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Taiwan: In memory of Chao-Jung Hsu, a Taiwanese WWII veteran

Today is the 2nd anniversary of Chao-Jung Hsu's death, a Taiwanese WWII veteran. His tragic fate reflects the complex history of Taiwan which have been governed by various colonial powers in the last century. Hsu was born in Taiwan on 13 of November 1928 and committed suicide on 20 of May 2008 in a political protest. He was forced to fight for colonizers of his country land, first Japan and then Republic of China (ROC). When he finally was able to make his choice, he devoted his life for his fellow veterans’ welfare.

Taiwan was Japan's colony during the WWII, and Hsu was drafted into the Japanese army. When Republic of China (ROC) claimed the sovereign over Taiwan after WWII, the the Chinese Civil War was resumed, and he was drafted into the ROC army again to fight in mainland China. He retreated back to Taiwan in 1949 when ROC lost the battle. He was lucky comparing to many of his colleagues who died in the battle.

However, during the White Terror Period (1949-1987), Hsu was prosecuted by Guomingtang and imprisoned for 10 years for possession of a book on Taiwan independent movement. He was released in 1968 and became a political refugee in 1980. He eventually settled in Toronto, where he started searching for his army colleague's remains in China through the Taiwanese Association in Beijing. Hsu returned back to Taiwan in 1992 after the Taiwan government abolished the “black list” of political dissidents, since then, he devoted all his time to the welfare of overseas Taiwanese veterans. He found out that there were many Taiwanese veterans left behind by the ROC army in China after the the Chinese Civil War. Some of them were captured by the People Liberation Army (PLA) and fought for them in the Civil War and later in the Korean War.

All these veterans were forced to fight for the powers that enslaved them, michaelcarolina sighed,

一代台灣青年,從一九三七年九月,台灣總督府強徵第一批軍夫「白襷隊」,…一直到一九五三年韓戰結束止;短短十六年間,台灣兵穿遍日本皇軍、國民黨軍,和人民解放軍的制服。

These young Taiwanese soldiers who were drafted into the Japanese army in September 1937…(were in the battlefield) until the end of the Korean War in 1953. Within 16 years, they had worn the uniforms of the Japanese army, the ROC army, and then the PLA.

Being the ultimate victims of the War, many overseas Taiwanese veterans could not return back to their home in Taiwan due to the tension across the Strait. Hsu decided to organize a campaign to to bring these Taiwanese WWII veterans back home.

當年(一九八九年)三月,許昭榮在北京發起「滯留大陸台籍老兵要回家」簽名運動,獨自一人拿著白布條,走過煙台、長山島、青島、上海、杭州、廈門,親訪這些滯留中國的老兵.

In March, 1989, Hsu held an activity ‘Taiwanese veterans want to go home’ in Beijing. Then he held the banner and traveled across Yantai, Jangsando, Qingdao, Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Xiamen to visit the Taiwanese veterans he knew.

As a result of the campaign, Hsu found out that most of the overseas Taiwanese veterans in China and other Southeast Asia countries (those drafted by Japanese army deployed to the Southeast Asia) were in very difficult and miserable situation politically, economically, and psychologically. They were left behind in an alien land during the WWII, became political exiles and did not receive any pension from the ROC army nor Japanese army even though they had fulfilled the duty as a solider.

In order to fight for the rights of his fellow veterans, Hsu organized talks, held a number protests and hunger strike and eventually founded the Association of Taiwanese Veterans in 1994.

引起社會重視…政府也因此不得不正視。返鄉探親、定居,條件相繼放寬…國防部也同意將「陣亡台籍英靈」入祀台北圓山忠烈祠,並研擬撫恤事宜。

public awareness was raised successfully… the government finally had to confront their demand and loosened the restrictions for the Taiwanese veterans in China to return back to Taiwan and get settled…The Department of Defense agreed to list ‘Taiwanese veterans’ in the Martyrs Shrine in Taipei and arranged the pensions for the veterans who worked in the ROC army in the Chinese Civil War.

Apart from material compensation, Hsu felt the need to remind Taiwanese people of the WWII history from the life history of Taiwanese veterans. He decided to build a memorial for his fellow veterans.

一九九七年起,許昭榮與協會開始與一些地方政府接洽提供建碑用地,但始終未能如願。一九九八年六月廿八日起,許昭榮等人以接力絕食靜坐方式,終於獲得當 時高雄市長吳敦義的同意協助,最後因此取位於高雄旗津海岸約三千八百坪的國有公園用地,計劃興建紀念碑及公園。

Since 1997, Hsu started to contact various local governments to find a place for setting up a memorial for Taiwanese veterans. He was neglected. In order to raise public support, Hsu and his friends started a hunger strike on June 28th, 1998 and eventually, the mayor of Kaohsiung City, Mr. Wu, agreed to give them a national recreation area (about 12562 square meter) close to Chi-Jin to set up a memorial and a park.

由於沒有經費,紀念公園曾經有很長一段時間就這麼一直處在「計劃興建中」。…許昭榮再次向親友募款湊足卅二萬元,二○○六年十一月廿八日豎立一塊約廿噸重「戰爭與和平紀念公園」石碑…二○○七年下半年,中央撥下第二期工程經費,卻因高雄市議會的掣肘而動彈不得;最後,議會竟決議要將「戰爭與和平紀念公園」更名為「八二三砲戰紀念公園」。

Because they did not have enough fund to build the memorial park, that area had been ‘under construction’ for several years. On November 28th, 2006, Hsu raised 320 thousand NTD and set up a ‘War and Peace’ memorial stone (about 20 tons)…In the second half of 2007, the Central government agreed to fund the second phrase construction cost, but the funding was stopped by the Kaohsiung City Council. At the end, the Kaohsiung City Council decided to rename the ‘War and Peace Memorial Park’ as ‘The 823 artillery Bombardment.’

In a protest against the Kaohsiung City Council's decision on 20 of May 2008, Hsu burned himself to death. One year later in 2009 May 20, the “War and Peace Park” was open to the public and below is a video clip (produced by TWIMI) on the Opening:

The Association of Taiwanese Veterans he founded continues to collect life stories of Taiwanese veterans and help Taiwanese understand the history of Taiwanese soldiers in WWII. Every May 20th, people gathered in the War and Peace Park in memory of Taiwanese veterans and Chao-Jung Hsu.

5 comments

  • […] I-fan Lin at Global Voices with a memorial to Taiwanese WWII veteran  Chao-Jung Hsu. […]

  • Thank you for reminding us this important figure and the history that should not be forgotten.

  • I’m sorry to have found this article so late, but I’m thankful to I-fan Lin and Oiwan Lam for getting it written and published nonetheless.

    The horrors of WW2 are still monumentally consequential to this day and the destruction it wreaked across the lives of individuals like Hsu must never be allowed to recede from the horizon of cultural memory.

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