brazil and mainly arrived there as economic immigrants. In 1969, nine people joined the Los Angeles branch of United Formosans in America for Independence (UFAI). In 1970, Taiwanese in Brazil did not fear opposition from the Chinese Nationalist Party’s representatives and insisted on the establishment of a compatriot association using the name Taiwan. In 1976, World United Formosans for Independence (WUFI) established a South American headquarters in Brazil, of which the first chairperson was civil engineer Chou Shu-yeh.
In 1967, several Taiwanese students in Europe secretly established Europe’s first Taiwanese political group, United Formosans in Europe for Independence (UFEI). Taiwanese people in Belgium insisted on organizing a Taiwanese association in 1970 despite opposition from the Chinese Nationalist authorities’ overseas representative offices. In 1971, the European Federation of Taiwanese Associations was founded to connect and unite all Taiwanese people living in Europe.
In 1970, United Formosans in America for Independence (UFAI), the Committee of Human Rights in Formosa (CHRT), United Young Formosans for Independence (UYFI) in Japan, United Formosans in Europe for Independence (UFEI) and the Taiwan Freedom League in Taiwan jointly established the global World United Formosans for Independence (WUFI). In 1974, the World Federation of Taiwanese Associations (WFTA) was planned and organized by members of the European Federation of Taiwanese Associations, such as Chang Wei-chia and Chen Tsing-fang, to connect and unite Taiwanese people with a sense of Taiwanese identity all around the world. By the end of 1979, nearly ten groups, including politically left and right organizations from Japan, the United States and Europe, as well as Taiwanese Christians for Self-Determination, jointly established the Coalition of Taiwan Independence, but this was disbanded shortly afterwards due to divergent political positions.
The Provisional Government of the Republic of Formosa raised the Sun Moon Flag (the national flag of the Republic of Formosa) in a parade in Tokyo. Thomas Liao’s group continued to hold public events in Japan despite pressure from the Chinese Nationalist Party.
The organization Free Formosans’ Formosa (3F) was established in 1956 by John Lin, Edward Chen, Tom Yang, Echo Lin and Loo Tsu-yi. This photo was taken in 1954. From left, it pictures Yang Chiung-tzu (Tom Yang’s younger sister), Tom Yang, Li Kuo-hsuan, Edward Chen and John Lin.
Li Kuo-hsuan was the head of the Publicity Department of the Student Troop at Taiwan Provincial College of Engineering (the predecessor of National Cheng Kung University). After graduating, he worked for Taiwan Power Company. Having joined the Chinese Nationalist Party, he became the only Taiwan-born Taiwanese to join the company’s first study group to the United States in 1954. During his stay in the United States, he met with Edward Chen and others. Photos of the meeting were exposed and he was forced to resign from his employment. In his early years, Li Kuo-hsuan had longed for the Chinese motherland, but he soon became disillusioned and looked forward to Taiwanese independence.
On February 28, 1960, Ong Iok-tek (third from left) formed the Taiwan Youth Association together with six overseas students: Huang Yung-chun, Fu Jin-chuan, Ng Chiau-tong, Tsai Yan-kun, Tsai Chi-lin, and Liao Chun-rong (pictured here from left to right).
In 1976, Brazilian Taiwanese independence groups joined World United Formosans for Independence (WUFI) and became its headquarters in Brazil. The six groups all agreed to abide by a new charter that they had formulated together.
From left to right, participants in the Guanziling Meeting Incident Lo Fu-chen, Peng Ming-min, Chou Suy-ming and Chai Trong-rong contributed to connecting Japan-based activists with United Formosans in America for Independence.
In 1965, Chou Suy-ming and Edward Chen sent named invitations to Taiwanese independence societies around the country to attend the Madison Conference. After the meeting, a joint communiqué was issued calling for unity among the Taiwanese.
A letter explaining Urban Rural Mission (URM) to raise funds for the development of a Taiwanese URM training camp. In order to train more grassroots organization leaders, Albert Lin worked hard to introduce this set of training courses to Taiwan.
Writings of pain and collective endurances of brutality not only construct traumatic experiences but also simultaneously imagine history.
~ Michael Berry, A History of Pain
Although the February 28 Incident was a political taboo in Taiwan, its legacy was not only passed down but also consciously remembered beyond the island. It became the cornerstone for thinking about the connotations and boundaries of “Taiwanese” identity and the subjectivity of Taiwanese nationhood. Successive commemorative events eventually brought about an unprecedented momentum of Taiwanese consciousness.
