On the Eve of Disaster

How the Match Was Laid

DISILLUSIONED LEADERS looked about for help at the end of 1946. The Nationalists from the mainland had quickly proved their true character, but the Formosans were not at all prepared to turn to the Communists for help.

Communism had made no headway in prosperous prewar Formosa. There were no concentrations of industry to produce a radical urban proletariat. There had been full employment and a slowly rising standard of living in town and countryside alike. This was not the proper soil for communism.

Between the two world wars the Japanese had hunted down agents and agitators who entered from Shanghai or Canton or Tokyo, driving them from the island or thrusting them into jail. Organizations suspected of leftist sympathies were kept under strict surveillance. It should be recalled that the Japanese drive to suppress communism began with the Russian revolution, and that it continued with unwavering zeal while Chiang Kai-shek and his son, Ching-kuo, in turn studied communism and communist techniques in Moscow.

When MacArthur's orders freed all political prisoners in the Japanese Empire in 1945, the Communists held in Formosa were released. There were no cheering crowds awaiting them at the penitentiary gates. Some left the island promptly and some returned quietly to their village homes. Events were soon to show that some sixteen months after Japan's surrender there were fewer than fifty self-declared Communists on Formosa in a population exceeding six millions.

But by late 1946 the Nationalists had created conditions altogether favorable for the intrusion and growth of communism.

The Industrial Rehabilitation Officer for the UNRRA team (Allen J. Shackleton of New Zealand) traced the rapid increase in unemployment and the number of strikes, and had this to say:

As I went round the Island, I noticed the tension rising, and reports 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 at 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 reorganization of the Company with Chinese heads and high officials . . . [1]

Labor was bitter and restless; the Government maintained that the unemployed numbered no more than 10,000, but the UNRRA specialists placed the estimated figure at more than 300,000, which did not include under-employed Formosans who had lost normal means of livelihood and had withdrawn to the shelter of family homesteads upon the crowded farms.

The sense of crisis was particularly acute at the capital; the worst administrative abuses were felt there, but the exodus of Formosans to the countryside carried word of conditions at Taipei into every outlying community.

Strikes and demonstrations grew in number and variety. Employees began to walk out when wages were not paid, or paid only in part, or when the Government management refused to entertain petitions for improved working conditions. Within a short time scores of important plants were shut down, or were working on schedules reduced by strikes and temporary walkouts. Public Health Service employees went on strike. Bus drivers at Taipei struck when they were told that henceforth they would have to pay out-of-pocket for any damage suffered by their vehicles, regardless of the circumstances involved. Workers at the Government printing plant walked out. Students rioted in Kaohsiung in a battle with the Government Railway guards. Elsewhere students refused to attend classes and parents supported their demands for reform in the school administrations. As with students everywhere in the world when caught up in economic and social crises of this magnitude, Formosan student leaders proposed direct action and radical, prompt solution to problems whose complex and remote roots they could not apprehend.

By mid-February, 1947 food shortages were felt again, and rice riots occurred with increasing frequency throughout the island. Here was tinder for rebellion.

Are Formosans Brothers, Cousins, or Enemy Aliens?

The immediate application of the new constitution after December, 1947, was understood by Formosan leaders to be the final test of Chiang's "sincerity" and the Chinese Government's policies. Warnings were going up everywhere that Nanking would have to extend to Formosa some semblance of equal treatment or risk the emergence of a belligerent "autonomy faction" which could easily be transformed into a Formosan faction demanding "independence." This might be the signal for a minor maritime war on Chiang's flank while he endeavored to hold the Nationalist lines across north China.

There was no agreement among Formosans as to the best course of action. Joshua W. K. Liao published bitter attacks upon Nationalist policy which had turned Formosa over for exploitation by factions within the Party and Government. He warned that past history suggested the dangers of Formosan separatism; the Formosan desire to be reunited with postwar China was very rapidly wasting away.

