The Kaohsiung Riot


To the Editors of the Crimson

The article by Burton F. Jablin which was printed in the March 7 issue of The Harvard Crimson is one of the most one-sided I have seen concerning the circumstances surrounding the riot in Kaohsiung, Taiwan on December 10 last year. Jablin leaves out many important facts and misrepresents others.

Firstly, his information on Lu Hsiu-lien is flawed. The publishing company (Pioneer Publishing House) for feminist literature that she established is still in business, contrary to Jablin's statement that it was closed by the government. The telephone hot-line for women ("Pao Hu Nin") set up by Lu does not now exist, but in light of Jablin's mistake on the publishing company it seems unlikely that the government curtailed its operation, especially since in was well-received by the public. Jablin's remark about "underground" opposition activities by Lu is cryptic if not misleading. Certainly she is not known to have engaged in any illegal ventures before the Kaohsiung riot. Jablin's portrayal of her as an anti-government revolutionary can be diluted by pointing out that she was appointed to the Commission on Laws and Regulations in the Executive Yuan (the Cabinet). She served as a specialist in charge of petition cases for four years until she left voluntarily to continue her feminist work.

Secondly, the account of the Kaohsiung riot in Jablin's article is seriously defective. For example, the police did in fact permit the rally celebrating International Human Rights Day to occur, contrary to Jablin's claim otherwise. However, the participants of the rally were not authorized to hold a march because it would have disrupted traffic in downtown Kaohsiung. When the demonstrators attempted to march, the riot broke out. The true course of events was quite different from that implied in the article. Most serious is a complete absence of mention about the rioters assaults on police, the most important determinant for making arrests. Over 180 unarmed security personnel were injured in the attacks, in which the demonstrators wielded torches, iron bars and spiked clubs while shouting threats like "Beat them to death!" ("P'a hou yin hsi!" in the Chinese Min-nan dialect). The rioters even looted a police station and injured the staff there. The police, on the other hand, were forbidden to fight back. Unlike the impression conveyed in quotes by Linda Arrigo, no demonstrators were hurt.

Jablin's information is also incorrect in regard to the trial of the eight suspects accused of insurrection and other crimes connected with the riot. For example, it is stated that Lu Hsiu-lien and the seven others could be punished by death. Jablin does not mention that the prosecutor has requested that none of the defendants be sentenced to death if found guilty. According to the law, suspects can be held for 2 months before indictment, and this can be extended for up to 2 months more in exceptional circumstances. An extension of six days was granted in the present case, but to say that the government has "postponed their trial several times" is a complete misrepresentation.

Lastly, there are a few other aspects of the article that must be corrected. Jablin declares that the Nationalist Party is the only legal party in the Republic of China. There are actually three legalized political parties, the other two being the China Youth Party and the China Democratic Socialist Party. It is misleading to say that the Republic of China (the "Free Chinese state" referred to by Jablin) was established in Taiwan in 1949. The R.O.C. was actually founded in Nanking in 1911, when Taiwan was occupied by the Japanese. The island was restored to the R.O.C. in 1945. It is also unfortunate that Jablin plays along with those who pretend that there is some kind of ethnic or cultural difference between the Taiwan Chinese and the mainland Chinese. Perhaps he doesn't realize that this issue is contrived merely for some to obtain political influence through unprincipled means. --Robert de Lorimier

Recommended Articles