Saturday, 23 July 2011

Learn from history as we build the future

By Hsueh Li-kuei 薛理桂
Newspapers have reported the story of a woman named Chang Yi-Lung (張旖容), who took it upon herself to search for letters written by her maternal grandfather Huang Wen-kung (黃溫恭) to his wife before he was executed in 1953, during the period of repression known as the White Terror.
Chang discovered that her grandfather had written five wills, which he wanted to be given to his wife. Sadly, this wish was not carried out and it was not until 2009, 56 years later, that Huang’s granddaughter found his last letters, by which time Huang’s wife was losing her mental faculties and was unable to understand her late husband’s final wishes.
Chang should be admired for her determination to uncover the truth. As the granddaughter of a victim of political repression, she has three demands. First, she calls on the government to make an inventory of items belonging to victims and to trace their surviving relatives and return these items to them. Second, she wants the authorities to go through the archives of various departments and to establish a legal basis for the transfer of documents when government departments are dissolved. Third, she wants a formal apology.
Former South African president Nelson Mandela is also a victim of political repression, having spent 27 years in prison for his beliefs and actions. When Mandela was released from jail, the South African government returned his prison writings to him. In Taiwan, the National Archives Administration (NAM) once held an exhibition of documents related to the Kaohsiung Incident in 1979, at which it exhibited private letters written by former political prisoner Shih Ming-teh (施明德), who later served as chairman of the Democratic Progressive Party. Shih objected to the fact that those writings had not been returned to him, but were instead put on show without his permission.
As the national department in charge of archives in Taiwan, the national archives should respond to Chang’s two archive-related demands by checking the records of all departments connected with political repression and the White Terror, and make a complete inventory of documents related to victims of political repression, including letters, confessions, wills and private notes written by them, or about them, when they were under investigation and imprisoned. The archives should also instruct all departments to inform surviving relatives about these documents so that they can claim them.
When it comes to departments that have been dissolved, such as the Taiwan Garrison Command, the national archives should make an inventory of the archives itself, as Chang has suggested. Laws and regulations relating to the transfer of archives should be reviewed and amended if necessary. If private writings or personal items belonging to victims of repression are found among the archives of these disbanded departments, surviving relatives should likewise be informed so that they can claim them.
This year marks the centenary of the Republic of China, and it is time to examine and reflect on the wrongful victimization of people for their political beliefs in the not-too-distant past. Past wrongs cannot be changed, but the future is in our hands. Chang suggested building a wall bearing the names of the perpetrators of repression, which would serve as a warning. It would be equally worthy to build a wall of remembrance bearing the names of the victims, perhaps in the Jingmei Human Rights Memorial and Cultural Park in Taipei. It would remind people of past wrongs, and alert this and future generations to the importance of preventing such tragedies from ever happening again.
Hsueh Li-kuei is a professor at the Graduate Institute of Library, Information and Archival Studies at National Chengchi University.

Taipei Times
Sun, Jul 24, 2011 - Page 8

Return the White Terror victims’ letters, Ma says

TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE:White Terror victim Huang Wen-kung's son Huang Ta-yi suggested that the government rename the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall to 'White Terror Memorial Hall'

By Tseng Wei-chen  /  Staff Reporter
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday said he would ask the National Archive to search for notes, writings or letters by victims of the White Terror era and return them to their families.
Ma made the remarks at a ceremony held at Jieshou Park in Taipei yesterday in memory of those who suffered political oppression during the Martial Law era.
During the White Terror era, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government killed tens of thousands of suspected dissidents, many intellectuals and members of the social elite.
In his speech, Ma said the relevant files at the National Archive contained in excess of 2 million pages, and that he hoped to draft a plan and allot funding for the undermanned National Archive to return the victims’ private letters, notes and writings to their families.
Ma added that he hoped the families of victims who would like the documents would contact the National Archive.
Ma went on to say that preventing the outbreak of war would avoid the same tragedy from happening again, adding that it was the primary reason why he has worked to ameliorate cross-strait tensions since assuming the presidency in 2008 because he hoped that the “Chinese people [中華民族] would never fight one another again.”
During the ceremony, letters by White Terror victim Huang Wen-kung (黃溫恭) were returned to his family. Huang was sentenced to death for allegedly joining a communist organization and working for the Chinese Communist Party.
Huang’s son, Huang Ta-yi (黃大一), said the Republic of China government was more inhuman than the Qing Dynasty government, saying the latter did not confiscate revolutionaries’ private letters.
“We’ve waited 58 years for [the return of] these letters, but how many 58 years does a man’s life have?” Huang Ta-yi said.
Huang Ta-yi also suggested the government change the name of Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall to “White Terror Memorial Hall.”
Taipei Times
Sat, Jul 16, 2011 - Page 1

Group urges return of 'detained' letters

NO MAIL:Letters written for loved ones by political prisoners before they were executed during the White Terror continue to be held in government archives

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff Reporter
The Taiwan Association for Truth and Reconciliation yesterday called on the government to return letters written by political prisoners before their execution to their families.