◎The February 28 Incident as a new starting point for Taiwanese independence
Before the February 28 Incident, there was no clear boundary between Taiwanese consciousness and Chinese consciousness. After the February 28 Incident, thinking about whether or not Taiwanese people are Chinese people began to emerge among Taiwanese intellectuals. Among the Taiwanese independence advocacy groups in the early post-war period, groups run by Thomas Liao and Ong Iok-tek in particular clearly regarded the February 28 Incident as the starting point of Taiwanese independence consciousness, and therefore attached great importance to the meaning it represents.
After learning of the news of the February 28 Incident, Thomas Liao united Taiwanese compatriot associations in Shanghai to form the February 28 Tragedy United Assistance Group and wrote an article titled “Demands in the Wake of the February 28 Tragedy.” This turned him into a wanted man, and he was forced into exile overseas. On February 28, 1950, Thomas Liao gave a speech in Kyoto on the third anniversary of the February 28 Incident, where he expressed his support for Taiwanese independence. Since 1950, commemorative activities and speeches have been held on February 28 every year. On February 28, 1956, Thomas Liao held a February 28 Incident memorial at the Azabu Public Hall in Tokyo where he announced the establishment of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Formosa. The inauguration ceremony of the Republic’s president was held, and a declaration of independence was made. The Provisional Constitution of the Republic of Formosa clearly stated that noon on February 28 was the time of inauguration and succession of the new president. In his Formosanism, published in 1957, he stated that “my illusion of Taiwanese autonomy alongside other Chinese provinces has completely disappeared, and the concept of a ‘Taiwan of the Taiwanese people’ has developed rapidly in my mind, transforming into complete support for ‘Taiwanese independence.’” In 1965, Thomas Liao declared his abandonment of the Taiwanese independence movement and returned to Taiwan to surrender.
The Taiwan Youth Association, an organization that centered around Ong Iok-tek, was established on February 28, 1960 because the ideological origin of members’ pro-Taiwanese independence stance was the February 28 Incident. Taiwan Chinglian (Taiwan Youth), which was published by the group, not only engaged in long-term and continuous reflection and historical interpretation of the February 28 Incident, but also made efforts to use people power to carry out relevant truth investigations and recordings of personal memories of trauma. In 1967, in an article that appeared in the February 28 Incident 20th anniversary commemorative issue of Taiwan Chinglian (Taiwan Youth) titled “The Truth about the Great February 28 Revolution,” not only was the term “February 28 Revolution” used, but the article further elaborated: “The February 28 Incident was a new starting point from which Taiwanese people could go further toward understanding themselves and toward deeply loving Taiwanese independence.” This view was also clear from the text that appeared on the 1977 front cover of the February 28 Incident 30th anniversary issue of World United Formosans for Independence’s (WUFI) official publication Independent Taiwan, which read “The February 28 Revolution: The Beginning of the Taiwanese People’s Founding of a Nation.” The editorial in this issue attempted to define “Taiwanese” in terms of identification rather than provincial origin, and called on “all Taiwanese” to fight China and build Taiwan together.
◎Building a sense of community through a shared experience of historical trauma
In addition to holding February 28 Incident commemorations and advocating the self-determination of Taiwanese through public demonstrations, overseas Taiwanese activists also worked hard to remind the community to “never forget” by publishing books and advertisements and organizing public events like rallies. In the 1960s, overseas Taiwanese mostly used the term “March Massacre” to explain the February 28 Incident to the world. After the establishment of United Formosans in America for Independence (UFAI) in 1966, one of the focuses of its work was to submit articles and advertisements to many campus publications during the month of February. In 1968, the UFAI headquarters sent a fundraising letter to Taiwanese in the United States asking everyone to donate one day’s income to publishing February 28 Incident advertisements, and many responded. In that year, in the campus publications of more than ten universities, including Harvard University, Columbia University, Kansas State University, Purdue University, University of California Los Angeles, John Hopkins University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, advertisements commemorating the February 28 Incident appeared in the name of UFAI. Most were titled “MASSACRE ON FORMOSA.” Emphasizing the historical experience of shared trauma, overseas Taiwanese could use this as a center from which to form a Taiwanese national identity and ethnic consciousness. They also hoped that the February 28 Incident could inspire the international community to face up to the authoritarian dictatorship of Chiang Kai-shek’s regime.
