I saw the last of my friends Hsieh and Wei at the police station door, where I was taken at once to a harshly lighted third-floor room and seated at a desk, with my right wrist chained to the desk leg. A young, uniformed policeman silently took his place in a chair beside me. The windows were shut and the room was oppressively hot.
We had all heard stories of the treatment of political prisoners. I expected to be beaten and then subjected to many kinds of torment and was only a little relieved when a low-ranking, elderly, uniformed officer came in, looked at me briefly and then said, “If this were ten years ago you would be shot. Now, however, I don’t think you will be.” He did not elaborate and soon left the room. I sat for perhaps an hour, asking again and again for water. Since I could not lift my hand, the silent young policeman had to hold the cup to my lip, but after three or four such requests he became irritated, and by gesture and expression he let me know that he did not want to be bothered again.
The suspense was broken when a short, middle-aged, and undistinguished Chinese plainclothesman appeared who introduced himself simply as a section chief of the Special Investigative Police. His first remarks led me to believe that he had already talked with Hsieh, for he seemed less concerned with the content of our manifesto than with the technique we had used in preparing it. “What you have done was extremely professional, it could not be improved upon,” he said.
On learning that I had not yet had supper he sent out to a nearby street foodstall for soup, rice, vegetables, and pork. My handcuff was removed for a few minutes, but since I had no appetite I left most of the food untouched. I was trying to steel myself to face torture, or at least a beating. The handcuff had just been replaced when a tall, self-assured man who did not bother to introduce himself came in. He was coatless and cool, and his behavior suggested that he was of higher rank. I had the impression that he had come in merely to look me over. His stay was brief, and his comments limited but rather curious: “This is a political case,” he said. “Don’t worry too much, it is not too serious. Certainly everyone has different political opinions, and this is not a crime. Not only that, criticism of the administration will serve to improve the government.” He seemed to be soothing me, trying to ease my fears.
As he withdrew, the short, middle-aged man returned with paper and a pencil, and asked me to write my personal biography, starting with my grandfather and recording every detail I could think of. I was instructed to name all my friends and to record everything I could about them. It was a preposterous assignment, but I started to write slowly.
It was midnight or thereafter when I began. I had written only two or three pages when three very large men came in and brusquely told me not to bother, but to go with them. We went down to the street, dark and deserted, and climbed into an American-made military vehicle, with two guards beside me on the back seat and two squeezed in front beside the driver. All were heavily armed. Driving northward we left the quiet city, drove through Shilin suburb, and turned to enter an area known as a training camp for special agents. This forbidding compound is regarded by the public with fear and apprehension. The barracks gave the impression of a military camp and I saw many people moving about. I was taken at once into a small, bare room with concrete walls, a space measuring about twelve feet square, holding only a desk with two chairs placed to face one another. There were two stones about the size of a melon laying in the corner, and they made a strange impression on me.
I was told to sit down but was not handcuffed this time. The second man who had spoken to me at the police station came in. He took his place across from me, again saying that no crime of violence had been committed, and that no matter of personal honor or integrity was involved. We were concerned here, he said, with a matter of political opinion. Another man who seemed to be of even higher rank stepped into the room. He stood behind me and repeated exactly the same comment, adding, “You must cooperate with this man, and everything will be all right.” He then left.
My interrogator settled himself to his work. He was not sinister looking, but was entirely without emotion, machine-like without sympathy and without hatred. Placing a pad of paper before him, he began a monotonous formal enquiry, name, birthplace, birthdate, father’s name, family condition, employment, and so forth. He asked all this in a flat, mechanical tone. At last he came to the heart of it. “Explain what you have done,” he said.
We sat facing one another in that bare comfortless interrogation chamber for at least four hours. Dawn came. I heard the roll call in the barracks area. My interrogator went out briefly and returned with tea and bread. “Eat whatever you want,” he said, and with that he left the room. I guessed that it was about eight or nine o’clock in the morning. I was not handcuffed, but there were guards on duty at my door. I was totally exhausted but could not manage to sleep sitting upright in that hard chair. I was aware of great activity outside as the hours passed until at midday, tea and a bowl of rice and vegetables were brought in. I simply sat with my head buried in my arm on the table too tired to eat. There was only one interruption daring the afternoon. A huge man whose coarse fat face filled me with aversion came in. He was exceedingly ugly and sinister. To my astonishment he said that we had met at one time, soon after my return from France. I had never seen him before, to the best of my knowledge, and said so, but he insisted, saying that he had heard that I was there and had “just dropped in.” Then he went away. I wondered if he too had come to have a look at someone with whom he might have to deal later on.
Thus I sat alone throughout the afternoon, going only once or twice to a toilet in the next room. As dusk came I again heard great activity in the barracks-yard. I could not sleep, though I tried. I learned later that Wei and Hsieh were being interrogated nearby, and that the girl who had taken in our trunks also had been brought in for interrogation.
Someone then came and without identifying himself obliged me to sign a formal printed pledge, a standard document, saying, “I am willing to be punished if I tell anyone of what I have seen here or of what happened here.” This done, I was escorted to a waiting jeep, and with plainclothes guards seated on each side of me, was driven back into the heart of the city and past the Taipei railway station. Not a word was spoken by my guards or the driver. I was exhausted and near the breaking point, and as we rode along the familiar streets, I worried about my family, worried about my classes, and about test questions for some pending examinations.
