Press Through Turbulent Times: 20 Years After Lifting of Newspaper Publishing Restriction

The Taiwanese have really done a number on Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall (previously known as Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall). This clutter of stuff is part of the human rights exhibition going on right now at the park, in front of the giant Chiang statue. I've heard they will engrave the names of all of the victims of the 2-28 Massacre inside.

At first glance, this Jack o' Lantern may seem odd. But Chiang Kai-shek's birthday was on October 31. It used to be a national holiday in Taiwan.

The cops were on hand (there are four in this shot) and I counted nine in total. I asked one of them why there were out in numbers and he explained: "Because there are a lot of people here today."

But I found this a bit unsatisfactory. I'd been through the day before and hadn't seen a single officer. "Are you expecting protests today?" I pressed him.

"Uh, maybe," was the reply.

"End the involvement of soldiers in politics"

This exhibition on the development of the media in Taiwan is going on downstairs at the Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall. I think it's pretty lame, especially with what's going on upstairs in with Chiang's statue. The exhibition jumbles together the last fifty years of this and that, explaining about how reporters had to report to the Taiwan Garrison command and how "the president's office" was "off limits". There's some stuff about the explosion of new publications after the lifting of martial law in 1987, on how many of the newspapers went under and the many journalists who were left unemployed in the nineties. There's also something on "UN for Taiwan".

The exhibit then flips into Chinese only mode. This is where it gets really screwy. For some reason, it covers the two periods of colonialism Taiwan has supposedly undergone, namely 1624 to 1661, when Taiwan was under the Dutch and again from 1895 to 1945, under the Japanese. There is no mention, however, of Taiwan under Koxinga, 1661 to 1683. There is no mention of Taiwan under the Ching Dynasty, from 1683 to 1895. There is no mention of Taiwan under Chiang Kai-shek, his son, Lee Tung-hui or Chen Shui-bien. There is, stunningly, no mention of Taiwan's Aborigines under any of these governments.

The Chinese explanation reads something like this: "When the Dutch came here to our Taiwan in 1624, they colonized we Chinese." It doesn't say: When the Dutch were told by the Ming rulers in Beijing that they could have Taiwan in exchange for the Pescadores (澎湖), they found around 1,000 Chinese pirates and the like, another 500 Japanese and 100,000 Aborigines living in Taiwan. In order to develop Taiwan, the Dutch invited guest workers from China to come over to the island. These individuals along with the Aboriginal women they married are the ancestors of people living in Taiwan now. To expedite their goal of developing Taiwan, Dutch ships regularly landed in Fuchien province to move guest workers from China to Taiwan.

This is how Taiwan's population progressed throughout the 17th century:
1,000 Chinese in 1624
20,000 in 1648 (sex ratio – 20 guys for every woman)
30,000-40,000 in 1661 (sex ratio – 35:1), Koxinga’s 25,000 soldiers increase Taiwan’s population
1683 100,000 - Beijing tries to sell Taiwan back to Holland then, when this fails, seriously considers bringing back the entire population to China and abandoning the island, which the Emperor Kangsi calls "a blob of mud floating in the ocean".

I would think Taiwan was populated with "Han" Chinese with the assistance of the Dutch, but hardly colonized. You need people in order to colonize. Taiwan's Aborigines were colonized by:
1. The Dutch
2. Ming Loyalists (Koxinga)
3. The Ching Dynasty
4. The Japanese
5. The KMT
6. The DPP
An account of these undeniable phases of colonization is completely overlooked by this exhibition.


igor sitnikov said...

Before Dutsch there were more other invaders and colonisers, who colonised local aboriginal Negritos and deers. :)
Come on, Patrick! It is history - it happens everywhere everytime. More developed just eats the less developed one. Am I a Fashist?

owshawng said...

20 guys for every woman

Sounds like Paris or Britney's dream.

And some of the lame parties I went to in college

Patrick Cowsill said...

Igor, according to some, Taiwan's negritos were colonized by Aborigines when the latter arrived some 6,700 years ago, so maybe I should've added this to the list.

I'm not arguing about colonialism being a part of history, or even saying that it's a bad thing. I'm just saying the Taiwanese should get it right. There were more than two periods of colonialism in Taiwan. Some Taiwanese, like the organizers of the exhibit at Taiwan Democracy Hall, would have it that the Taiwanese are just victims of it. That's just false.

Owshwang, there were lots of women here. They were Aboriginal women. That is why it today some 85% of Taiwan's population has Aboriginal blood. A lot of people here don't like to hear this kind of thing; they still subscribe to the myth of the Han, a race of supposedly "pure-blooded" people in China and believe that they are included.

Anonymous said...

"An account of these undeniable phases of colonization is completely overlooked by this exhibition."

Maybe the Chinese think they helped them?

Boyd R. Jones said...

Very interesting. Could you suggest some reading on this history?

Patrick Cowsill said...


You should read "Is Taiwan Chinese?" by Melissa Brown. She goes into how Taiwanese have for the most part ignored their Aboriginal heritage, how most Taiwanese descend from Plains Aborigines.