In 1984, the Japanese headquarters of World United Formosans for Independence (WUFI) held a February 28 Incident 37th anniversary commemorative event, where Ong Iok-tek gave a speech.
Taiwan Chinglian (Taiwan Youth), February 1961, no. 6.
In this issue, the editorial team used twice as many pages as its ordinary issues to report on the February 28 Incident. In addition to the personal experiences of the members, the content also included a segment titled “The Truth About the February 28 Incident,” which was an editor’s compilation of publications related to the Incident collected in Japan. This editorial defined the Chinese Nationalist regime as colonial.
Taiwan Chinglian (Taiwan Youth) contained many valuable documents and historical materials. In addition to records of people’s personal experiences, it also included biographies of the lives of many victims, such as that of Horiuchi Kaneki, an engineer working between Japan and Taiwan, published in issue no. 401. Not only did the publication contribute to preserving historical memories of the February 28 Incident, but it also enabled victims’ families to understand the truth.
Taiwan Chinglian (Taiwan Youth), February 1976, no. 75. After issue no. 71, Taiwan Chinglian began to be published in Traditional Chinese. The content of this issue was mainly a Chinese translation of issue no. 6, but there had been an evolution in the perspective of the editorial team, which now positioned the February 28 Incident as “a failed revolution.”
The Taiwan Minpo’s special issue on the founding of the Provisional Government of the Republic of Formosa in 1956.
Formosanism was published in 1957 in Tokyo, Japan by The Taiwan Minpo, which was set up by Thomas Liao.
In 1977, on the 30th anniversary of the February 28 Incident, the World United Formosans for Independence (WUFI) official journal Independent Taiwan published a combined issue. From the editorial, we can see that Taiwanese activists in the United States had redefined the contemporary significance of the February 28 Incident as a “revolution.”
Appearing on the 30th anniversary of the February 28 Incident in 1977, this article is titled “The Great February 28 Revolution: The Beginning of the Taiwanese People’s Founding of a Nation.” Participants of the commemoration event sang “February 28 March” in unison.
On February 28, 1970, Taiwanese people in South America published a statement in the Japanese language São Paulo Shimbun.
The February 28 Incident 20th anniversary commemoration printed by the New York Formosan Readers Associates in 1967.
A letter written by United Formosans in America for Independence (UFAI) calling on Taiwanese people to commemorate the February 28 Incident and donate to fund the independence movement.
Written by Hsiao Sin-i, this article was published in Harvard University’s student newspaper The Harvard Crimson in 1968.
◎Replacing the sword with the pen
The implementation of martial law, engulfing of authoritarian rule, and suppression of freedom of speech and thought on the island meant that most opportunities for awakening to the pursuit of Taiwanese independence occurred overseas. In particular, the Taiwan Youth Association established by Ong Iok-tek and others, advocated the need to start from ideological enlightenment, with Ong Iok-tek believing that publishing articles, making propositions, and disseminating ideas should be the focus of the overseas Taiwanese independence movement. On the one hand, Taiwan Chinglian (Taiwan Youth) took up the cause of exploring Taiwanese nationalism, and was the most influential overseas Taiwanese publication in the 1960s. On the other hand, Taiwanese compatriot associations, which presented opportunities for social gathering among overseas Taiwanese, published newsletters to consolidate nostalgia and inspire Taiwanese consciousness among Taiwanese people. Beyond the liberal faction of the Taiwanese independence movement, socialists also began to unite overseas and to release publications to promote their ideas from the 1970s.
◎Demonstrations to show public opinion
Besides publishing articles, the most common mode of action for the Taiwanese independence movement overseas was holding parades and demonstrations. Especially after 1971, following the change of United States government policy toward China and when the battle for Chinese representation in the United Nations had intensified, the number of Taiwanese who were concerned about the future of Taiwan increased day by day. In the 1970s, Taiwanese people in North America held a series of “Taiwanese American Conferences” advocating the self-determination of the Taiwanese people. In addition to lectures, a several thousand strong march was also launched to demonstrate the autonomous will and determination of Taiwanese people to the world.