Suddenly, after passing the railway station, I was aware that we were nearing the most dreaded spot in the capital, the Security Section Building of the Garrison Command. This massive stone building had been a Japanese Buddhist temple before 1945. The crypt beneath it, once an ossuary, had been cleared of bones and ashes and made over into a jail with interrogation chambers from which few sounds could reach the outside world. Here many persons were questioned and tortured, before being sent off to imprisonment or to death. Such was its reputation. It was surrounded by a complex of military buildings in a walled compound at the heart of the city. Here, I felt sure, the decision would be made about my future.
We drove directly into the enclosure, without a gate-check, obviously by prearrangement, and stopped before a building adjacent to the temple, looming up in the dark beside us. My silent escorts gestured for me to get down from the jeep. I was met at the door by a uniformed officer, a lieutenant, who addressed me with extreme politeness, almost as a guest, as Professor Peng, with apologies for having to trouble me to come here. His greeting Chao tai p’u chou (“Please forgive our inability to make you more comfortable”) was scarcely appropriate under the circumstances, and despite my tension I was tempted to laugh.
As we entered the building he introduced himself as “Staff Officer Wei,” speaking in the accent of a Fukienese and with the utmost deference. We moved to an inner room which. he said, would be mine. The contrast with the twelve by twelve concrete interrogation cell in which I had been confined could not have been more surprising. The room was air-conditioned; a bare round table surrounded by five upholstered chairs stood at the center, and at the side, in a corner, stood a neat single cot, ready with pillow and blanket. Lieutenant Wei apologized for its simplicity, saying that he would be in charge of my living arrangements here, and emphasized the fact that he was not an investigator but merely my custodian. He told me, “This is a political thing and not serious. All you should do is to tell all quite frankly to the investigators who are coming soon. If you have any personal need, ask the guard for Staff Officer Wei.”
A soldier came in and searched me again in routine fashion, and took away my shoestring, belt, and wallet. Something happens to a man’s self-assurance, he feels helpless and defenseless, when he must shuffle about in unlaced shoes and must clutch at his trousers to keep them on. Dinner was then brought in, a standard officer’s meal, and after eating I asked a young man who looked in at the door, “May I have a bath?” I hadn’t had one in two days and was sticky with sweat and dust. He looked startled, disappeared for a few minutes, and returned to say very formally, “You are allowed to wash.”
A guard escorted me to a nearby room, instructing me to leave the door ajar. In this bare cubicle with toilet and a box-like water sink and faucet, I took a quick sponge bath. There was a small window, and beyond it a wall, about three feet away. Beyond that, in turn, was the public street and the free world in which I could hear the sounds of lively evening traffic.
Soon after I returned to my room five persons came, including the young man who had arranged the bath. They were all expressionless, showing no emotion of any kind, and one very short man said not a word throughout the long hours that followed. These five did not introduce or identify themselves in any way. One led off by saving, “We want you to tell everything. Even if Mao Tse-tung came into this place, he would have to tell all. You have no way to escape or to hide anything.”
There was in this an implied threat that I would be forced to talk if need be. Thus began the true interrogation.
FOR ABOUT SEVENTY-TWO HOURS I was questioned endlessly. The same questions were repeated over and over again. No record was being made in my presence, but I soon assumed that the Celotex ceiling above us was bugged, and that the questions and answers were being recorded or at least being transmitted to another room for others to overhear. At about two-hour intervals the interrogation team was replaced, with the one silent member reappearing again and again. After a time a middle-aged man with a doctor’s kit began to come in at intervals of about thirty minutes to check my heart and blood pressure. The questioning was suspended while he performed his duties and was resumed when he nodded assent and withdrew. There were mealtime interruptions of about one hour. I ate very little and tried to sleep in these periods but always the five-man team returned to resume the questioning.
As the hours dragged on a pattern began to appear in these interminable questions. The interrogators seemed convinced that our action in preparing the manifesto was only part of a huge plot with powerful backing. “Who is behind you?” “How many?” “What foreign organization?” “This is only the first step; what is your next plan?” “You have foreign financial support. The American government must be behind this!” “We know the American government has special units in all countries to overthrow governments they don’t like. Syngman Rhee, Diem, for example, and now the Generalissimo?”
We had been arrested on September 20, 1964. They assumed that we had been plotting for a general rising against the government, or at least a massive demonstration, on October 10, the Double Ten celebration of the founding of the Republic, when many foreigners would be present at the grand reviews and would witness the protest against Chiang Kai-shek. As we learned later, the security forces had expected a big case and had cleared several prisons to prepare for hundreds of arrests. Our manifesto had boasted that we had popular backing, and a large and growing secret organization with branches in every part of Formosa. Unfortunately this was not quite true; in an attempt at psychological warfare, we had overreached ourselves, We had sympathetic supporters throughout the island, but as yet we had no formal organization. The purpose of our manifesto was to arouse interest and confidence and to win support for an ultimate islandwide protest against the Chiang regime. Apparently the security officers actually believed our boast, and demanded to know the details. In a rather backhanded compliment, they insisted that mainland Chinese must be involved, because no Formosan could write such excellent prose. They suspected that at least two prominent mainland Chinese had assisted us. One was Professor Yin Hai-kuan of the Philosophy Department of Taita, and the other the historian Li Ao. Both were my good friends.
