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The "Kaohsiung Incident" Of 1979 A Turning Point In Taiwan's History

2740 words - 11 pages

December 10th, 1979 was a major moment in Taiwan's history. When it took place, it was hardly noticed internationally, but since then it has been recognized as an important turning point in the island's recent transition to democracy. It galvanized both the Taiwanese people in Taiwan as well as the overseas Taiwanese community into political action.The movement subsequently formed the basis for the democratic opposition of the DPP and its overseas support network of Taiwanese organizations in North America and Europe. Virtually all leading members of the present-day democratic opposition had a role in the event, either as defendants or as defense lawyers.Below, we present a summary of the ...view middle of the document...

What happened on that fateful evening is history: the human rights day celebration ended in chaos after police encircled the peaceful crowd and started using teargas, and pro-government instigators incited violence.Newspaper reports right after the event reported that in the ensuing confrontations, more than 90 civilians and 40 policemen were injured. However, in an amazing display of magic, the authorities managed to end up with 182 policemen and 1 (!!!) civilian injured. Although most injuries were relatively minor, the authorities quickly played up the injuries on the police side, sending high officials and TV- and film-actresses to the hospitals to comfort the injured policemen.More seriously, three days later, the KMT authorities used the incident as an excuse to arrest virtually all well-known opposition leaders. They were held incommunicado for some two months, during which reports of severe ill-treatment filtered out of the prisons.The arrested persons were subsequently tried in three separate groups: in March/April 1980, the eight most prominent leaders (the "Kaohsiung Eight") were tried in military court and were sentenced to terms ranging from 12 years to life imprisonment.In April/May 1980, a second group of 33 persons, the "Kaohsiung 33", who had taken part in the Human Rights Day gathering were tried in civil court and sentenced to terms ranging from 2 to 6 years.A third group of 10 persons associated with the Presbyterian Church were accused of helping the main organizer of the demonstration, Mr. Shih Ming-teh, when he was in hiding, because he feared torture and immediate execution. Most prominent among this group was Dr. Kao Chun-ming, the general-secretary of the Presbyterian Church. Dr. Kao was sentenced to seven years imprisonment. The others received lesser sentences.The importance of the incident is in the fact that it galvanized both the Taiwanese people in Taiwan as well as the overseas Taiwanese community into political action. The movement which grew out of the incident subsequently formed the basis for the present-day democratic opposition of the DPP and its overseas support network of Taiwanese organizations in North America and Europe.In the following, we wish to focus on two aspects:the incitement of violence by the authorities: a former member of the military police in Taiwan told us that there was direct involvement by the military police in the incitement of violence. Below you find his story.the ill-treatment of the opposition leaders during their incommunicado detention, resulting in forced confessions. Below you find excerpt from their statements.Military Police as InstigatorsBy a former member of the Military Police"In 1981, I graduated from college. Before we entered the military service, a few of my friends got together to celebrate. During dinner, my friends brought up the subject of Kaohsiung Incident. They were regular readers of "tangwai" magazines and were criticizing the KMT authorities handling of the...

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