◎The attempted assassination of Chiang Ching-kuo on April 24, 1970
In April 1970, during a visit to the United States, Chiang Ching-kuo was shot by Peter Huang in front of the Plaza Hotel in New York. Although the assassination attempt did not succeed at killing Chiang, it shocked the world and improved the morale of Taiwanese people overseas. However, it also led to internal divisions and differences in action styles and campaign strategies in the movement, with a split emerging between “prioritizing the organization” and “prioritizing the comrades.” As a result, World United Formosans for Independence (WUFI) faced conflict and division as soon as it was established. Many members, including Frank Lai and Wang Chiu-sen withdrew one after another, and the incident affected the future direction of the Taiwanese independence movement.
Although overseas Taiwanese independence groups shared the same goals of overthrowing the authoritarian dictatorship and establishing an independent nation, there were always those advocating socialism in the Taiwanese independence camp. As the left-wing trend of thought flourished in Europe and the United States, problems related to political orientation began to emerge within World United Formosans for Independence (WUFI). In 1979, Chang Ching-tse left WUFI, and in 1984, the vice-chairperson Cary Hung also left and connected with other left-wing activists with the goal of building a socialist Taiwan. On the surface, it may seem that the internal struggles between comrades dealt a blow to the progress of the movement. However, taking a long-term view, an understanding of how to respect the diverse values that emerge from divergences in thinking and the chance to study the core spirit of democracy in the midst of conflict constituted the most precious opportunities ever experienced by the Taiwanese independence movement over its half-century existence.
Before 1970, Taiwan Chinglian (Taiwan Youth) was the most important journal when it came to awakening Taiwanese consciousness among Taiwanese overseas student circles.
In July 1962, the Taiwan Youth Association published the English publication Formosan Quarterly in an effort to influence the rest of the world. In February 1964, this was renamed Independent Formosa and in 1968 was co-edited by United Formosans in America for Independence (UFAI) and United Young Formosans for Independence.
This letter is a reply from George Kerr discussing the copyright of the Chinese translation of Formosa Betrayed.
Mayflower was an official publication by the Taiwanese Association of America. It contained both news from Taiwan and a large amount of political commentary.
The early printing press used by the European Federation of Taiwanese Associations to print the publication Courrier des Formosans, and a publication printed by the printing press.
Courrier des Formosans, published by the European Federation of Taiwanese Associations.
Peng Ming-min and others were set to announce A Declaration of Formosan Self-Salvation in 1964, but were arrested before it was published. At the end of 1965, Koh Se-kai in Japan obtained a copy and published it in the monthly Taiwan Chinglian (Taiwan Youth), and it later found its way to North America.
Overseas Taiwanese not only copied and circulated the text, but also felt very encouraged by it. In 1966, United Formosans in America for Independence (UFAI) launched a crowdfunding campaign to publish a huge half-page advertisement in The New York Times on the Sunday before the Chinese representation issue was to be discussed at the United Nations. Five organizations shared the advertising fee of US $4,300 between them, which was enough to buy a house at the time.
The content emphasized that Taiwan belonged to the Taiwanese and not to the Chinese regime in Beijing. It also said that the Chinese Nationalist authorities had no public support and could not represent the Taiwanese, and that the people of Taiwan had the right to self-determination.
In addition to expressing to the international community the aspirations of the Taiwanese to pursue self-determination and democracy, United Formosans in America for Independence (UFAI) also included A Declaration of Formosan Self-Salvation in thousands of Christmas cards that it mailed to Taiwan to break through the media blockade.
In 1967, when Chiang Ching-kuo visited Japan, United Young Formosans for Independence launched a demonstration against the Chinese Nationalist dictatorship and called on the Japanese government to stop supporting Chiang’s regime. The two people walking on the outside of the group are Hou Rong-bang at the front and Koh Se-kai at the back with the loudspeaker.
In 1970, Peter Huang’s attempted assassination of Chiang Ching-kuo shocked the world. Major newspapers in the United States reported heavily on the story.
When the Republic of China lost its seat on the United Nations and the relationship between the United States and People’s Republic of China changed, overseas Taiwanese who cared about Taiwan’s future ignored official threats and began to stand up in gatherings they deemed vital to Taiwan’s future.
