Chen Yi (Kuomintang)
May 3, 1883|
Shaoxing, Zhejiang, China
|Died||June 18, 1950
|Allegiance||Republic of China|
|Years of service||1902-1949|
|Commands held||Taiwan Garrison, 19th route army|
Chen Yi (traditional Chinese: 陳儀; simplified Chinese: 陈仪; pinyin: Chén Yí; courtesy names Gongxia (公俠) and later Gongqia (公洽), sobriquet Tuisu (退素); May 3, 1883 – June 18, 1950) was the Chief Executive and Garrison Commander of Taiwan Province after the Empire of Japan surrendered to the Republic of China. He acted on behalf of the Allied Powers to accept the Japanese Instrument of Surrender in Taipei Zhongshan Hall on October 25, 1945. He is considered to have mismanaged the tension between the Taiwanese locals and Mainlanders which resulted in the February 28 Incident in 1947, and was dismissed. In June 1948 he was appointed Chairman of Zhejiang Province, but was dismissed and arrested when his plan to surrender to the Chinese Communist Party was discovered. He was sentenced to death and executed in Taipei in 1950.
Chen was born in Shaoxing, Zhejiang. After studying at Qiushi Academy (now Zhejiang University), in 1902 he went to a military academy in Japan for seven years . He joined Guangfuhui while in Japan. He returned to Japan in 1917 to study in a military university for three years, then resided in Shanghai. He is said to have been a "Japanophile.":251
He was the first senator (總參議) and governor of Zhejiang (since October 1925). Chen was also the commander of the 19th Route Army of the National Revolutionary Army (國民革命軍第十九路軍軍長). After 1927, he worked in the Military Affairs Department (軍政部), then as the chairman of Fujian in 1933, and Secretary-General of the Executive Yuan.
Chen and Fujian
Chen served as governor of Fujian province for eight years, beginning in 1934.:252 His experience in Fujian, the province immediately across the Taiwan Strait and the source of a larger percentage of Taiwan's population, was clearly a factor in Chen's selection to take control of Taiwan at the end of the war.
During his tenure in Taiwan, Chen got a taste of the complexity of ethnic and social ties among people from Fujian in other parts of Asia. He ran afoul of a powerful Chinese in Singapore, Tan Kah Kee, the leader of a large community of overseas Chinese. As a result of the conflict, Chen had to spend considerable effort and political capital fending off accusations of maladministration made against him by the influential Tan.:252
Chen and Taiwan
In 1935, Chen was sent to Taiwan by Chiang Kai-shek to attend "Exposition to Commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the Beginning of Administration in Taiwan," an exposition which served as a report on the achievements of Taiwan's modernization process under Japanese rule. During his stay in Taiwan, he praised the modern public facilities and the strong economic development. Chen publicly expressed his admiration with jealousy about the advanced life quality Taiwanese people enjoyed compared with the Chinese mainlanders who suffered from prolonged war incurred destruction and lack of further modernization. After he went back to Fujian, he filed a report to Chiang Kai-shek about his visit. With his experience in Japan and Taiwan, Chen had become the first candidate as the Taiwan governor in Chiang's mind after Japan relinquished the sovereignty of Taiwan.
Under the authorization of Douglas MacArthur's General Order No. 1 , Chen Yi was escorted by George Kerr to Taiwan for accepting Japan government's surrender as the Chinese delegate. On October 25, 1945, joined by delegates from Allied Powers, Chen signed a surrender instrument with General Ando Rikichi, governor-general of Taiwan, in Taipei City Hall (current Zhongshan Hall). Chen Yi proclaimed that day to be the Taiwan Retrocession Day which was regarded as legally controversial as Japan had not yet ceded Taiwan in any treaty until 1952.
Praise and Criticism
Chen did receive some praise for his dedication to work, his frugality, and incorruptibility. He was, however, criticized for his support for his more corrupt subordinates, and his stubborn lack of flexibility in some policies. Despite fluency in Japanese, he refused to use the language to interact with local Taiwanese elites, many of whom could not speak Mandarin, believing that the island must abandon the colonial language in favor of the new national tongue. This inability to communicate easily with his subjects and the fact he made surprisingly little effort to leave his official offices and interact with the Taiwanese society he ruled over made it difficult for him to detect the growing unrest on the island after the first year of postwar rule.
