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Archives Related to the February 28 Incident and the White Terror

2017 marked the 70th anniversary of the February 28 Incident and 30 years since the martial law was lifted. Although the February 28 Incident and the White Terror are not forbidden topics in Taiwan society, many relevant archives are yet to be acquired and disclosed. Since its establishment, the Institute of Taiwan History has striven to collect folk papers, such as the following records related to the February 28 Incident and the White Terror: Historical Materials Related to the February 28 Incident and White Terror, Yang Zhao-jia Collection, Chen Cheng-po Paintings and Papers, Yeh Sheng-ji Papers, Chen Wen-xing Papers, Chen Zhong-tong Papers, The Diary of Lin Xian-tang, and The Diary of Wu Xin-rong.

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II. Newspaper – Amplifying Voice of Awakening

As a social instrument, the media has the power to shape thoughts and opinions as well as to construct cultural values. During early Japanese colonial era, the Government-General of Taiwan initiated and dominated the legislation of the ‘Taiwan Newspaper Act’. With measures different from those implemented in Japan proper, the colonial government exercised strict control over the news media through distribution licensing, pre-publication censor and security deposit, thus restraining the development of the native press in Taiwan. Consequently, there were very few newspapers in circulation, with the majority being ‘pro-government’, leaving Taiwanese a myopic view of the world under official intervention.

Seeing words and writing as powerful tools, the New People’s Society, established in 1920, started publishing monthly journal Tai Oan Chheng Lian(The Taiwan Youth), with Tsai Pei-huo as the editor and publisher. Lin Cheng-lu, Peng Hua-ying, Wu San-Lien, Tsai Shih-ku, Liu Ming-chao, Chen Xin and other Taiwanese students in Tokyo were also involved in editing and managing this first modern publication founded by Taiwanese. Contents of The Taiwan Youth included calling on Taiwanese youth to rise up in resistance against colonial racism, explaining about local autonomy and presenting the situation of colonies around the world, asserting that “Taiwan does belong to Taiwanese”. Many young people were deeply aroused and inspired. The ensuing wave of enlightenment among overseas students and educated youths on the island had a profound impact on promoting the development of the new cultural movement in Taiwan.

Following the founding of the Taiwanese Cultural Association in October 1921, the stage of political and social movements gradually shifted from Japan back to Taiwan. In response to growing demand for reports on current affairs both domestic and abroad, The Taiwan Minpao was first published in April 1923, further expanding the influence of the press. Edited in vernacular Chinese by the same editorial group of The Taiwan Youth, The Taiwan Minpao aimed ‘to impart knowledge to the people in easy Chinese language’ so as to ‘enlighten the culture of Taiwan and arouse patriotism for the welfare of Taiwan’. Its wide-ranging contents covered politics, economics, culture and the like, conveyed what was seen and heard abroad, and expressed feelings or comments about current affairs. Contributors were mostly young educated intellectuals with national spirit; their sharp writings and incisive discussion were well received by the people at that time. Regarded as ‘the only mouthpiece of the 3.5 million Taiwanese’, The Taiwan Minpao was initially published every two weeks in Tokyo and then brought back to Taiwan for sale. In 1925, it became a weekly newspaper with circulation exceeding 10,000 copies, second only to Taiwan Nichinichi Shinpo (Taiwan Daily News) and Tainan Shinpo (Tainan News). In July 1927, after repeated endeavors of the activists, the then Governor-General of Taiwan, Kamiyama Mitsunoshin finally approved the release of The Taiwan Minpao in Taiwan. The Taiwan Minpao continued its struggle as the sole voice of the Taiwanese to speak out from their perspective.

Consequent to the enhancement in knowledge, culture and national consciousness and the increasing thirst for latest news, the Taiwanese eagerly aspired for broader distribution of daily newspaper. In 1930, The Taiwan Minpao expanded its organizational structure and changed its name to The Taiwan Shinminpo. In 1932, it was finally approved to be issued daily and became the only private Taiwanese-run daily newspaper in the market at that time. At long last and after years of persistent requests, recurrent rejections and constant delays, Taiwanese got a newspaper of substance and meaning that met their expectations. Political views and sparks of reform could now propagate from the organization and be disseminated to the general public.