On December 20, 1946, Formosan representatives to the National Assembly at Nanking addressed a letter to the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Wang Shih-chieh) noting that Formosans overseas (meaning here, Tokyo) were being treated contemptuously by diplomatic and consular officers of China, and were not always recognized as Chinese citizens by the governments of foreign states. Wang's reply contained this paragraph:

Since the restoration of Taiwan, this Ministry has instructed all Chinese consular services by telegram to consider Formosans as overseas Chinese and given them protection. This Ministry has also notified all foreign national authorities that all Formosans have been restored to their Chinese nationality since October 25, 1945. A reply was received from the British Government stating that it will consider Formosans as nationals of a friendly nation before the signing of the peace treaty with Japan. The U.S. Government has not yet agreed as to the official restoration of the Chinese nationality for the Formosans and negotiations are being carried out. [2]

Meanwhile the Central Daily News at Chungking had written editorially (on December 25) that Formosa was thinking of independence or of "subjugating itself to the United States." This provoked a prompt and indignant reply from many quarters. The Taiwan Political Reconstruction Association and editors of the local Formosan press most vehemently denied the allegation. Formosan representatives to the National Assembly had this to say:

Nothing can be further from the mental state of the Formosans [than thought of subjugation to the United States]. Such reports are certain to impede the unification of our nation. We have heard such rumors and are greatly afraid that the continual repetition of this false information may cause the rumors to materialize into truth. But these are the facts:

1. Taiwan was the base for the Chengs' struggle against the Manchu dynasty for the restoration of the Ming dynasty, [in the 17th century] and was also the base for the struggles safeguarding our territory against Japan in 1894. Formosan's love of our fatherland and its people is by no means less passionate than that of the people of any other Province. Thoughtful Formosans deem it most shameful to be pro-American or pro-Russian.

2. Taiwan is prepared for the Constitution; the fact that Formosans requested the early realization of local autonomy and the public election of magistrates and mayors means that Formosans are zealously desirous of a constitutional administration, and does not mean that Formosans are anti-Government.

3. It is the corrupt and greedy officials from the mainland that Formosans abhor most. We are always enthusiastic in our welcome, and loath to part with good officials and intelligent people who come to Taiwan. It is greedy and corrupt persons who, in fear that they may not be able to maintain their positions under severe criticism, insist as a camouflage for their own faults, that Formosans are exclusivists.

By spreading such groundless rumors as those that the Formosans are thinking of becoming independent, are pro-American, are Bolshevised, or respect only force, such persons are instigating the Government to resort to high-handed actions against Formosans in order to fortify their own prestige.

In addition, those prominent people who come to inspect Taiwan have had very few opportunities to approach local residents and in that way may open the way to the alienation of the Formosans from the mainland because of prejudiced observations carried away which are very obnoxious to our people . . . [3]

Commenting on the issue later (January 20 the editor of the Ta Ming Pao at Taipei observed that "These arguments can be summarized in one sentence, that while Formosans are requesting complete local self-rule, the Government is afraid of losing its control over the people." He noted that caution was necessary on both sides, with compromise and genuine effort to reach mutual understanding.

Confusion of thought among younger Formosans was illustrated in the January issue of the Formosan Magazine. It carried as its cover a full-page picture of the Chinese national flag, but its leading editorial was a long and bitterly worded catalogue of grievances. In describing the disillusionment which had overtaken Formosa in 1946, it called for "reflection on the part of our countrymen from the mainland," and for patience as well as action on the part of the Formosans. The Taiwan Youth Report for January, 1947, hinted at the underlying desire for autonomy inherent in a frontier island:

Now that Taiwan has been returned to China . . . darkness, corruption, counter-revolution and anti-democracy are not out of existence. The present literati, scholars and intellectuals are waging a determined fight against these evils, until they are wholly destroyed. They understand the fight is the inheritance from this traditional spirit of Taiwanese Culture. [4]

On January 3 the Government newspaper Hsin Sheng Pao said that "as far as Taiwan is concerned, we are now badly in need of political and administrative personnel due to strong Japanese suppression in the past," and urged the Formosans to humble themselves and learn the techniques of democracy from national leaders who had come over from the mainland to guide them. To this, the Formosan paper Ta Ming Pao retorted that all the fine talk of democracy merely clothed the personal ambitions of Chen Yi's Commissioners and their ilk.