“We hereby ask President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to hand these private letters ‘detained’ by the state for decades to relatives [of the executed prisoners] and apologize to them on behalf of the state,” association chairman Chen Chun-hung (陳俊宏) told a news conference in Taipei.

“We would also like to ask the National Archives Administration [NAA] to create a set of standard operations procedures to handle the delivery of such letters and to take the initiative to find all such letters in its collections of documents,” Chen said.

Though the actual number of political prisoners executed during the White Terror — the period from 1949 to 1987 when martial law was imposed on the country — is still not known, an accepted estimate is more than 3,000 people. While many of the prisoners had written letters to their loved ones before they were executed, most such letters remain in government archives.

Family members of Huang Wen-kung (黃溫恭), who was executed in 1952 for alleged involvement in communist activities, did not know that Huang had left words for them until 2007 when his granddaughter, Chang Yi-lung (張旖容), learned about her grandfather’s execution from an exhibition on the Martial Law Era and obtained copies of five letters Huang wrote addressing each member of the family.

Although Huang’s two children were fortunate enough to learn about their father’s love to them despite the decades-long delay, Huang’s wife was suffering from dementia at the time the letters were discovered and passed away not long after.

“These letters could be time sensitive and the government should hand them to families of executed political prisoners as soon as possible so that they can read them in time,” Huang’s daughter, Huang Chun-lan (黃春蘭), said at the press conference.

Although the Huangs were finally able to read Huang Wen-kung’s letters, the NAA only agreed to give them replicas, not original copies.

“We asked for the original copies, but the NAA only told us not to worry because the original copies were well kept,” Huang Chun-lan said. “But original copies bear a different meaning — maybe we might decide to give them to a museum in the end, but it’s our call.”

Huang Wen-kung’s son, Timothy Huang (黃大一), said the way the government handles the issue shows the lack of sincerity it has toward bringing about reconciliation.

“I wrote to the president last year and the Presidential Office replied that they have handed the issue to the Executive Yuan. It’s been over a year and I haven’t heard back,” he said. “We’re not the only family with the wish; the government should show its sincerity in bringing about true reconciliation.”

Taipei Times
Fri, Feb 18, 2011 - Page 2

Letters from the White Terror era

DYING WISH Fifty-six years after his death, the family of Huang Wen-kung, who was executed during the White Terror era, finally read his message of love and courage

By Hsieh Wen-hua  /  STAFF REPORTER
As is the case with many victims of political repression during the White Terror era, the death of dentist Huang Wen-kung (黃溫恭) was long a taboo subject in his family.
Now, a secret that even Huang’s wife and his daughter did not know has been pieced together and brought to light by his 29-year-old granddaughter, Chang Yi-Lung (張旖容).
“I was amazed to see that my grandfather had written five letters to express his dying wish before he was executed 56 years ago,” Chang said.
Because Huang’s executioners did not give his last letters to his family, his wish that his body be used for research went unfulfilled. Instead, he was buried at the Liuzhangli (六張犁) cemetery in Taipei. It was also to the Huang family’s regret that his widow was not able to read her husband’s words of love and sorrow at parting.

Huang was executed by firing squad soon after Chang’s mother, Huang Chun-lan (黃春蘭), was born, so he never had a chance to see his daughter.
Chang said her family hardly ever mentioned her grandfather during her childhood.
But when she was in senior high school, she came across a sentence in a book her uncle was writing about hypnosis: “My father was executed by the Chinese Nationalist Party [KMT].” It was only then that she realized there was more to her grandfather’s death than she had been told.
Chang tried to get some answers from her family, but all her mother would say was: “He died, that’s all.” After that, Chang decided to try and dig up government files about her father’s case.
Chang knew her grandfather’s full name from her mother’s identification card. While reading A People’s History of the 228 Incident and the White Terror by Lan Po-chou (藍博洲), Chang found an account of her grandfather’s arrest.

Two years ago, when the Ministry of Education under the then-Democratic Progresive Party (DPP) administration held an exhibition entitled Farewell, President Chiang [Kai-shek], someone also came across an online copy of a document signed by Chiang ordering Huang Wen-kung’s execution.
Chang found out that her grandfather had originally been sentenced to 15 years in prison, but dictator Chiang changed it to a death sentence at the stroke of a pen.
Last year, when Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), chairman of China’s Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, visited Taiwan, it brought back memories of the Martial Law era to some, prompting them to post requests for stories about the Martial Law period on Internet bulletin boards.
A post by Chang reads: “Martial law is really not so far away. At the least, my family was affected by it.”
In response to her comment, a student at National Taiwan University wrote her a letter suggesting that she visit the National Archives Administration and ask to view the dossier on her grandfather’s case.

When Chang opened the more than 300-page file on Huang Wen-kung, she was astonished to find in it five letters written by Huang to his wife, sister and his three children shortly before his death.
“Dear Chun-lan, I was arrested when you were still in your mother’s womb. What a pity that we, father and daughter, can never meet! What could be more tragic than that? Although I have never seen you, held you or kissed you, I love and care for you just the same. I am so sorry that I cannot do my duty as a father, Chun-lan! Can you forgive your poor old dad?” Huang Wen-kung wrote.