 

 Figure 6: First issue of The Taiwan Minpao
Source: Papers of the Press and Newspaper Office (LJK_09_05_0011365),
Yang Zhao-jia Collection (LJK).
Newspaper makes a powerful tool for awakening the conscience of oneself and others. In the early 1920s, members of the New People’s Society raised funds to publish The Taiwan Minpao. From a bi-weekly publication in the beginning, The Taiwan Minpao became a weekly press in 1925. Though fully aware that only a daily newspaper could deliver the latest updates and engineer effectively public opinion, the dream of publishing a daily could hardly be realized under deficient human and material resources, not to mention the hindrance from the authorities.

 Figure 7: Diary of Lin Hsien-tang dated March 11, 1927
Source: Lin Hsien-tang, Hsu Hsueh-chi (eds), Diary of Lin Hsien-Tang/1927-03-11. Retrieved from the
Taiwan Diary Knowledge Bank of the Institute of Taiwan History, Academia Sinica
Publishing a daily newspaper entailed overcoming many challenges including lack of financial and human resources. The diary of Lin Hsien-tang in March 1927 recorded the visit of Tsai Hui-ju, who urged him not to take his trip to Europe and the US, and used instead the travel expenses of 30,000-40,000 yuan for publishing The Taiwan Minpao. However, Lin Hsien-tang was keen in getting firsthand exposure to the different cultures of Europe and the United States, and considered travel notes a must-read for cultural enlightenment. So he still set off on May 15, 1927, embarking on a 378-day journey through five continents and 16 countries in Asia, Africa, Europe, America. Upon return to Taiwan, he published his Journey Around the World in The Taiwan Minpao.

 Figure 8: Archives of New People’s Society Volume II, 1929
Source: On Founding of Newspaper in Taiwan and Campaigning for Abolition of Tariff Assimilation (LJK_03_04_0120189),
Yang Zhao-jia Collection (LJK).
In 1929, the New People’s Society published the second volume of its archives, stating clearly the reasons behind initiating a Taiwanese-run newspaper. In his article on “Founding newspapers in Taiwan”, Zhang Geng pointed out that the main newspapers at that time were mostly pro-government with interests that conflicted with those of Taiwanese. What Taiwan needed was ‘genuine public opinion’. However, as recorded in the minutes of the general meeting of that year, this volume of archives was banned by the Government-General of Taiwan from being released or distributed, denying the general public the chance to read its contents.


 Figure 9: Request for permission to publish The Taiwan Shinminpo as a daily, 1929
Source: Request for Permission on Publication of Newspaper (TPH_01_04_002),
Documents of Tsai Pei-huo Archived at Taiwan Province Chapter of the Red Cross Society (TPH).
In 1929, Lin Hsien-tang submitted a request to the Governor-General for permission to publish The Taiwan Shinminpo as a daily. In his diary, Lin Hsien-tang also recorded events related to such request, including details of the mediation with the Government-General officials and discussion with comrades on the issue.

 Figure 10: Petition from The Taiwan Shinminpo for permission to publish daily, 1929
Source: Petition (TPH_01_04_003),
Documents of Tsai Pei-huo Archived at Taiwan Province Chapter of the Red Cross Society (TPH)
In 1930, members of The Taiwan Shinminpo jointly submitted a petition to the Governor of Taiwan, Ishizuka Eizō, for permission to publish daily. The co-signers were important cadres of The Taiwan Shinminpo from all over Taiwan; they were its director, Lin Hsien-tang, and executives including Luo Wan-ju, Lin Lu-Hsin, Yang Zhao-jia, Lin Yu-chun, Lai He, and Tsai Pei-huo, who were all important figures in promoting home rule and cultural enlightenment in Taiwan. The content of the petition showed that this was a repeated appeal as they received no official response for more than a year.

 Figure 11: First-issue front page of The Taiwan Shinminpo, 1932
Source: The Taiwan Shinminpo No. 0411 (1932-04-15),
Records of The Taiwan Shinminpo (T1119).
On January 9, 1932, The Taiwan Shinminpo finally obtained approval from the Government-General of Taiwan and its first issue as a daily was published on April 15 of the same year. This issue contained several pages of congratulatory messages from various circles, including Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi, former Governor-General Ōta Masahiro, and the then Governor-General Hiroshi Minami. In his message, former Governor-General Ōta Masahiro mentioned the need for unimpeded expression of public opinion; yet the concern for radical views resulted in the much delayed approval for publication. During his tenure, he finally granted the permission in view of the progress in cultural enhancement of the Taiwanese. Moreover, he hoped that the newspaper would serve as the voice of the general public to be heard by the government, thus fostering domestic harmony and integration.

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