Throughout the 1970s, a series of Taiwanese mass rallies and demonstrations across the United States easily attracted hundreds of people. They made demands on a range of topics, including national self-determination, independence and autonomy, democratization, human rights, and so on. This not only attracted the attention of mainstream media but also put pressure on the Chinese Nationalist government.
The Chinese Nationalist authorities’ earliest countermeasures against the Taiwanese independence movement overseas were carried out within the framework of “fighting against the communist bandits.” In 1953, the Central Standing Committee of the Chinese Nationalist Party established the Overseas Work Steering Group to integrate overseas party affairs, overseas Chinese compatriot affairs, and diplomacy. In addition to being responsible for “fighting against the communist bandits,” it was also charged with “motivating loyal overseas Chinese compatriots to combat conspiratorial activities orchestrated by fake Taiwanese independence parties.” In 1956, the group was reorganized into the “United Steering Committee for the Overseas Work of Fighting against the Communist Bandits” (also known as the Haizhihui) to expand and strengthen the mechanism for coordinating overseas work affairs in the hope of comprehensively opposing Taiwanese independence and the Chinese Communist Party.
◎Integrating party, government, and intelligence agencies to combat the Taiwanese independence movement at home and abroad
In 1961, the Haizhihui formed a special taskforce using the pseudonym of Yingzhengben by combining the Chinese Nationalist Party, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Security Bureau, the Overseas Chinese Affairs Council, and the Ministry of Education. This taskforce was responsible for researching and discussing countermeasures against the Taiwanese independence movement overseas. The main focus was supposed to be on Asia but when Edward Chen, the chairperson of United Formosans for Independence (UFI), held a press conference to officially announce the establishment of the Taiwanese independence organization, the Chinese Nationalist authorities began to set up special Taiwanese independence taskforces in consulates across the United States. In 1970, when World United Formosans for Independence (WUFI), a global organization working for Taiwanese independence, was founded, the Haizhihui established the Serenity Project convened by the Ministry of Education, China Youth Corps, the National Security Bureau, the Investigation Bureau and the Third Section of the Central Committee of the Chinese Nationalist Party to specifically respond to Taiwanese independence activities.
Before the wave of emigration, overseas students were the main force in the Taiwanese independence movement abroad. Therefore, the “campus” was the primary field of contention between the pro-independence side and its opponents. In addition to countermeasures such as using “loyal students” to publicly oppose pro-Taiwanese independence speech, collecting information on “reactionary” students and blocking the establishment of Taiwanese student associations, the overseas representative offices of the Republic of China were also responsible for organizing affairs related to overseas student welfare to reduce the influence of Taiwanese independence groups on Taiwanese students. For example, the overseas representative offices controlled classmate reunions, organized social activities, assisted in solving daily life problems, established a party headquarters for overseas students, strengthened its overseas student publicity work, and liaised with family members of Taiwanese students in Taiwan.
◎Spies and professional students
As part of its efforts to combat Taiwanese independence, the Chinese Nationalist Party used threats and incentives to recruit informants to collect information on Taiwanese independence activities or to send people to infiltrate Taiwanese independence groups in the hope of dividing or destroying an event ahead of time. By infiltrating United Formosans for Independence (UFI) and participating in activities, Ko Wen-cheng, who was trusted by UFI chairperson Edward Chen, collected information on students with Taiwanese consciousness. Chang Sian-ming of the University of Wisconsin-Madison accused his fellow doctoral student Huang Chi-ming of participating in Taiwanese independence activities. When Huang Chi-ming returned to Taiwan in 1966 to collect field data, he was prosecuted by a military court for treason. In 1964, Chen Chun-chen, a student of Waseda University, infiltrated the Taiwan Youth Association to steal information to give to the Republic of China’s embassy in Japan. This espionage case led to the arrest of many Taiwan Youth Association members by Japan’s Police Department. Although they were later released on probation, the Chinese Nationalist Party strongly demanded that the Japanese forcibly repatriate the students. In 1968, Liu Wen-chin was taken into custody on the spot when seeking a visa extension and repatriated to Taiwan. Dr. Sun Yat-sen Scholarship winners could also be regarded as another kind of party worker, as recipients needed to be loyal Chinese Nationalist Party members. Some were responsible for handling party affairs associated with overseas students or were assigned specific tasks, such as collating lists of pro-Taiwanese independence or left-leaning students, uncovering activity information, dividing societies, etc.