Now I realized that after two or three days of such interrogation it would not often be necessary to resort to physical torture. The prisoner is so exhausted mentally and physically that the application of the slightest degree of torture would cause a man to yield, to confess anything, to sign anything. He will cry: “Just let me alone! Just let me sleep. I’ll say or sign or confess anything you want me to. Just let me alone!”
My interrogators repeatedly said that many people accused the garrison command of frightful physical tortures, and again and again they asked me to note and admit that I was not being tortured. The hint was always there that if they chose to go further, they would, to obtain the confession they were sure I should make. They could not believe that the three of us had acted as we did quite on our own, but after about three days of such intensive questioning the pace slackened, there were longer intervals, until at last a general officer appeared, a cold, hard character in a white civilian suit, to whom the others showed great deference. He made it very clear that he did not believe my statement that there had been no big plot behind our action. that we were only proposing a beginning, and not preparing for an imminent mass uprising. After listening to the questioning and my answers for a brief while he said, “You are hiding something; this is not so simple as you say.” Before leaving the room he said, with a note of contempt, You see, politics is the dirtiest thing in the world!”
The interrogations were suspended after about one week. Life settled down into a boring routine. There were no newspapers, no books, no writing materials. The monotony was broken only occasionally when older Chinese guards dropped in to talk of the homes they had left behind. One tall, thin guard was particularly outspoken in telling how he had been brought over to Formosa in 1949, believing as his comrades did, that they would soon return. He was married and had a daughter. One day he had been shanghaied in the street, forced into military service, and taken far from home, from province to province. and finally had been shipped to Formosa. “If I had known I was going to stay here forever,” he said, “I would have deserted.” He had been on the island fourteen years or more, his daughter would now be twenty years old and married, and he probably would never see her again. He said that he couldn’t often bear to think of this sort of thing, and that with other old soldiers he sometimes took a bottle of wine out to the hills on Moon Festival night and they would sit together and weep from homesickness.
He came several times and then suddenly one day he disappeared. I assumed that his outspoken complaints had been monitored on one of these occasions. Four or five other guards dropped in occasionally to chat, bringing little gifts, toothpicks. pickled vegetables, and the like, and one even brought his own supper to eat with me at my desk. These were older men, always talking of their past, nostalgic, homesick, complaining of their meager pay. One amused me by venturing to say cautiously, “You don’t really look like a sinister person!” One day a man wearing a cook’s apron brought in my dinner, and as he placed it before me, he whispered cautiously, “I know who you are. One of my nephews was your student. Don’t tell anyone.”
I received a bundle of shirts and underwear from my family, but there were no messages. Lieutenant Wei arranged for me to have a hot bath occasionally, and I was physically not uncomfortable. I had some money in my pocket at the time of my arrest; it was being kept for me by my custodians, and with it I was able to pay for the laundry sent out by an orderly. Once the grueling interrogation had ended I could complain of little except extreme boredom. This was relieved to a degree when after repeated requests, Wei brought me pencil and paper with which to prepare questions for the impending examinations at Taita. he promised earnestly that they would be delivered to the university, but, as I discovered later, this was never done.
It was only much later that I was to learn what was taking place elsewhere with regard to my arrest and its aftermath. All who had played some part in our capture were well rewarded. Substantial monetary rewards went to the maid at the hotel and the printer who surreptitiously struck off a copy of the manifesto, then refused to print, and reported us as Communists. The second printer who did the actual work had gone at once to report our suspicious enterprise to the police. It was said that after he received his reward, he became so fearful of “Communist” revenge he installed a telephone near his bed so that he could call the police in an emergency. Those who had dealt with us in the line of duty were promoted. The officer who led the arresting squad was jumped two ranks and made head of a police substation, and Staff Officer Wei was promoted and given a medal. I have been told that many others were given substantial recognition.
President Chiang Kai-shek had not been informed at once of my arrest, and this led to an odd and awkward moment for the president of my university. It had become an annual custom for the Generalissimo to invite a select group of scholars and teachers to dine with him on Teacher’s Day, usually in the last week of September. A day or two after my unannounced arrest, a formal invitation to attend the dinner reached my house. When I did not appear at the gathering Chiang asked the president of Taita, “Where’s Peng?” Although Professor Chien already knew that I was arrested, he dared not be the first to inform the Generalissimo, so in great embarrassment he contrived an excuse for me. When at last the fact of my arrest and the reasons for it had to be revealed to the aging party leader and president he was enraged.
My friends Hsieh and Wei had been kept separately in the dreaded basement and were being interrogated as I was. They were not subjected to systematic torture, but were slapped and choked from time to time in the effort to make them confess to a nonexistent larger plot. Each of us was told that the other two had made full confession, and that details of our stories must coincide, or else our individual punishments world be more severe. Obviously Hsieh and Wei were receiving rougher treatment than I, and the reason now seems to be that I was known to have prominent foreign friends. I learned too that the silent agent who sat as an observer at every questioning session was a special representative of the political section of tile garrison command, keeping check on the men who handled the case. The man most often present was Staff Officer Wang whose wife, I learned later, had been one of my students at Taiwan University. Wang was to remain close to the case from beginning to end.
