1987 Lieyu massacre
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|1987 Lieyu massacre|
|Part of Cold War|
|Location||Donggang, Lieyu Township, Kinmen County, Fujian Province, Republic of China|
|Date||March 7–8, 1987|
|Target||Vietnamese boat people|
|Perpetrators||158th Heavy infantry Division, Kinmen Defense Command (金門防衛司令部), Republic of China Army|
|Motive||3: Order of taking no surrender, 16 (?): Eliminating the witnesses|
|1987 Lieyu massacre|
|March 7 Incident|
The 1987 Lieyu massacre, also known as the March 7 Incident, Donggang Incident or Donggang Massacre, occurred on 7 March 1987 at Donggang Bay, Lieyu Island ("Lesser Kinmen" or "Little Quemoy"), Kinmen, Fujian, Republic of China. According to the diary of General Hau Pei-tsun, nineteen unarmed Vietnamese boat people were killed by the ROC military. There may have been more than nineteen deaths.
The 1987 Lieyu massacre was preceded by an incident where a young couple from mainland China swam to Dadan Island (大膽島) seeking asylum. At that time, all the islets of the Kinmen Archipelago were considered as war zones under Martial Law, which was to allow the Republic of China (Taiwan) to prevent an attack by the People's Liberation Army of the Communist Party of China. The commanding major-general of the Dadan Defense Team, Premier deputy division commander of the 158 Lieyu Division (烈嶼師), received the couple and escorted them to the superior-level Kinmen Defense Command (金防部), but was immediately relieved of his post for violating the directive to "Accept no surrender in the war zone".
As a result, the commanding lieutenant-colonel of the neighboring Erdan Island, Deputy brigade commander of the 473 Brigade, summoned all the soldiers to reiterate the order that "Whoever lands on the island must be executed without exception". Soon after this, he was promoted to the position of 472 Nantang brigade commander (南塘旅), taking charge of all the units in the South Lieyu Defense Team.
At noon on 28 February 1987, one week before the Lieyu massacre, a local Chinese fishing boat crossed Xiamen Bay. It was intensely fired upon until it caught fire near Dadan Island. The fishermen on board waved a white cloth in an attempt to communicate their surrender. However, the boat was sunk by tank gun shots ordered by the new Dadan commander colonel, Secondary deputy division commander of the 158 Division, upon receiving the approval of the Kinmen Defense Command. There was only one survivor, who swam to cling onto a rock nearby, but who was eventually lost to the waves.
On 7 March 1987, a boat carrying Vietnamese refugees arrived in Kinmen requesting political asylum. The request was rejected by the Kinmen Defense Command. The boat was towed away from the shore by a patrol boat of the Amphibious Reconnaissance Battalion (ARB-101, 海龍蛙兵) with a warning not to return. However, for reasons unclear, the information about the boat's presence in the Southern sea was never forwarded to the front line of the coastal defense units, including those in the Lieyu island.
At 16:37 in the afternoon of 7 March 1987, under heavy fog, the Vietnamese boat was sighted off the shore of Lieyu. The 472 brigade commander and the local 1st Dashanding (大山頂) infantry battalion commander arrived at the scene with staff officers. Warning shots were fired by the ROC military. The Vietnamese boat stranded on the sand beach south-west of Donggang ("East Cape", Chinese: 東崗; Pinyin: Dōnggāng) Port (Fort 05), a sensitive strategic point between 2 forts with a blind angle on radar screen by the landform in front of the classified 240 mm howitzer M1 position of Kinmen Defense Command, and artillery battalions of 158 Division then. It was hit by crossfire and two bazooka shots by the WPN company in reinforcement. Armor-piercing shells penetrated the wooden hull without explosion. Three unarmed Vietnamese men jumped off the boat, raised their hands, and said in Chinese, "Don't shoot..." but were all shot dead instantly.