◎Blacklisting and revocation of passports
The growth in the scale of the Taiwanese independence movement was met with the creation of permanent sections in overseas representative offices and an expanded organizational structure. These offices not only compiled and printed anti-Taiwanese independence handbooks and published rebuttals, but also negotiated with foreign governments to ban and refuse visas or revoke passports. For example, Chou Suy-ming, Grace Wu and Chang Tsan-hung became stateless because they refused to write a letter of regret when applying for a passport extension.
Following the institutionalization of list collation of “Taiwanese independence conspirators” and dissidents, the Chinese Nationalist authorities established the Traitor Data Center in Washington, DC in 1971. By establishing a blacklist, “Taiwanese independence conspirators” could be sent back to Taiwan for trial or monitored under house arrest for possessing invalid passports.
During the 1972 Little League World Series held at Williamsport, the Chinese Nationalist Party sent Republic of China Navy members who were undertaking training in Massachusetts to provoke and attack fellow Taiwanese compatriots who had come along to cheer for the Taiwan side.
In 1965, a “patriotic” student submitted an article to The Houston Post defending Chiang Kai-shek. Five overseas students Lin Rong-chang, Chang Chin-hui, Li Ching-tsung, Liau Ming-cheng and Chang Tsan-hung contributed to a rebuttal piece. Chang Tsan-hung was placed on a blacklist and had his passport revoked for refusing to write a letter of regret. This incident sparked Chang Tsan-hung’s determination to participate in the Taiwanese independence movement.
On the eve of February 28, 1964, the Republic of China’s embassy in the United States hired photographers to secretly document a parade and send photos back to Taipei for analysis. Tsiang Tingfu, the ambassador to the United States, wrote a report for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which also forwarded his report to the President of the Republic of China. This shows how the Republic of China’s foreign service was used to monitor the activities of the Taiwanese independence movement.
By the 1980s, the scope of the overseas Taiwanese independence movement had already extended to the island of Taiwan and the Chinese Nationalist authorities could no longer ignore it.
In 1967, Chen Lung-chu and the well-known scholar Harold Laswell co-authored a book discussing Formosa’s international status. In addition to the Taiwan Garrison Command implementing control measures to prevent the book from finding its way into Taiwan, the Chinese Nationalist government also mobilized Chinese and American scholars with the same political stance to repudiate the book in writing. Prior to a meeting of the United Nations in 1969, Chen Lung-chu wrote to the New York Times, expressing that Taiwan’s legal status was undetermined and that Taiwanese residents should resolve the Taiwan issue through self-determination. On January 29, 1970, the Haizhihui convened officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Security Bureau, the Taiwan Garrison Command, the Ministry of Judicial Administration, the Ministry of Education, and the Government Information Office to deliberate on “the question of making the principal Taiwanese independence conspirator punishable by law.” In other words, the discussion concerned how Chen Lung-chu could be punished.
In 1964, the Chinese Nationalist Party used student Chen Chun-chen to infiltrate the Taiwan Youth Association and collect a list of names. When his actions were brought to light, he wrote a letter of regret to trick Ng Chiau-tong and others into forgiving him, but then reported them, leading to the arrest of many Taiwan Youth Association members by Japan’s Police Department. Although the others were released on probation, in 1968, Liu Wen-chin was taken into custody for repatriation to Taiwan as he had recently applied for a visa extension. The Taiwan Youth Association members decided in a secret meeting to go to Tokyo Haneda Airport to rescue him. Even when judo thrown to the ground, they still fought hard to hold on to Liu Wen-chin. Liu Wen-chin bit his tongue and shouted, “Long live Taiwanese independence!”
After the Republic of China was no longer able to represent China in the United Nations, the Taiwanese independence movement entered a new chapter. In addition to continuously internationalizing the Taiwan issue, it also began to establish channels to connect opposition groups on and off the island to support the democratization movement.
◎The Taiwan Political Prisoner Rescue Association
In 1977, Lu Chien-hui and others established the Taiwan Political Prisoner Rescue Association in Japan, collecting data to enable the London headquarters of Amnesty International (AI) to launch a global rescue of Taiwanese victims of political persecution. AI branches in 35 countries around the world began to accept Taiwanese prisoners of conscience.