My family knew that I had been arrested, for I had left home with Hsieh on Sunday afternoon, had not come back, and the police had swarmed in to make a search of the house at midnight. Although the garrison command kept quiet, someone in the police force leaked the news and the rumor spread instantly through the city. A New York Times correspondent promptly went to garrison headquarters to make an inquiry but was turned away with the statement, “We have no such person in our custody.”
It was obvious that I had vanished. The university term began, and I did not appear. I was supposed to fly to Korea to attend a meeting being held at a university in Seoul, and I was also scheduled to go to Bangkok to another international conference held under the auspices of the American Friends Service Committee. The garrison command continued to deny any knowledge of my whereabouts. About repeated queries, The New York Times man warned them that he had definite knowledge that I was being held by them, and that the American papers would announce it if the garrison command failed to do so. This forced their hand. One month and four days after the arrest, a brief official notice stated that the three of us had been arrested and would be tried for “destructive activity.”
The English-language newspapers at Taipei were allowed to publish their own brief versions of our arrest only after prior censorship by an officer of the garrison command. In its issue of October 24, buried on page six, the China Post carried a news item captioned, “Professor, Two Students Nabbed on Charges of High Treason.” I was described as an “outstanding youth, aged forty-one.” The text offered little more than that “The Taiwan Garrison Command said in a brief press release last night that Peng Ming-min, Hsieh Tsung-ming, and Wei Ting-chao were caught red-handed while committing an act of sabotage in Taipei last month…. In this country, now on a war-footing, persons involved in cases of treason or subversion are to be tried by a military court.”
All Chinese language papers throughout Formosa carried a short text, without variation or exception, issued to them by the garrison command. Neither elaboration nor comment were permitted
All our friends received the news of our arrest with disbelief and great shock. Some of them privately scorned us for what they thought was our extreme naivete in attempting to print and distribute criticism of the government. Thinking back today, I believe that what we tried to do was certainly no more fanatic than any antigovernment activity in totalitarian countries or than what many American civil rights leaders or antiwar activists have tried to do. This includes such activities as demonstrations, picketing, destruction of draft files, or kidnapping of government officials. Our only mistake was that we did not succeed. If we had succeeded, I believe no one would have criticized us for being too naive. I feel the same about my later attempt to flee Formosa. If I had failed I am sure I would have been accused by some people of being naive and reckless.
At once every agency of the party began a campaign to misrepresent what we had done and said in our manifesto. True to form, there was a consistent attempt to blacken our characters as “immoral criminals, betraying the Fatherland” coupled with an extraordinary effort to obscure the true nature of our act and the substance of our critical manifesto. The reform issues we had raised were ignored. The party spread a version that was the exact reverse of our arguments and statements. For example, we had clearly advocated a sensible cooperation between Formosans and Chinese exiles in an endeavor to strengthen and develop Formosa. The party’s interpretation had it that we had urged that all Chinese be killed or thrown into the sea, or that they should be used as guinea pigs for medical research.
Other points wore taken up, twisted, and misrepresented in like fashion, The party forged proof to be exhibited and discussed at party meetings at all levels.
Rumor-planting was a prime device, using party cells in the military units, in the schools, and in every other possible outlet, but not in the newspapers. These rumors and baseless fictions were always introduced as clarifying discussions of the Peng case and as explanations of what really happened. These intensive efforts to discredit us in the eyes of Formosan youth seemed also designed to frighten the continental Chinese. The line of argument ran that “our government is not perfect, but if we let the Formosans take over, you will all be killed.” It could only be interpreted as a campaign to unite the faltering Chinese exiles against the island people. Behind it lay the government’s very real fear that if the majority of exiles cooperated with a majority of the Formosans, the one-party system would be destroyed and the Generalissimo would be unseated.
I found it hard to believe, but it was true that some of my university colleagues succumbed to this propaganda, expressing surprise that Peng was such a vicious person. Some quite honestly and boldly said, “It cannot be true.” Formosan students were shocked by the arrests and the subsequent derogatory attacks. In many cases, I have been told, we became popular “hero-martyrs.” The party was defeating its own purpose with such grotesque propaganda.
At the time of our arrests, or during the investigation thereafter, an undetermined number of copies of our manifesto reached private hands. The formal indictment read out at our subsequent trial mentioned only 9800 copies when in fact we had printed 10,000 copies. We could only assume that some agents taking part in the arrest or handling our case had quietly set aside some interesting and possibly vendable souvenirs.
A copy reached a certain nonparty member of the Assembly, and he in turn gave a copy to a friend in the Japanese embassy at Taipei. This was sent on to Tokyo, where it was reported to have been put away in a safe in the Foreign Ministry. Nevertheless, soon after my release a foreign ministry official made a copy available to friends in Tokyo, and soon enough the text was published and distributed in Tokyo. We had not yet printed a title at the head of our manifesto, and we had left space for some sort of symbol at the end. The Tokyo copies appeared with an accurate text, but with a title “Declaration of Independence of the Formosan People” and a decorative symbol at the end.