The local 3rd Dongang company commander captain on site received an order from the brigade commander to lead a search team boarding the boat. Two hand grenades were thrown into the boat. The commander then found that all the passengers were Vietnamese refugees with no weapon. The passengers said the vessel had experienced a mechanical failure. Because of the heavy fog, the strong seasonal currents and the rising tide since late afternoon, the boat drifted into the bay. The surviving passengers and the bodies of the dead were taken out of the boat and placed on the beach with neither first aid nor any life support supply rendered. Followed by intense telecommunication with the division HQ, the commanders at the scene received orders from their superiors - alleged directly by General Zhao, Commander of the Kinmen Defense Command - to execute the passengers to eliminate all the eyewitnesses. Some received multiple shots when one bullet did not kill. Among the bodies piled were elderly, women, one pregnant, children, and a baby in a sweater.
In the morning 09:00 of 8 March 1987, the Medical Platoon of the battalion HQ Company was called in to bury all the bodies at the beach. The platoon members were ordered to execute any surviving refugees. The wounded were buried alive, and those who were still moving or crying were dictated to be killed by military shovels. The entire boat was also instructed to be burned down aside from the only propeller non-flammable to gasoline, then all buried in sand to destroy all the evidence right away. The last victim, a little boy being hidden underneath a board cell was also executed by order without exception. The guarding sergeant of the battalion HQ company counted the bodies as more than nineteen.
Since some medics defied the direct order of victim execution, the brigade commander instructed the Nantang brigade HQ Company commander captain to dispatch soldiers taking over the battalion HQ and the battalion HQ company as emergency measure. Later that day, a real fishing boat from China approached the coast attempting to check out what happened. it was also shot to destroy, and sunk in the open sea with 4 confirmed kills to assure all lips sealed - which some veterans later called the "March 8 Incident".
Ten weeks later, the President of the Republic of China (Taiwan), Chiang Ching-kuo, reacted to concealment of the massacre by the 158 Division and the Kinmen Defense Command. Commander of the Kinmen Defense Command, General Zhao Wan-fu (Chinese: 趙萬富; Pinyin: Zhào Wànfù), said he was unaware of the event. While being questioned by the Chief of the General Staff, General Hau Pei-tsun, Zhao Wan-fu lied, "It was just a couple of 'Communist soldiers' (referring to the penetration of People's Liberation Army) being shot in the water", but Zhao's statement was obviously unbelievable. Then General Hau Pei-tsun ordered the exhumation of the corpses from the first scene, moved them toward a higher hidden slope to the right, filled with cement and built a concrete wall above it to prevent any future investigation. The corpses remain sealed in the final place with no tomb today.
The native store owner heard the crying of refugees overnight and made a phone call to inform the National Assembly member, Huang Chao-hui in Kaohsiung, but the contact was soon lost whereas all long-distance phone calls being routinely monitored by the communication supervision unit of Kinmen Defense Command. Nevertheless, the bodies were not buried deeply on the first scene. Influenced by tidal seawater and high temperatures, the bodies soon began to decompose and were dug out by wild dogs from the landfill on the back side of the western hill. Accounts of ghost sightings prompted villagers to hold religious ceremonies, making it all the more difficult to block the news.
In early May 1987, the British Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post first reported the massacre. Informed by the overseas office, higher officials questioned the Kinmen Defense Command but got no concrete response; instead, the Command swapped this coast defense battalion from the front line with another reserve battalion in the training base in urgency in order to strengthen the personnel control and communication restriction to prevent further leaking news, and their unit designation codes were also shifted for the 2 years to confuse outsiders. Twice of extra bonus cash summing up to half a month of a captain's salary, $6000 were also abnormally awarded to the company commanders against the government ethics on the eve of Dragon boat festival. Until the end of May, recently discharged conscript soldiers from Kinmen began to arrive in Taiwan Proper by the term schedule and finally able to appeal to the newly founded opposition party, Democratic Progressive Party. The information of the massacre started to spread in Taiwan.