After the Formosa Incident (also known as the Kaohsiung Incident) at the end of 1979, overseas organizations immediately launched human rights rescues, mobilized donations, organized demonstrations, and transmitted messages, prompting the former United States Attorney General Ramsey Clark to come to Taiwan to learn about the Formosa Incident, visit prisoners, and demand to the Chinese Nationalist government that defendants should be tried in public. After Ramsey Clark returned to the United States, he immediately held a press conference on his visits to Taiwan and submitted a report to the Department of State, in this way putting the Chinese Nationalist government under international pressure.
◎Allowing Taiwanese voices to enter Washington through people’s diplomacy
In June 1977, the United States Congress held its first hearing on Taiwanese human rights, marking an important milestone for Taiwanese democracy and human rights. On November 9, 1983, the United States Senate agreed to hold a public hearing on the future of Taiwan where Lo Fu-chen, the then spokesperson of the Taiwan Tribune, was present as a witness and gave a speech titled “The Future of Taiwan.” All of his testimonies in the hearing were included in the Congressional Record. On November 15, the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations passed the Resolution on the Future of Taiwan, which clearly stated that the future of Taiwan must be resolved peacefully in a way that is not coercive and that is acceptable to the residents of Taiwan. This was put to the vote and passed by the Senate on November 20. In 1987, the then chairperson of World United Formosans for Independence (WUFI) Chang Tsan-hung was invited to give a speech at the United States Department of State. He highlighted that the United States needed to assist the people of Taiwan to complete political reform through democratic self-determination. A Taiwanese independence advocate had entered the United States Department of State for the first time.
On October 18, 1971, the United Nations General Assembly discussed the “problem of Chinese representation.” World United Formosans for Independence (WUFI) launched a demonstration, in which Michael Chen, Hsu Fu-yuan, Wang Powen, Frank Lai, Cheng Shao-liang, Huang Shih-ming and Jean J. Fang handcuffed themselves to the entry of the United Nations and chanted slogans such as “Taiwan’s self-determination.” In addition to highlighting the burdensome nature of “One China,” they also protested the fact that the people of Taiwan had been ignored. In order to globalize the Taiwan issue, the Japanese headquarters simultaneously held a demonstration at Sukiyabashi Park in Ginza, Tokyo, where Koh Se-kai, Ng Chiau-tong and Lin Chi-hsu had themselves chained during the protest.
On November 9, 1983, the United States Senate agreed to hold a public hearing on the future of Taiwan. Lo Fu-chen, the then spokesperson of the Taiwan Tribune, was present as a witness, and all his testimonies were included in the Congressional Record.
In 1987, Chang Tsan-hung gave a speech at the United States Department of State. He pointed out the fictitiousness and illegality of the Chinese Nationalist regime and put forward three suggestions for United States policy toward Taiwan: stopping arms sales to Taiwan; requesting Chiang’s regime to allow the Taiwanese to openly discuss the future of Taiwan; and supporting the right of the blacklisted to return home. A Taiwanese independence advocate had entered the United States Department of State for the first time.
In all kinds of Taiwanese organizations, the position of women as subjects is often not immediately apparent. However, not only do women make outstanding contributions to organization, strategy, interpersonal networks and agenda-setting, but their spheres of concern also extend from family and youth empowerment to democracy, human rights and diplomacy.
◎A staunch force on the road to Taiwanese independence
At the beginning of the movement, only a few female overseas students participated in frontline political actions, such as Kin Birei, the only woman present during the rescue of Liu Wen-chin, and Ho Kang-mei, the only woman to serve as chairperson of a World United Formosans for Independence (WUFI) headquarters in the 20th century. Part of the first generation of female Taiwanese independence movement participants, Kin Birei was an early member of the Taiwan Youth Association, where she helped with the dangerous task of delivering messages. In 1986, Ho Kang-mei and Stella Chen Landauer, a pioneer of modern nursing and medical education in Taiwan, launched the global Women’s Movement for Democracy in Taiwan (the abbreviation WMDIT sounds like ún-tit in Taiwanese, meaning “sure to achieve”). Stella Chen Landauer was fortunate not to have her name on the list of people to be executed by shooting in the wake of the February 28 Incident. However, persecution by the Chinese Nationalist authorities compelled her to leave Taiwan to work in Central and South America, and she was later added to a blacklist for her involvement in the independence movement.
