White Terror (Taiwan)

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White Terror
Literal meaningWhite Terror

In Taiwan, the White Terror (Chinese: 白色恐怖; pinyin: Báisè Kǒngbù) was the suppression of political dissidents following the February 28 incident.[1]

The period of martial law lasted 38 years and 57 days from 19 May 1949 to 15 July 1987.[2] Taiwan's period of martial law had been the longest period of martial law in the world at the time it was lifted, but has since been surpassed by the Syrian 48-year period of martial law, which lasted from 1963 to 2011.[3]

Time period[edit]

The term "White Terror" in its broadest meaning refers to the entire period from 1947 to 1987.[4] Most prosecutions took place in 1950–1953. Most of those prosecuted were labeled by the Kuomintang as "bandit spies" (匪諜), meaning communist spies, and punished as such.[citation needed]

The KMT mostly imprisoned Taiwan's intellectual and social elite out of fear that they might resist KMT rule or sympathize with communism.[2] For example, the Formosan League for Reemancipation was a Taiwanese independence group established in 1947 which the KMT believed to be under communist control, leading to its members being arrested in 1950. The World United Formosans for Independence was persecuted for similar reasons. However, other prosecutions did not have such clear reasoning; in 1968 Bo Yang was imprisoned for his choice of words in translating a Popeye comic strip. A large number of the White Terror's other victims were mainland Chinese, many of whom owed their evacuation to Taiwan to the KMT.[5] Many of the mainland Chinese who survived the White Terror in Taiwan, like Bo Yang and Li Ao, moved on to promote Taiwan's democratization and the reform of the Kuomintang. In 1969, future president Lee Teng-hui was detained and interrogated for more than a week by the Taiwan Garrison Command, which demanded to know about his "communist activities" and told him "killing you at this moment is as easy as crushing an ant to death." Three years later he was invited to join the cabinet of Chiang Ching-kuo.[6]

Fear of discussing the White Terror and the February 28 Incident gradually decreased with the lifting of martial law after the 1987 Lieyu Massacre,[7] culminating in the establishment of an official public memorial and an apology by President Lee Teng-hui in 1995. In 2008, President Ma Ying-jeou addressed a memorial service for the White Terror in Taipei. Ma apologized to the victims and their family members on behalf of the government, and expressed the hope that Taiwan would never again experience a similar tragedy.[8]


Around 140,000 Taiwanese were imprisoned during this period, of whom from about 3,000 to 4,000 were executed for their real or perceived opposition to the Kuomintang (KMT, Chinese Nationalist Party) government led by Chiang Kai-shek.[2] Most of the victims of the White Terror were men, however a number of women were tortured and/or executed.[9]



Since the lifting of martial law in 1987, the government has set up the 228 Incident Memorial Foundation, a civilian reparations fund supported by public donations for the victims and their families. Many descendants of victims remain unaware that their family members were victims, while many of the families of victims from Mainland China did not know the details of their relatives' mistreatment during the riot.[citation needed]


  • The 2005 film Super Citizen Ko by Wan Jen surrounding a political prisoner during martial law who looks for the grave of a friend who was executed.
  • The 2019 horror film Detention, an adaptation of the eponymous video game, deals with a group of students and teachers who are arrested for political reasons during White Terror.


  • Shawna Yang Ryan's Green Island tells the story of the incident as it affects three generations of a Taiwanese family.[30]
  • Julie Wu's The Third Son describes the event and its aftermath from the viewpoint of a Taiwanese boy.[31]
  • Ken Liu's The Paper Menagerie & Other Short Stories includes a short story titled The Literomancer which references the 228 incident from the perspective of a young American girl who had recently moved to Taiwan, and asks both her father, who works on an American military base, and a neighbor, and old man named Mr. Kan about the incident. It develops on these two different perspectives throughout the story, becoming progressively darker.
  • Jennifer J. Chow's The 228 Legacy, focuses on how there was such an impact that it permeated throughout multiple generations within the same family.[32]
  • Principle Jian Tian-lu's Hushen, a 2019 literature award winner expresses the humanity concern in contrast with the brutality on the first scene of 1987 Lieyu massacre.[33]