Thus far the conflict remained only a war of words, but the words were becoming increasingly sharp. Appeals to members of the Central Government often contained thinly disguised hints that if Nanking did nothing to improve the situation soon, there would be serious trouble on Formosa. As we reported to Washington (through our Embassy at Nanking) "Published articles, telegrams and editorials reflect the confusion which has arisen from a desire to become at once a model province of China, but one with a large degree of autonomy, cleansed of the corrupt administration of Chen Yi. Above all, the Taiwanese wish to remain aloof from the mainland civil war, which they feel the Central Government can ill-afford."

About this time Thomas Liao traveled about the island delivering a series of public lectures on "Questions in Practicing the Constitution." Constitutional right to criticize the Government was the keenest issue of the day. The Superior Court just then dismissed charges of libel which had been preferred by the Government against Chiang Wei-chuan, President of the Chamber of Commerce, but the Courts at the same time resumed trial of Wang Tien-teng on charges of "undermining public confidence in authority," through his campaign to expose extreme corruption in the Kaohsiung Police Department.

Much of the conflict which began as bitter personal and individual dispute became generalized antagonism. A prominent doctor in Tainan City with great good will had attempted to help the new Mayor of Tainan in 1946. Soon becoming aware of the Mayor's character and of his administration, he rose at last in the City Council to air a list of charges of incompetence and gross corruption. He began his interrogation with these words:

I worked many months close to you. I greatly admire Chinese from Foochow in general, like yourself, for three reasons--your ability to use scissors, your ability to use a knife, and your ability to use clippers [i.e. all Foochow men are tailors, cooks, or barbers].

In these fields no Formosan can compete with you. But I don't know why you put so many able Foochow people in office, displacing even the lowest Formosan workers.

The Municipal Council meeting broke up in a tumult, the story of the Mayor's loss of face instantly became the talk of the town, and on the following day a crowd of Foochow immigrants attempted to mob and kill the doctor, who was soon enough to lose his life.

On January 9 it was announced that the Land Tax would be increased 30 per cent "to conform to the Central Government's regulations." The increased revenue would be used for educational purposes, said the Governor.

No one believed this for a moment. During 1946 the physical assets of the island-wide educational system had been looted thoroughly, there was no money left in the local treasuries, and the posts vacated recently by the Japanese teaching staff and administration had been filled by mainland riff- raff - the hangers-on too unimportant to merit better opportunities for graft. "Shoes can't be repaired in Shanghai; all the cobblers are on Formosa." From this day until the outbreak of the Incident, student strikes increased in frequency throughout the island.

No Constitution in 1947?

On January 10 - the day following the staged "anti-American demonstration" at Taipei - the Governor-General delivered the first of three great blows. He announced that China's new constitution would not apply to Formosa when it went into effect on the mainland on December 25, 1947. The mainland Chinese, he said, were advanced enough to enjoy the privileges of constitutional government, but because of long years of despotic Japanese rule, the Formosans were politically retarded and were not capable of carrying on self-government in an intelligent manner. Two or three more years of Nationalist Party "tutelage" would be required to prepare them for full citizenship.

On January 12 it was announced that "for economy's sake" more than 20 percent of the Government's employees would be discharged. The Formosans knew that this was intended to cover the discharge of island natives who remained in the government service, in order to make way for newcomers.

Formosan discontent was very near the bursting point. Foreign observers found it incredible that the Chen Yi Government could be so blind to the signs of crisis. What lay behind this?

Formosa and the Crisis at Shanghai

January had brought a major crisis at Shanghai. Chiang was seeking desperately to obtain another half billion dollars as a "loan" from the United States, but Washington was not showing much enthusiasm. There was a growing possibility that the whole Nationalist Party and government structure would collapse. Each faction, and each man, would then take what be could and run for safety.