◎Hand in hand along the road to founding a Taiwanese republic
Most Taiwanese independence activists had a determined partner supporting them. Grace Wu of the National Taiwan University College of Medicine assisted Chou Suy-ming in establishing the Formosan Club of the University of Wisconsin and the Formosan Affairs Study Group. Concerned about human rights, she not only applied to establish an Amnesty International branch, but also started a fundraising campaign dedicated to the care of Chen Chu and others who had been incarcerated in the wake of the Formosa Incident (also known as the Kaohsiung Incident). The North American Taiwanese Medical Association (NATMA) and the North America Taiwanese Women’s Association (NATWA) established in the 1980s were both supported by Grace Wu. Mou Chheng-hun, a graduate of National Taiwan University, collaborated with her partner Lo Fu-chen on almost every aspect of the movement, such as by providing human rights assistance, promoting the cause in Taiwan, secretly returning to Taiwan at great risk, and playing a key role in the founding of the Taiwan Tribune. Lu Chien-hui organized a human rights group as early as the 1960s. Through her Japanese friends, she repeatedly sent messages about human rights abuses by the Chinese Nationalist authorities to Amnesty International to internationalize Taiwan’s human rights issues. Lu Chien-hui’s activism also inspired Tina Chang, Chang Tsan-hung’s spouse, to start promoting human rights work in the United States. In 1976, Tina Chang gathered together Taiwanese women living in New York, including Tai Hui-mei, Lin Li-chan, Lin Chien-ho and others, to jointly establish the Committee for Taiwan Human Rights, which aimed to rescue political victims on the island, care for their families, and protest against the Chinese Nationalist Party’s human rights abuses. To effectively combat the Chinese Nationalist Party’s dictatorship, the committee was reorganized into the Formosan Association for Human Rights (FAHR) with the support of New York University professor James Seymour, a representative of Amnesty International USA. Cooperating with Amnesty International, FAHR sent people to Taiwan to carry out human rights investigations, made publications and conducted advocacy tours, as well as lobbied members of Congress to pay attention to human rights in Taiwan. In addition to rescuing political prisoners in Taiwan, the association also subjected the Chinese Nationalist regime to international pressure. After the Formosa Incident (also known as the Kaohsiung Incident), Lu Chien-hui and several comrades established the “Voice of Taiwan Independence” in California, United States. This telephone network not only allowed overseas Taiwanese to learn information about the Taiwanese independence movement more quickly, but also gathered together more opposition forces to the authoritarian regime in Taiwan.
◎Voice of Taiwan
In 1977, Eileen Chang (née Yang), a devout Christian, created the “Voice of Taiwan” in New York, for which she used telephone recordings to broadcast messages from her fellow Taiwanese compatriots and subtle preaching of the Christian gospel. She was later blacklisted for interviewing Shih Ming-teh, who had just been released from prison and had started to work as the director-general of the Tangwai (“outside the party”) movement. Shih Ming-teh was previously prosecuted by the Taiwan Garrison Command as a traitor in the wake of the Formosa Incident (also known as the Kaohsiung Incident). Eileen Chang raised her own funds to keep this “hotline” open so that overseas Taiwanese could quickly get the news coming from the island. As its influence grew, more than 30 places around the world also established “Voice of Taiwan” sub-stations. World United Formosans for Independence (WUFI) also set up “Voice of Taiwan Independence” in California and Tokyo.
Among the very few women who could financially support the Taiwanese independence movement, the most well-known was Inoue Rodon. In 1967, a mysterious subscriber began to provide funds for Taiwan Chinglian (Taiwan Youth) over a long period of time. In 1986, the staffs of Taiwan Chinglian suddenly received notice of Inoue Rodon’s death and learned that a million yen had been left as a donation to his journal. It was only then that he discovered Inoue Rodon was a female doctor called Ng Chhong-bi from Tainan. After learning the true identity of Inoue Rodon, Taiwan Chinglian (Taiwan Youth) published a very sorrowful obituary titled “Everyone Was Crying” (みなが哭いた).
Female Taiwanese independence activists were often on the frontline in supporting political prisoners in Taiwan and demanding respect for human rights.
The phone numbers on this “Voice of Taiwan” leaflet allowed the formation of a community unconstrained by the limits of international borders, enabling the Taiwanese democracy camp to cooperate with and receive immediate support from overseas Taiwanese groups.