As a key witness during the investigation in the late-May, the Chief Intelligence Officer of 158 Division, Lieutenant Colonel Lai Xu (徐萊), mysteriously disappeared after a supervision task over night patrol and checkpoints, same to another non-commissioned officer at post within a week. Their bodies were never found.
On 5 June 1987, Independence Evening Post was the first Taiwanese newspaper reporting the massacre with the formal questioning by the newly elected Parliament Member Wu Shu-chen from the Democratic Progressive Party to the Ministry of National Defense during the general assembly of Legislative Yuan. Her questions were repeatedly denied by the Military Spokesman, Major-general Zhang Hui Yuan, who accused Wu of "sabotaging the national reputation", and claimed it was actually "a Chinese fishing boat being sunk in the sea after ignoring the warnings". The case has been classified as military secret ever since for 20 years to prevent any further leaking information or the prosecution will apply. The following media reports were censored and the publication were banned by the Nationalist government. Eventually when the police broke into the Freedom Era Weekly magazine office for arrest with another count of Treason charge in April, 1989, Editor-in-chief, Cheng Nan-jung set himself on fire then died in blaze to protest for the freedom of speech. Journalist Zhang Youhua (張友驊) of Independence Evening Post on the other hand was sentenced to 1 year and 7 months with a probation period of 3 years in November 1991.
The official cover-up story of the Chinese fishing boat sunk by one shell of bombardment applied to the public for 13 years, until being uncovered by the publication of «Diary of the Chief of the General Staff (1981-1989)» by General Hau in 2000. The Government of the Republic of China has made no comment thereafter.
After the scandal was exposed, President Chiang Ching-kuo received a letter from Amnesty International expressing humanitarian concern, and assigned the Chief of General Staff, General Hau, to investigate this case. A special envoy of the Political Warfare Bureau was dispatched to Kinmen and found the case true. All the commanders and the corresponding political officers along the chain of command, including Kinmen Defense Command, 158 Lieyu Division, 472 Nantang Brigade, the 1st Dashanding Battalion, the HQ, WPN and 3rd Donggang companies were detained and brought back to Taipei, then only the division officers were charged in court martial in October, 1987.
Brigade Commander Zhong was sentenced to 1 year and 10 months for abetting murder; Battalion Commander Major Liu was sentenced to 1 year and 10 months for being an accomplice to murder; WPN and 3rd Company commanders, Captain Li and Captain Zhang, both were sentenced to 1 year and 8 months for murder - but all the sentences were commuted with a probation period of 3 years, therefore none of the convicted field commanders was required to spend a day in jail until later under heavy pressure from the international society and media. Their later regular retirement and pension plans were not affected.
The superior officers received no official punishment, and recovered their military career after President Chiang suddenly died in January, 1988. Brigade Commander Zhong took a senior lead colonel position in a military academy (陸軍通校); Division Commander Gong shifted to the Chief of Staff of the War College, National Defense University, before being promoted to the Deputy Commander of the Hua-Tung Defense Command (花東防衛司令部) in 1991; Kinmen Defense Commander Zhao was promoted to Deputy Chief Commander General of the Republic of China Army in 1989, and further to Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Republic of China Armed Forces in 1991; then appointed with honours as a strategy advisor (戰略顧問) to the President of the Republic of China in 2 terms, and then the permanent title as the reviewer member (中評委) of the Central Committee of the ruling party, Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist Party) till his death on Feb. 28, 2016. His official funeral was proceeded with his coffin covered by the National Flag, the military salute of the top-ranked generals, and Vice-president Wu Den-yih presenting the Commendation Decree of President Ma Ying-jeou, who praises Zhao's 50-year career in national security with so-called "loyalty, diligence, bravery, perseverance, intelligence, wisdom, insight and proficiency" (忠勤勇毅，才識閎通), whereas "his virtue and conducts have set a good example model for future generation to follow...." (武德景行，貽範永式... 逾五十載攄忠護民，越半世紀衛國干城，崇勛盛業，青史聿昭).
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