This was embarrassing, for we had not intended it to be a “Declaration of Independence” but rather a summary of Formosa’s problems and an expression of our views. We had thought to call it “Self-salvation of the Formosan People,” nothing more ambitious. The garrison command thought I had somehow instigated this release abroad, as it was also published in Hong Kong soon afterward, but unfortunately I could not take credit.
The government made no public formal reference to my case from 24 October 1964, the day of the brief press announcement, until my trial, April 7, 1964 (editor note: 1965). Nevertheless, it was extremely sensitive to foreign comment and criticism. Professor John K. Fairbank’s letter published in The New York Times expressed concern and someone wrote to Amnesty International in London, prompting its staff to begin an enquiry into my case. Dr. Kissinger of Harvard called the Chinese embassy at Washington and the dean of the Law School at McGill University called the Nationalist Chinese embassy at Ottawa. Formosan students staged a demonstration before the embassy gates. The Chinese vice-minister of justice, Cha Liang-chien, happened to be in Ottawa on business at the time, and had much explaining to do. The Canadian Association of International Law wrote to its counterpart, the Chinese Association at Taipei and to the Ottawa embassy. My former professors in Paris protested to the Chinese embassy in France. Formosan publications abroad carried many articles concerning our arrest. Dr. Tsiang Tien-fu cabled from New York, warning the government to be extremely careful in handling the situation. All this shock and uproar abroad impressed Taipei when it suddenly realized the international interest in the case. Seen from abroad, it would become a test of Taipei’s good faith in claiming to be “Free China.” The American embassy at Taipei preserved a discreet silence.
My two colleagues, being unknown abroad, had no such influential foreign friends, and no such publicity to inhibit and restrain Taipei. Hsieh Tsung-ming’s younger brother, an outstanding graduate student in economics at Taita at the time of our arrest, immediately prepared and mimeographed a brief protest and managed to give it fairly wide distribution. For unknown reasons he got away with it without investigation or arrest. Tempting fate, he resorted again to the mimeograph machine to prepare a sharp criticism of the regime, following along general lines the criticisms we had set forth in our manifesto. Two Chinese friends collaborated in the project.
The trio were seized by agents of the Investigation Bureau. They were tortured and, crazed by pain and fear, young Hsieh broke down completely. He was sent under guard to the university’s mental hospital, where he was heard screaming at night and lapsing into violent periods in which he smashed everything he could lay hands on. At one point he eluded his guards and was gone from the hospital for a day, but returned on his own volition. After some months of treatment in the mental ward, he was remanded to jail. Then came court martial and a comparatively light sentence of three and a half years. One of his Chinese companions was sentenced to four years. I believe the third man was sent off to one of the Thought Reform camps. The worst of these is the Lu Tao (“Green Island”) camp, on a small, rocky islet lying in the sea east of Taitung. Here most of the inmates were serving fifteen or twenty-year sentences, many of them too obscure and too poor to attract notice or rouse public interest. Under the Chinese system, if a man is arrested but found innocent, he must find a guarantor before he is released. If he is convicted and serves a full term, he must also find a guarantor, and this is very difficult, for who dares stand security for a man he has not seen for fifteen years? Green Island holds many people too poor or friendless to find a guarantor. This is especially true of poor Chinese who came alone to Formosa in 1949. After serving long sentences they have no one to speak up for them or to guarantee their good behavior.
After our manifesto affair, and the affair of the younger Hsieh, the government issued written instructions to all schools, offices, factories, army agencies and the like, and to any organization possessing mimeographing equipment. Such equipment, said the government, must be handled very carefully, especially in the evenings; it must be locked up when not in use by authorized persons, and must never be used by unauthorized persons or illegal groups.
But as so often happens in such eases, the situation became grotesque when the garrison command issued an order that telephone books must show the name and number only, and must not show an address. This was a “security measure” to deny access to mailing lists for subversive literature. Even the usually docile newspapers protested this new order, and it was soon revoked.
I was living in boredom. A month had passed when in late fall a soldier suddenly appeared, said, “You are to move,” and immediately escorted me to another American military staff car. I was handcuffed to the car itself this time, and two armed guards accompanied me. We drove eastward through the city and passed very near my house. We went through the suburbs to another military camp at San Chang Li. Here on a small hill, in the midst of a rice paddy, was a walled compound. I was taken to a long, low wooden barracks building and to a small room with a table in the center, and two cots, one on each side, that served in lieu of chairs. On the walls wore printed signs: “No noise,” and a strange one saying “You must not sit together on one bed?”
As I entered a young stranger returned from a bath nearby. We introduced ourselves. He was a young chemistry student from Tunghai University named Wu Chung-hui, of Taichung city, a Formosan, who in his second year had been arrested with 200 students for participating in what was known as “a big plot case.” There had been an incident involving students from nearly every university, and one or two military academies. Hundreds had been questioned, and some shot. Wu knew my name. His reaction was a curious mixture of shock and pleasure that a person like me had come to share his plight. He had been held two years, tortured at times, and shifted about from one agency to another without being brought to trial and without formal sentence. He was one of the regime’s lost prisoners, but only one among very many. I wondered if I were to become one of them.