At Taipei we were dimly aware of a second behind-the-scenes struggle concerning Formosa. If the Nationalist Government collapsed on the mainland, Formosa would be a most advantageous place; in a time of general civil war, the island could be cut off, to achieve the autonomy so desired by the Formosans, but certainly not under their control or in their interest.

We were aware that the conflict between the local Government and the Chinese Air Force was continuing, with serious clashes from time to time. Who would control the principal airfield at Taipei?

There was a flurry of visitors, men of high rank from Nanking. The Vice President of the Executive Yuan (Wang Yun-wu) flew in, the Minister of Communications (Yu Fei-peng) appeared, the Chief of the Military Service Bureau arrived, and the Acting Commander-in-Chief of the Chinese Navy (Kuei Yung-ching) showed up.

A series of administrative conferences were held on January 10, 13, and 16. We wondered if they were here to prepare the way for a retreat from the mainland.

The very delicate subject of conscription was brought forward again, shadowed - like the constitutional issue - by the question of legality in an occupied territory. High officers of the Nationalist Army addressed a convocation of mayors and magistrates. On the transparent excuse that enforced conscription would be "worse than Japanese methods," the Army proposed to avoid the legal issue by having "voluntary" conscription, to be handled through the Governor's Civil Affairs Department rather than through the Army.

This was awkward. On the one hand the Formosans had been clamoring for an opportunity to form a Formosan Home Guard for service limited to the island itself. For obvious reasons Chen Yi was not ready to arm Formosans who might drive the whole lot of carpetbaggers out of Formosa. On the other hand, there had been ugly rumors that the few Formosan volunteers who enlisted with the understanding they would be used only on the island, were in fact being shipped out and those who had deserted had been summarily shot. The Army's proposal was generally interpreted as a Central Government move designed to empty Formosa of hot-headed youths, thereby making it a safer place for Chiang's retreat.

February was to bring other evidence that Chen Yi's official family was seeking an arrangement to ensure complete control of the local economy if Shanghai slid into the vortex of mainland civil war.

The Administrative Conference also produced the Governor's announcement that local popular elections would not be held until sometime in 1949. The outcry was keen, prompting the local Nationalist Party organization to propose a compromise - an indefinite delay, with elections to be held before 1949 "if the public were ready and preparations were complete."

The Taiwan Political Reconstruction Association promptly appealed to the members of the Central Government at Nanking, saying in part:

In Taiwan there were once complete census records, detailed cadastral surveys, complete police nets, good sanitary conditions, convenient transportation, and popular education. The guild system was popularized, and all waste land brought under cultivation. The general cultural level in Taiwan is high, and Formosans are possessed of sufficient comprehension of, and ability for, local autonomy. In other words, we were quite safe to leave the doors open at night; things lost in the road were not pocketed; every piece of land was fully utilized and merchandise well-distributed.

At present, due solely to the administrative inefficiency of the Government, a peculiar situation which is strange to Formosans has been brought about, and thus opportunities are not available to able Formosans.

For the purpose of restoring a comfortable and civilized Taiwan, the Provincial Government authorities have only to reform their own inefficient system and noxious attitudes, and to try to recover swiftly the pre-war conditions. At the same time they must be more reasonable in the appointment of officials the Government need not begin everything from the very beginning. [5]

This idyllic picture of prewar conditions of security and contentment was not precisely accurate, but it did show that by the beginning of 1947 the Formosans looked back on the Japanese era as the base line against which to measure the performance of the Nationalist Chinese regime. While the older leaders protested devotion to Mother China, the younger ones began to look elsewhere for alternatives.

On January 15 a group of angry young leaders - representative of the financial and educated elite of the island - drew up a petition addressed to General George C. Marshall, who had recently become Secretary of State at Washington. More than one hundred and fifty signatures were attached, of which some represented spokesmen for organizations or groups of private citizens, numbering about eight hundred in all.