“This is the first time in all my 56 years that I have ever felt that my father cared for me and loved me,” said Huang Chun-lan when Chang gave her father’s last letter to her mother, and the first time that Chang heard her mother speak of her feelings for her grandfather.

“When I read my grandfather’s dying words, I felt for the first time that he was more than just a name,” Chang said.
“He had feelings, thoughts and a character. He really existed. At last my grandfather began to take on features in my imagination,” Chang said.
Huang Wen-kung’s last letter to his wife shows his boundless love as well as his grief.
“I sincerely hope you will be bold and marry again. If by any chance you don’t meet the right man, I still don’t want you to live a lonely, gray life. I want you to take whatever road you believe will bring you the greatest happiness,” Huang Wen-kung wrote.
Visibly upset, Chang said: “Why didn’t they give his last letters to his family? If my grandmother had received his letter at the time, she might have had a better life.”
Chang said her grandmother started suffering from Alzheimer’s disease more than 10 years ago. She no longer recognizes her children and grandchildren, but continues to look at her identity card every day.
Only later did Chang find out that after her grandfather was arrested, intelligence agents would come around to check at mealtime, three times a day, who was in the house, so the family lived in constant fear.

Huang also wrote: “Don’t come to claim my body. I want it to be given to the National Taiwan University College of Medicine or another medical training institute. When I was a student, we dissected bodies in practical anatomy classes and learned a great deal of medical knowledge by doing so. If my body can be dissected by students and help them gain a deeper knowledge of medicine, that will be something really meaningful.”
Human rights researchers Tsao Chin-jung (曹欽榮) and Hung Lung-bang (洪隆邦) could not conceal their emotions as they read Huang Wen-kung’s dying wish.

It was really impressive to read about how a political prisoner 56 years ago cared so much for humankind that he wanted to contribute his “surplus value” — a praiseworthy example compared with today, when medical ethics have become so corrupted, they said.
To piece together the traces of her grandfather’s life, Chang, a research assistant at Academia Sinica, also wrote the dentistry school Huang attended in Japan, and later visited the school herself.
There Chang found out what her grandfather looked like when he was a young man.
From Huang Wen-kung’s admission documents, she learned that the person he most admired was Louis Pasteur, the father of bacteriology.

A little while ago, Chang traveled south to Yenchao (燕巢) in Kaohsiung County to visit Lu Biquan (呂碧全), the only other person who was charged in the same case as her grandfather who is still alive today.
From Lu she learned that, when her grandfather was working at the Jihchun Clinic, he also did some research on mushroom cultivation.
Before his death, he told his fellow prisoner his findings on growing mushrooms in the hope that his cellmate would continue the research and make a living from it when he was released from prison.

Taipei Times
Wed, Jul 15, 2009 - Page 3

REMEMBERING THE WHITE TERROR: Researcher says Chiangs should be held responsible

By Hsieh Wen-hua  /  STAFF REPORTER
Even if dictator Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and president Chiang ­Ching-kuo (蔣經國) made certain contributions to Taiwan, they should still be held responsible for the murders of political dissidents, Taiwan Art-in Design president Ronald Tsao (曹欽榮) said,
Tsao, whose work studio has been entrusted by the Green Island Human Rights Memorial Park with a project collecting and compiling records related to political persecution during the White Terror period, said that all verdicts concerning dissidents had to be approved by ­Chiang Kai-shek personally, and that there were cases in which ­Chiang Kai-shek changed a sentence of life in prison to the death penalty.
Tsao said that during the martial law period, Chiang Kai-shek’s son, Chiang Ching-kuo held many important positions such as director of political warfare and the information director of the Presidential Office and was in charge of commanding the secret service and handling dissident information. He added that, as president, it would be quite easy for President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) to find out how the two Chiangs prosecuted and murdered dissidents.
Tsao said he is therefore opposed to the Ma government’s plan to change the name of the National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall back to Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, and asked if the government is trying to worship a dictator who murdered his own people.
The memorial park’s administration recently unveiled an updated list of White Terror victims, totaling 8,296 names, which is seven times the number disclosed in 1999 by the Bo Yang Human Rights Educational Foundation.
Tsao said the list of political victims during the White Terror came to light because of the creation of the National Archives Administration in 2004. Then president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) ordered a thorough search for files related to the 228 Incident and many documents such as written verdicts from the White Terror were also ­discovered, he said.
Chang Yi-Lung (張旖容) only recently found out — 56 years after her grandfather, political prisoner Huang Wen-kung (黃溫恭) was executed — that he had left behind five letters to his family.
She said: “Nazi perpetrators who murdered Jews are still being put on trial today. It is quite strange that more and more victims are being discovered in Taiwan, but we haven’t seen any perpetrators yet.”
“I don’t think Chiang Kai-shek did this all by himself — who were the others? The government said that there needs to be transitional justice, but they haven’t gone after the perpetrators, so who can we forgive?” she said.

Taipei Times
Thu, Jul 16, 2009 - Page 4