  • In 2014, Sharp Point Press and Future-Digi publicized the Rainy Port Keelung with 3 light novels telling a love story in the background of Keelung Massacre during the Feb. 28 incident.[34]
  • In 2017, Taiwanese game developer Red Candle Games launched Detention, a survival horror video game created and developed for Steam. It is a 2D atmospheric horror side-scroller set in 1960s Taiwan under martial law following the 228 incident. The critically acclaimed game also incorporates religious elements based on Taiwanese culture and mythology. Rely On Horror gave the game a 9 out of 10, saying that "every facet of Detention moves in one harmonious lockstep towards an unavoidable tragedy, drowning out the world around you."[35]
  • In 2017, Erotes Studio produced Blue Blood Lagoon with the story of high-school students running for life to escape from the bloodshed of military conscription arrest, prosecution and execution during the July 13 Penghu incident.[36]


See also[edit]



  1. ^ Rubinstein, Murray A. (2007). Taiwan: A New History. Armonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe. p. 302. ISBN 9780765614957.
  2. ^ a b c Huang, Tai-lin (20 May 2005). "White Terror exhibit unveils part of the truth". Taipei Times. p. 2.
  3. ^ Barker, Anne (28 March 2011). "Syria to end 48 years of martial law". ABC/Wire. ABC News. Retrieved 30 September 2014.
  4. ^ Chen, Ketty (Winter 2008). "Disciplining Taiwan: The Kuomintang's Methods of Control during the White Terror Era (1947-1987)" (PDF). Taiwan International Studies Quarterly. 4 (4): 187.
  5. ^ a b 張, 子午. "The Graveyard At The Center Of Taiwan's White Terror Period". The Reporter. Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  6. ^ Tsai, Shih-shan Henry (2005). Lee Teng-Hui and Taiwan's Quest for Identity. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 101–103. ISBN 9781403970565.
  7. ^ Hau Pei-tsun (2000-01-01). <8-year Diary of the Chief of the General Staff (1981-1989)>. Commonwealth Publishing. ISBN 9576216389.(in Chinese)
  8. ^ "President Ma attends White Terror Memorial". China Post. July 16, 2008.
  9. ^ Cheung, Han. "Taiwan in Time: The women claimed by the White Terror". www.taipeitimes.com. Taipei Times. Retrieved 17 July 2021.
  10. ^ Forsythe, Michael (July 14, 2015). "Taiwan Turns Light on 1947 Slaughter by Chiang Kai-shek's Troops". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 27 October 2018. To somber cello music that evokes “Schindler’s List,” displays memorialize the lives lost, including much of the island’s elite: painters, lawyers, professors, and doctors. In 1992, an official commission estimated that 18,000 to 28,000 people had been killed.
  11. ^ Cheung, Han (July 10, 2016). "Students, soldiers and spies". Taipei Times. Retrieved 2 April 2019.
  12. ^ Huang, Tai-lin (20 May 2005). "White Terror exhibit unveils part of the truth". Taipei Times. Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  13. ^ Weng, Yu-huang; Chen, Wei-han. "Luku Incident survivor pens memoir of events". Taipei Times. Retrieved 7 February 2021.
  14. ^ Prof. Sergey Vradiy (2020-02-20). ""Tuapse" Oil Tanker Episode in the History of Taiwan-Russia Relations" (PDF). Taiwan Fellowship, Center for Chinese Studies, National Central Library.