The atmosphere of this camp was dreary, gloomy, and hopeless in the extreme. The guards and soldiers moving about appeared to be a select lot, hard and cruel. A tunnel led into the side of the hill within the camp confines, the deep interior a well-known site for tortures. The guards assigned to us were excessively rude, and the prisoners were treated more like animals than humans. Even the food doled out was unbelievably bad. The door to our room was always locked, and if we wished to go to the toilet, we were obliged to shout for the guards to escort us there and back, standing by us at all times. Sometimes in the night we found it almost impossible to rouse them to this duty.
Wu proved to be one of the most idealistic youths I have ever met. We talked of everything, of our families, society, history, and of the future of Formosa. He had his own scheme for the romanizing of the Formosan dialect for use on a typewriter and in print, so that we could cut ourselves off from traditional Chinese writing. His hatred of the Chiangs was extraordinary. He expected to be shot, but if not he would be happy to survive if only to see the end of the Nationalist government and party.
Occasionally we sat side by side on one cot or attempted to communicate in whispers, but instantly a guard would come to the door to shout and curse us. It was clear that our quarters were bugged, and we had to presume that we had been brought together in the expectation that we would reveal to one another information that our captors wished to have. No one appeared to resume our interrogation.
I was beginning to lose the sense of time, but discovered that Wu had devised a means of recording passage of days on the bars of soap we were permitted to buy. We were required to wash our own clothes, and young Wu insisted upon doing mine for me. Once a large package was delivered to me from my family. It contained shirts, a Bible, and food, but the fried chicken was altogether spoiled and the fruits were dry and inedible. For want of anything else to do I read the Bible from beginning to end for the first time in my life.
We became depressed, miserable, and angry. We learned that Hsieh and Wei were somewhere in the same compound, and so one day I began to sing a Christian hymn at the top of my voice. We heard an answer from a distance. Then I shouted in Japanese, “Gambare!” (“Fight on!”), and this created an uproar as four or five guards rushed to our room, followed by the furious prison commandant. When he cursed me, I answered, “The rules don’t forbid singing!” He retorted, “But they do forbid noise! You are trying to communicate with someone!” I was reckless, for I realize now that I had given them a good excuse to punish me with solitary confinement or worse.
After two weeks with Wu and no interrogation, I was suddenly told that I would be moved again. With sadness we said good-bye to one another and I was taken out to an American jeep, chained to it, and under guard, driven back to the city. On passing near my house I saw a neighbor in the street and wondered if he saw me. To my surprise I found myself returning to my comparatively comfortable air-conditioned room at the center of town. I was given a meal, but no one came to see me.
The next morning a prosecutor came in with his aides. Placing a sheaf of papers on the desk before him, he began to ask questions based upon a record of my conversations with Wu during the preceding weeks. There was no effort to hide the fact that our room had been bugged and our rambling conversations fully recorded. This interrogation was routine, a point-by-point examination, machine-like and thorough. I was asked to identify and confirm quotations from our exchanges and to elaborate on my remarks to Wu wherever I had quoted or cited someone else commenting on the situation in Formosa. I now tried to evade revealing the sources for some of my own remarks.
After this session I sat for many days in almost unbearable idleness. Occasionally someone would look in to ask about specific people, some of whom I knew and many of whom I had never heard. Many were foreigners. On one occasion I was asked to comment on Henry Kao, the mayor of Taipei, and on another I was asked to describe my relationship with John Fairbank of Harvard. Sheets of paper were brought from time to time, always carefully counted before and after I had made notes, and the pencil was always taken away at once.
It was now late November. During this long interval I could look from my window onto the court between my place of detention and the main administrative budding, the old temple. Very often I saw the university’s personnel officer coming and going We all knew of course that he was the Nationalist party’s security officer and that he was supplying information concerning university staff arid student body.
Although from this time on my family were occasionally allowed to send in fruits and other foods, I was now quite cut off from human society. Even the guards ceased coming to the door to chat. It was a comfortable solitary confinement, but it was solitary confinement nevertheless. I was not even allowed to see a barber and was soon shaggy and bearded.
Then one day Lieutenant Wei appeared to say, “You are going to see an important person today and you must have a haircut.” A girl barber came in to give me a shave and a trim, and my belt and shoelaces were returned to me. After dark Wei came again carefully dressed, and took me out to a dark sedan waiting, at the door. This time I was not handcuffed and there were no armed guards. I wondered what the occasion could be.
As we drove a short distance to an office near the Government Building, Wei said to me nervously but with an air of importance, “You are going to see the head of the Political Warfare Section of the Garrison Command, General Ning.”
General Ning, who proved most polite and courteous, began by saving, “We are sorry for this incident. It is a misfortune. Have you been badly treated? Please let me know. I myself am a university graduate. I studied agriculture before I entered the military service. You know much more than I. I can’t argue with you on any point. It is our duty to do this sort of thing.”
I later discovered that General Ning had just been elevated to this position, and that he wanted to demonstrate his capacity by handling my case well. He was not very bright, but he seemed simple and sincere in doing his duty. As a high-ranking military man he was really trying, and seemed better than the average officer. Mr. Wang who had attended the long sessions of my earlier interrogation was his protege, almost his personal secretary.