But when it was ready, and a suitable number of copies had been made, the leaders decided to delay presentation to the American Consulate; appeals to the National Assembly, to the Central Government and to the Chinese public might even yet induce the Generalissimo to intervene at Taipei.

The February Monopolies

On February 1 Chen Yi delivered a second great blow to Formosan hopes. The Government's policy for the sale of confiscated Japanese properties was announced. Instantly it was apparent that few Formosans would be able to compete with mainland Chinese either through cash purchases or through credit arrangements.

A great protest rally was proposed. Chen Yi promptly forbade it and doubled police patrols under pretense of "cleaning up the city," "enforcing traffic regulations" and "preparing the celebration of the New Life Movement."

The traditional Chinese landlord system was too well known to be welcome again on Formosa; it was evident that the relatively efficient Japanese landlords, the Mitsuis, Iwasakis and Imperial Household agents, would soon be replaced by agents for the Kungs, the Soongs and the Chiangs. A petition was addressed to the Governor, asking him to alter the auction plan to permit Formosan tenants to have first chance to buy, applying rents already paid through 1945 and 1946 to the final purchase price, or to allow them to bid in properties at 30 per cent less than the highest bidder. If these failed, then let the Government retain ownership of confiscated lands, leasing them on long-term, low-rental contracts.

Chen Yi countered with the specious argument that modern times called for big machinery and big land-units, and that Formosans and mainland Chinese should form collective farms.

When public protest continued, the Governor on February 25 condemned Formosan criticism of land policies as "immoral," and angrily brushed aside all further argument.

We have noted the long-established relationship between Chen Yi (as Governor of Fukien Province), wartime coastal trade with Japan, and the powerful China Merchants Steam Navigation Company.

Obviously in a time of national crisis at Nanking, basic control of the island economy would lie in the hands of the men who controlled shipping, and were in a position to cut off Formosa from the mainland.

On February 1, 1947, all seaborne commerce entering or leaving the island - including all foreign shipping - was brought under rigid control. The Taiwan Navigation Company (based on the confiscated Japanese shipping interests) was now reorganized with a capital of two billion Taiwan (Formosan) yen, jointly subscribed by the Taipei government and by the China Merchants Steam Navigation Company. Chen Yi s Commissioner of Communications (Jen) became the second in command, under Hsu, the Managing Director of the CMSNC.

It was a neat arrangement. What the quid pro quo may have been for Chiang's approval we do not know, but at the moment he was desperately in need of more money, and was negotiating with a mixture of begging and blackmail, for a half-billion dollar "loan" from the United States.

The new corporation was authorized to control all export trade carried in vessels of more than 100 tons capacity, and all import trade destined for use by any government agency, including all the confiscated Japanese agricultural, industrial and commercial establishments. All incoming UNRRA shipments would be subject to its control. All foreign merchants and all agencies for foreign shipping companies fell under this new administration. Nothing would move in and out of Formosa without paying toll. If foreign companies wished to carry cargo in their own ships, they would have to secure costly licenses from the Government shipping syndicate, and to pay heavy fees on each transaction. Furthermore, a percentage of the value of all export and import cargoes had to be handed over to the Taiwan Trading Company.

Concurrently another syndicate was announced which would control all internal transportation and warehousing. It was in business, but it was also empowered to grant or to withhold license for all independent rival carriers and warehousing agencies, and to collect a percentage of the value of services rendered by private agencies.

On February 12 the Finance Commission announced new regulations governing foreign currencies and new rates of exchange. Persons who applied to the Bank of Taiwan--the only legal source--found that there were no dollars to be had, but it was soon recognized that the best black-market source for dollars lay within the body of government officials themselves. Scarcity drove the price of dollars upward, but any Formosan who dealt secretly with a government official on a private basis instantly made himself liable to prosecution, and confiscation of his properties. There was no guarantee that bushmoney paid to one officer (or a clerk privy to a transaction) would prevent another from attempting blackmail.