  15. ^ Lin Hon-yi (2009). "Chapter 4, 1953-1960" (PDF). The Closed Port Policy of ROC Government to blockade Chinese coast, 1949-1960> (MD thesis) (in Chinese).
  16. ^ Лев КАПЛИН. "The tragedy of the tanker "Tuapse"" (in Russian). Riddles of History.
  17. ^ Guan Ren-jian (2011-09-01). <The Taiwan you don't know: Stories of ROC Arm Forces>. Puomo Digital Publishing. ISBN 9789576636493.(in Chinese)
  18. ^ Zheng Jing, Cheng Nan-jung, Ye Xiangzhi, Xu Manqing (1987-06-13). <Shocking inside story of the Kinmen Military Murder Case>. Freedom Era Weekly, Ver 175-176.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  19. ^ Vitali Kalinin (1958). "Ch. P. - Chrezvychainoe proisshestvie". IMDb. Retrieved 2021-03-09.
  20. ^ Victor Ivchenko (2021-02-21). "E.A. — Extraordinary Accident (Episode 1) 1958 film" (in Russian). All soviet movies on RVISION. Retrieved 2021-07-21.
  21. ^ Victor Ivchenko (2021-02-08). "E.A. — Extraordinary Accident (Episode 2) 1958 film" (in Russian). All soviet movies on RVISION. Retrieved 2021-07-25.
  22. ^ "A City of Sadness". 21 October 1989. Retrieved 12 March 2017 – via IMDb.
  23. ^ Hsiao Chiu (2002-08-21). "Banana Paradise - A Sad Story of Mainlanders under the Great Epoch" (in Chinese). Taiwan123. Retrieved 2021-07-31.
  24. ^ "Xiang jiao tian tang". IMDb. 1989. Retrieved 2021-07-31.
  25. ^ "A Brighter Summer Day (1991) Awards". IMDb. 1993. Retrieved 2021-08-01.
  26. ^ 管仁健 (2008-12-27). "建中學生的少年殺人事件簿" (in Chinese). Taipei: 你不知道的台灣. Retrieved 2021-08-01.
  27. ^ "Lei wangzi". IMDb. 2009. Retrieved 2021-07-29.
  28. ^ "Bodyless trailer for ARS Electronica Festival". Prof. Hsin-Chien Huang. 2020-08-31. Retrieved 2021-07-29.
  29. ^ "設計系黃心健《失身記》獲奧地利電子藝術節榮譽獎" (in Chinese). Taipei: National Taiwan Normal University Alumni Center. 2020. Retrieved 2021-07-29.
  30. ^ "Green Island by Shawna Yang Ryan - PenguinRandomHouse.com". Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  31. ^ Winterton, Bradley (May 7, 2014). "Book review: The Third Son". Taipei Times. Retrieved November 14, 2014.
  32. ^ Bloom, Dan (Aug 19, 2013). "US author probes 'legacy' of the 228 Incident in novel". Taipei Times. Retrieved 7 May 2014.
  33. ^ {{Cite web|title=【19屍20命】浯島文學首獎探討「三七事件」 小金門的殺戮時代|url=https://www.upmedia.mg/news_info.php?SerialNo=75977%7Cdate=2019-11-23 |access-date=2021-07-25 |publisher=Up Media|language=zh-tw} |location=Kinmen}
  34. ^ "Finding Taiwanese Footprints of Taiwanese Through Games - An interview with the production team of <Rainy Port Keelung>" (in Chinese). Animen News. 2014-03-17. Retrieved 2021-07-29.
  35. ^ "Review: Detention - Rely on Horror". Retrieved 12 March 2017.
  36. ^ 吳柏緯 (2017-04-05). "July 13, February 28 and Zheng Nanrong...Learn about Taiwanese history by playing games" (in Chinese). Taipei: Liberty Times. Retrieved 2021-07-29.


English language[edit]

Chinese language[edit]

  • 藍博洲,1991,幌馬車之歌。台北:時報文化。
  • 藍博洲,1993,白色恐怖。台北:揚智。
  • 呂芳上計劃主持,1999,戒嚴時期台北地區政治案件相關人士口述歷史:白色恐怖事件查訪(上)。台北:台北市文獻委員會。
  • 任育德,2003,從口述史看1950年代政治案件的女性受刑人,近代中國第154期。
  • 台灣省文獻委員會編,1998,台灣地區戒嚴時期五零年代政治案件史料彙編(一):中外檔案。南投:台灣省文獻委員會。
  • 魏廷朝,1997,台灣人權報告書,1949-1995。台北:文英堂。
  • 朱德蘭,2001,崔小萍事件,南投:省文獻會。

External links[edit]