I was with General Ning about thirty minutes. He was most courteous, treating me almost as a guest. He said that he wanted me to meet with some important officers who could give me the true picture of the situation in Taiwan. I gained the impression that thus far they had decided it was no use to kill me, but rather better to reeducate me and exploit me in an attempt to handle the Formosan people who do not trust the government.
Lieutenant Wei was waiting outside in the corridor. General Ning in a fatherly manner said, “Don’t despair. You have had a distinguished career. People think well of you, and I am sorry that this has happened.”
As he closed the interview and summoned Wei from the corridor outside, he referred again to his desire to have me meet with some important officers, concluding with the astonishing remark, “Do you mind if I show them part of your manifesto?”
On the ride back to quarters Wei nervously kept repeating, “What did he say? What did he say?” Ning headed the Political Commissars, the most feared agency in the entire garrison command, and Wei was awed by the thought that I had been called in and might air criticism of the way his section was handling my case. A few days later it was announced that General Ning was coming to see me in my quarters. There was great excitement within the compound. I was shaved again and my room was carefully cleaned, and the principal prison officers appeared in full uniform. The visit by the general and his aides was stiff and formal. He asked me if everything was all right and desired to know what kind of food I was getting. An officer hurriedly interjected that I received the very best, the same food as the officers received in their mess. After less than fifteen minutes General Ning withdrew, saying as he left, “The government will still need you someday.”
Some days later I was notified that I again had to prepare to meet some important people. The next morning I was taken to a military clubhouse. About ten persons were gathered about a conference table and General Ning who had set this up, presided. Dean Sah of the university was there, together with a representative of the Defense Ministry. Two or three professors from a military academy were also present. Perhaps the most influential man present was General Wang Shen, chief of the Political Warfare Section of the Defense Ministry, who was considered Chiang Ching-kuo’s right-hand man; he had been commandant of the military school at which I had taught. To my surprise I found a certain Ho in this group. Ho was a graduate in economics from the University of Wisconsin who had later become a senior official in China. From there he had managed to he sent to the United Nations, but when Chiang fled to Formosa, Ho thought the end had come for the Nationalists. He proposed to Ambassador Tsiang that they make off with the funds then banked for the delegation in New York. An indignant Dr. Tsiang reported this to the Generalissimo and for a long time thereafter Ho was unable to come to Formosa. Then, for reasons obscure to all, he was taken up by, a former minister of education, Chang Chi-yun, who managed at last to obtain clearance for him to go to Taipei. Although no decent position could be found for him, he continued operating in Formosa in one shadowy capacity or another. It developed that he fancied himself a specialist on the Taiwan Independence Movement in the United States, and now was about to extend his range to become an authority on my case.
One by one the men around the conference table made speeches that reflected, inadvertently, the sting of the manifesto and the hope that I could be reeducated. We had criticized the military and military incapacity, and it may be that some of the issues we raised were clearly defined for them for the first time. Apparently General Ning in his new position desired to show a new style of operation. Both he and General Wang assured me that they, too, had been revolutionary as youths, and had determined to override or correct the bureaucrats and politicians that so weakened China. Both spoke with evident sincerity. General Wang Shen said with deep feeling that the military also “hate those members of the Legislative Yuan. You do not know how much we hate them.” On a more personal note he went on to say, “We thought that you were a good scholar. I invited you to the (military) school when I was commandant there, and just a few days before you were arrested the school had formally passed upon an appointment for you to become head of the political department. When I was notified of your arrest, I was deeply embarrassed. Indeed I had a red face! I was promoting you within the military establishment.”
One young general from the Defense Ministry was formal, nervous, arid awkward. “I am so honored today to come here to report on the military situation,” he said, forgetting that he had been merely called on to help reeducate a prisoner. He stressed the fact that the military were so busy preparing the counterattack upon the continent that they had little time for political affairs.
One speaker took up the issue of discrimination, rather lamely observing that “of course there are very few Formosans in the government. Don’t you know that there are so very few jobs available that we even fight among ourselves (Chinese refugees) for the jobs? How then can we find enough places for Formosans? What are you going to do with persons displaced by Taiwanese?”
Dean Sah shrewdly remained silent throughout this reeducation session, but the talkative Ho frequently offered unsolicited comment. At one time, in an aside in English, he remarked that you must know Chiang Kai-shek is a necessary evil; we cannot get on without him.” I was tempted to translate this back into Mandarin for the benefit of these military officers. I was not asked for comment. This gathering of relatively liberal men had been convened to give me food for moral reflection, and at the end of two hours I was sent back to my room.
Hsieh and Wei were exposed to similar reeducation conferences at the military clubhouse. Wei is said to have burst out “Shoot me! But all of you present here deserve also to be shot!” whereupon General Wang Shen, director of the Political Warfare Section of the Defense Ministry, made the gesture of taking off his coat, saying, “Come on, let’s fight!”