The situation prevailed throughout the island; palms had to be greased and squeeze had to be paid.

On February 15 the British agent for Jardine-Matheson, one of the largest and oldest foreign firms, went down to Keelung to greet an expected British ship. New sets of regulations had been issued that morning which required clearances, in advance, from the Customs Office. The Harbor Office would not act until it received a set of clearance papers from the Taiwan Navigation Company. These were issued without inquiry or apparent reference to the new regulations, but when the foreigner returned to the Harbor Master he met with verbal abuse and an order that the papers must also be cleared by the Mayor of Keelung City.

In due course, the Mayor was found, already aboard the ship, searching it. There were no Customs Officers in sight, but the vessel swarmed with the Mayor's police. Soldiers at dockside and aboard blocked the foreign agent's entry upon his own ship.

The Mayor now disclosed that be was responsible for currency control in the Keelung area, but that the police had final authority in all port affairs, and that they must be satisfied, which of course meant satisfied with suitable informal payments.

The Mayor could produce no documentary evidence or written authority for this new position, blustering that the instructions had come directly from the Governor-General who had made them up himself."

Meanwhile all through-transit passengers remaining aboard as well as those coming ashore were forced to disclose all currencies. There was no confiscation, but those landing were forced to exchange Chinese National Currency at a ruinous rate. The individual policemen then offered to be "bankers" in the cheaper black market.

While this confusing search was in progress, the foreign agent was notified that all cargo had to be discharged into the warehouses of the Tung Yung Company, a subsidiary of the Transportation Commissioner's organization. There it would lie until it was sealed over to a Forwarding Company warehouse, under police certification.

The cargo in question had already been sold to the Taiwan Customs organization for use in repairing the Customs building, but under police orders the stevedores refused to discharge it into the Customs warehouse. Nevertheless, the Taiwan Trading Company now offered to release the cargo to the Customs at the Trading Company's price. If the price demanded were not met, then the cargo must be returned to the point of origin aboard a Taiwan Navigation Company ship, with suitable charges for interim storage and transport.

When this fantastic procedure was announced, the Mayor stated blandly that be was acting under instructions which could not be revealed.

If the reader is confused, he simply shares the confusion of the foreign shipping agent and of all others attempting then to do business in Formosa. It meant in essence that every department and agency in Chen Yi's government was becoming infected with the feverish uncertainty then sweeping Shanghai. The principle of the day was to make what money one could, in whatever fashion, and to be ready to run when the great crash came. In this instance various units of the local Government were trying to squeeze one another, the National Government, and the foreign trader.

On the day following this performance at Keelung (i.e. on February 16) the Taiwan Navigation Company published its own version of the new shipping regulations, dubbing them an announcement of the Taiwan Trading Company. To rub it in a bit, Jardine-Matheson's agent was presented with a copy of the required new regulation forms by a representative of a rival tea trading company. Jardine's - so long the dominant trading company in China, the "Princely Hong" -was being put in its place on Formosa.

Thereafter (according to the new rules) the Taiwan Navigation Company would handle all of Jardine's business and Jardine would no longer have control of its own ships and cargoes while in Formosan waters. The new Navigation Company would allot cargoes and establish rates, and all passengers and freight shipments would be booked only through the Taiwan Navigation Company offices.

On February 18 the Government newspaper published four new regulations "to facilitate clearance of commodities and collections of bills of exchange," and three additional new regulations notified to the public by the Navigation Company.

Meanwhile on February 15 the Bank of Taiwan had moved one step further to eliminate all competition from private Formosan interests. On the Governor's orders, the Bank was instructed to recall 20 per cent of all loans outstanding to private merchants for commercial purposes. Formosans who lacked good connections within Finance Commissioner Yen's office were unable to pay, many went at once into bankruptcy, and by late February private commercial enterprise throughout Formosa was virtually paralyzed. Many merchants closed shop; those who had capital funds prepared to live on them while they lasted, and many individuals began to stockpile food and fuel. Many more retired from the cities to ancestral homes in the countryside, there to "wait and see."