Chen was later removed from the position of Taiwan governor general for his mishandling of the administration of Taiwan which resulted in the February 28 Incident, a brutal suppression of local protests. In the early years of Chinese rule, rampant corruption in the new administration headed by Chen caused severe inflation, which in turn led to widespread local discontent. Allegations of carpet bagging by new immigrants from the mainland and a breakdown in social and governmental services also served to increase tensions. As the Shanghai newspaper Wen Hui Pao remarked, Chen ran everything "from the hotel to the night-soil business." The Taiwanese felt like colonial stepchildren rather than long-lost sons of Han. The period just after February 1947 resulted in the deaths of 10,000-30,000 local civilians.
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Chen and the 2/28 Incident
Anti-mainlander violence flared on February 28, 1947, prompted by an incident in which civilians were injured and shot by ROC authorities due to the violation of a ban on tobacco sales by unlicensed vendors. For several weeks after the February 28 Incident, the rebels held control of much of the main island of Taiwan. Under orders from Chiang Kai-shek, Chen deployed military troops from the mainland against the Taiwanese insurgents. By April, Chen had executed or jailed all the leading alleged rebels he could identify and catch, and his troops had prosecuted and executed (said a Taiwanese delegation in Nanjing) between 3,000 and 4,000 throughout the island. A key consequence was that "virtually all of the small group of leaders with modern education, administrative experience, and political maturity" were killed. The total death toll from the incident remains in dispute and has become a political issue in recent decades (1990s and 2000s).
Career After His Return to the Mainland
Following his dismissal from the post of Taiwan Governor-General, Chen was employed as a consultant. In June 1948, he took the position of provincial chairman of Zhejiang province. In November, he released over a hundred communists scheduled to be executed. In January 1949, Chen Yi thought the KMT position was untenable, so to rescue the 18 million residents of the Nanjing-Shanghai-Hangzhou region from a meaningless war, he attempted to defect to the Chinese Communist Party. Along with his defection, he attempted to induce the garrison military commander Tang Enbo to surrender to the Communist Party. However, Tang informed Chiang Kai-shek that Chen had advised him to rebel against the Kuomintang. Chiang immediately relieved Chen's chairmanship on the charge of collaboration with the Communists. April 1950, Chen Yi was escorted to Taiwan, and later imprisoned in Keelung. In May 1950, alleged for espionage case, Chiang Kai-shek ordered the Taiwan military court to sentence Chen Yi to death. In the same year on 18 June at 5:00 pm, he was executed at Machangding, Taipei and was buried in Wugu, Taipei County.
On June 9, 1980, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China announced a "Conclusions on Mr. Chen Yi" document to his relatives, declaring Chen a "patriot who sacrificed his own life for the cause of the liberation of the Chinese people."
Quotes from Chen
- "Mainland Chinese were advanced enough to enjoy the privileges of constitutional government, but because of long years of despotic Japanese rule, the Formosans were politically retarded and were not capable of carrying on self-government in an intelligent manner."(1947)
- "It took the Japs [sic.] 51 years to dominate this island. I expect to take about five years to re-educate the people so they will be more happy with Chinese administration."(1947)
- "I never forgot private enterprise. I always intended to re-establish it."(1947)
- Boorman, Howard L. (1968). ""Fei Hsiao=t'ung". Biographical Dictionary of Republican China. II. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 253.
- Tse-han Lai and Ramon Hawley. A Tragic Beginning: The Taiwan Uprising of February 28, 1947 (Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1991), 78.
- Tse-han Lai and Ramon Hawley. A Tragic Beginning: The Taiwan Uprising of February 28, 1947 (Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1991), 79-80.
- "Formosa Chief Executed As Traitor". Schenectady Gazette. AP. June 18, 1950. Retrieved November 13, 2014.
Tse-han Lai and Ramon Hawley. A Tragic Beginning: The Taiwan Uprising of February 28, 1947 (Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1991)
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