The attempt to reeducate me did not end there. Several days later I was notified to be ready to go out for the evening, and at about eight o’clock Lieutenant Wei escorted me in a sedan to the big building of the new Military Historical Museum at the heart of the city. This had been created to show the world the glorious achievements of the Nationalist military establishment. The director, a general officer, was one of Chiang Ching-kuo’s men. We arrived to find the building lighted throughout, and were greeted at the door by the director-general himself who then with utmost courtesy took the two of us on a guided tour. We saw documents, maps, pictures, and a collection of objects said to have belonged to the National Father, Sun Yat-sen. We were obliged to listen to an indoctrination lecture lasting an hour and a half. I was treated like a VIP rather than a prisoner subject to reeducation and a true captive audience. The assumption throughout seemed to be that I was totally ignorant of events of the past fifty years in China. As we moved about from floor to floor and exhibit to exhibit the general spoke some English now and then in trying to impress me. At last we were escorted to the door, and with the greatest politeness the last comment was “Any time you want to see this again, please let us know.” With this I was sent back to my prison.
The next step in my reeducation came in the form of visits from two highly placed civilians attached to the Political Warfare Section of the Defense Ministry. One, an elderly man who said that he was formerly a professor in international law in China, told me that they had been directed to explain to me how great were the difficulties faced by the government in preparing for the return to the mainland. These proved to be rather onesided conversations, for we were men living in different worlds.
For a brief period after these signs of favor there seemed to be a marked improvement in my daily treatment. Lieutenant Wei came in to chat occasionally, sometimes bringing cookies and candies after dinner. “I believe you will be released very soon,” he said, “for the government needs you. We recommend it. But you understand of course that the decision will be made at the highest level.”
Occasionally prosecutors or interrogators dropped in after dinner. They too wanted to chat, and in the course of their conversations made it clear that they all knew what Formosans are thinking. They apologized for the government and voiced complaints of the lower officer ranks and the enlisted men. They said, “The Moon Festival bonuses are merely a moon-cake!” When they touched obliquely on the February 28 uprising of 1947 and the wrongs of the Chen Yi period they recognized that the Formosans had a legitimate complaint and never said to me that it was a “Communist plot.” They described, with an air of resignation, the poverty of the common soldier. especially at the time of Japan’s surrender, saying it required “rotating pants for the victory parades” in order to cover up the threadbare condition of the army.
I was later to learn that throughout this period serious discussions were going on within an ad hoc committee formed to consider my case. The five principal members were (1) the chief of the garrison command, representing the army, (2) the secretary-general of the Kuomintang (K.M.T., the nationalist party) representing the party, (3) the secretary-general of the president’s office, (4) a senior advisor to the Generalissimo, Tao Hsishen, whose official title was chairman of the Board of Directors of the Central Daily News, and (5) the deputy premier.
Pressure upon the committee was great for these men were aware of my popularity and influence with students and the younger generation as a whole. They wanted to use me to avert any violence or an upheaval that might destroy their grip upon the island, and could not afford to make more of a martyr of me than I already appeared to be in student eyes. They seemed to be baffled upon discovering that someone so well placed as I, and so often favored, could have become so disgruntled. In their world of relationships based on personal loyalties and enmities, there was no room for individual dedication to abstract causes as ephemeral as democracy and human rights. Their third great concern was for world opinion, especially that of America whose tax-dollars and arms kept them in power, and for the Formosans overseas who were striving to draw international attention to the injustices of the dictatorship.
Throughout all the interrogations and public comment, members of government, party, and army loaded their criticism and rebukes to me with words that more properly should be addressed to a disloyal son, an immoral reprobate, who has brought disgrace on the family. I was “ungrateful,” my criticisms were a “betrayal.” All serious criticism of the government or of the Generalissimo was taken as a personal affront to Chiang. This attitude was not limited to my case, but to all challenges to his absolute authority and judgment. Every political offense must be reported to him and, as a personal offense, must he judged by, him. He was the father of the nation-family. As the all-powerful father, he must exercise the power of life and death over every member; he may choose to he lenient and forgiving or he may he extremely harsh. Without hesitation he can overturn court verdicts or modify them. Even his closest advisors found it extremely dangerous to contradict him. Opinions may be given if he asks for them, but may not be offered without solicitation. He governs capriciously in the style of a feudal lord.
A majority of the men serving in the hierarchy under Chiang reflected in greater or lesser degree this moralistic approach to political criticism. They were shocked that I should have criticized the leadership after so many personal favors had been shown to me. It was useless to point out that I wanted only to criticize and expose and correct the abuses of a government.
In mid-December a little man dressed in a shabby suit came to call on me. He looked like a petty clerk. Without identifying himself, he opened his little bag, took out a sheaf of blank paper, and forthwith began very formally to ask me once again all the routine questions I had already answered a score of times. I felt very strange, as if I were repeating a bad dream. “What is your name? What is your profession?” and so forth. This interrogation was carried over into a second day, at the end of which I was asked to sign the record as a formal statement. Then followed about ten days in which I was left entirely alone. I learned later that all the formalities had been completed, and all these investigators and committees and advisors were now waiting for the final decision to be made at the highest level.
By this time I had fairly well convinced myself that I was about to be released, and it was therefore a great shock one morning when Officer Wei came in to say that an order had come down directing my immediate removal to prison to prepare for a court martial. He too seemed nonplussed, repeatedly assuring me, “It is necessary to go through all this procedure” as a formality, insinuating vaguely that I was then to be released.
After I had gathered up my few things, and again signed a pledge of silence, I was taken from my air-conditioned quarters and moved to a military court detainment compound not far from the law school.