At this critical moment in mid-February Yen Chia-kan himself was in Nanking, conveniently absent when these extreme blows were struck at private enterprise.

It was widely speculated that Chen Yi and his men were preparing for a break with the mainland, anticipating a final chaotic dissolution of the economic and political structure at Shanghai. Some of the underlings - in the third and fourth levels of the government hierarchy - had been too hasty in issuing the ultimate monopoly regulations at Taipei. In the event, before the end of February, the crisis at Shanghai eased temporarily, Nanking was still in control, and both the United States and Britain could be expected to lodge strong protests concerning interference with legitimate trade in Formosa. The extravagant orders were rescinded or modified almost at once but the psychological damage had been done. Public confidence had fled.

While these economic moves and countermoves were taking place at Taipei I had occasion to proceed to Kaohsiung (on February 14) with the Reports Officer of the UNRRA group. There was one first-class compartment aboard the express and this we shared with five Nationalist Chinese Navy officers led by Commander P. H. Hsu. Commander Hsu promptly let it be known that be had spent two years training in the United States, that he did not like America or Americans, and that he wished we would all get out of Formosa. To underscore the point he bluntly asked us to move out of the first-class compartment. "It is too crowded," he said, "for us to put up with you."

I was on my way to Kaohsiung in my consular capacity, to meet the U.S.S. Frank Knox, due in port for a "courtesy call" on February 15. According to arrangement, therefore, we were at the Kaohsiung Customs Shed at seven-thirty in the morning, having been advised that the ship lay off port and expected to dock at eight o'clock.

But to our surprise it lay beyond the harbor entrance for three hours, unable to get clearance from the Harbor Master who refused to grant entry until he had special orders from the Commandant of the Chinese Naval Base five miles away. There had been ample notification that the Frank Knox was coming to Formosa. At last it was signaled in, but despite Captain Berthoff's courteous message to Captain Kao, Naval Commandant, we received no response.

I was piped aboard and piped ashore again before an entertained crowd of Formosans lounging on the pier, but the official atmosphere about the town was frigid; perhaps the Chinese were interpreting this unwelcome naval show to be a hint that the United States Government was indeed in a position to interfere on Formosa if need be. In point of fact the U.S.S. Frank Knox had delivered to my care nothing more than twelve cases of liquid "consular supplies" which had been waiting for space available transport from the Consulate-General in Shanghai. Perhaps it was a "show of force," but there were no deep plots and no secret messages involved.

A Formosan Appeal to General Marshall, Secretary of State

In mid-February the young Formosans (Stanway Cheng's "communists") at last brought to the Consulate the long petition which they had addressed to General Marshall. It was addressed only to the Secretary of State, and not to the President; according to the Regulations it would not automatically have to be forwarded to Washington. Nevertheless, it would have to be reported, and someone in Higher Authority might desire to see it.

If someone had presented us with a leper's bell and begging bowl he could not have been less welcome.

The English was opaque, but the meaning was crystal clear. The text follows:

We are young Formosans. We'll shout our sorrows from the bottom of our hearts, in order to appeal [to] our respected United Nations and all brethren abroad.

Our fine island, beautiful Formosa, now are trampled away by Chinese maladministration. The misery are full ... [such as] we never experienced before.

. . . our own democratic organization must be reconstructed. This is all our target mark . . . Before the Constitution are took in effect we should take notice of the nationalities of Formosans are still a pending question among the United Nations. With this unshakeable fact, are there any [obligations that] we have to obey their order to dig our own graves?

We are afraid the United Nations recognizes Formosans as similar to Chinese. We are sure that Formosans have the blood connection with them, but you should inspect our nature [which] have already been [changed] and promoted for 50 years [through] Japanese culture in every sort of scholarship. Especially we have learnt patriotism and anti-tyranny [because] of them.

The Cairo Congress drove us into this "Living Hell." We 6,3000,000 Formosans since half a century have not been blessed. The representatives at Cairo should take responsibility to this fact that we struggle with our misfortune at this moment. We strictly protest the decision, which meant to put all Formosans into slavery life.

The United Nations should pay attention to overseas Dutch Indonesia, French Indo-China, Burma and our neighboring Philippines. For what are they struggling? Exactly, they are fighting for a freedom alive. In our case is the same.

The revolutional gun and atomic bomb against the incompetent government is the pen at first. Adding the United Nations sympathy and friendly intervention to the Chinese authorities is the only way. Because Formosa is not yet perfectly returned to China before the Peace Treaty concludes between the United Nations and Japan . . .

In these circumstances we fortunately found Formosa still has a hope; the young Formosans mostly have been educated and have a fighting spirit which are the most essential in order to decide our own destiny.

Please give these young Formosans a chance in political training under your protection and let them have a self-confidence. Then we are sure that a misgovernment would be replaced.

In conclusion we dare to say that the shortest way to the Reformation of the Provincial Government is wholly to depend upon the United Nations joint Administration in Formosa, and cut the political and economical concern with China proper for some years. Otherwise we Formosans will become the stark naked.

We hope we shall have a good reaction from you in the near future. We are thankful for your kind help and wish you have a good luck.

The petitioners were led by young men who were at the heart of the Formosan Youth Movement and were quite prepared to "throw the rascals out" - or at least to try. They saw no reason to accept Chen Yi's racketeers; Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek were by now names symbolizing all that was reactionary and backward in contemporary China.

Some, unknowing, had only a few more days to live, but it was in these days they prepared the March issue of the "radical" Formosan Magazine using for the most part materials provided at their request by the United States Information Service. In this March issue Joshua Liao continued his series entitled "Whither Formosa?" in which he was developing the theme of historical separatism as a traditional character of Formosan relations with the mainland.

But there were other articles concerning the Queen of England, rural education, and Free Speech in the United States, one concerned Errol Flynn. A featured article was entitled "A Citizen Speaks at U. S. Town Meeting." There was--in this "radical journal"--even an article by the American Consul himself entitled "Taiwan in Transition." Letters to the editor begged for more opportunities for the public to hear Englishmen and Americans speak in public address.

A number of UNRRA team members were happy to volunteer instruction in the English language for which there was an eager demand. One series of "American and English Conversation Association Classes" was conducted in two concurrent sessions while the Formosan sponsors tried to find meeting space large enough for a third. There were daily English Conversation Classes broadcast from Taipei.

By late February, however, some of the more restive and impatient young men began to question American propaganda. The American Consulate was showing two such different faces, there was no sign that the Embassy at Nanking nor the Government at Washington had given the slightest attention to the state of affairs in Formosa.

Divisions began to appear among some of, the older leaders as they all sought for a way out of the dismal situation. Other voices in China proper were urging them to beware of the United States, saying that Washington would merely use Formosa in its own interests as it was using Chiang as a puppet on the mainland. Old friends came to me in despair to warn that it was "now or never" if some gesture by Ambassador Stuart, some expression of interest by General MacArthur at Tokyo, or some pronouncement at Washington were to provide a check upon the Nationalists and Chen Yi before true disaster struck the island.

The tinder was there, the train was laid, and the explosion came late in the evening of February 27, 1947.

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contents of Formosa Betrayed


1. Allen E. Shackleton (UNRRA-New Zealand), Formosa Calling, P. 43, typescript of article published at London, n.d., 82 pp.

2. Ta Ming Pao (Taipei), January 20, 1947, quoting a Central News Agency dispatch from Nanking,

3. Ta Ming Pao (Taipei), January 20, 1947, quoting an earlier Central News Agency dispatch from Nanking.

4. Taiwan Youth Report (Taipei), January, 1947, P. 23.

5. Ta Ming Pao (Taipei), January 20, 1947.