Political prisoner rescue efforts within and outside of Taiwan

Political prisoner rescue efforts, both within and outside of Taiwan, spanned decades since their inception in the 1960s, with numerous individuals and groups participating, including overseas Taiwanese, church groups, foreign friends, Amnesty International, the media and academia.

A hand-written list of 214 political prisoners in Taiwan, which was brought overseas and published in Taiwan Chenglian. Among those listed were Kuo I-tung (Bo Yang), Huang Hua, Chan Yi-jen, Philip Lin and Hsu Hsi-tu. (provided by Dr. Chen Wen-cheng Memorial Foundation)

In 1961, World United Formosans for Independence, based in Japan, wrote letters petitioning US congressmen concerning the Su Tung-chi Case. In 1964, overseas Taiwanese and international human rights groups actively supported Peng Ming-min, Roger Hsieh and Wei Ting-chao Following their Declaration of Formosan Self-Salvation. 

In the late 1960s, the issue of human rights gradually became a prime focus of international social concern, and overseas support of political prisoners in Taiwan steadily became organized and diversified. In the mid 1970s, when President Carter’s foreign policy brought the human rights issue into the international political arena, the KMT authorities’ records of human rights abuse drew worldwide concern. 

Domestically, when Roger Hsieh was at the Chingmei Detention Center in 1969, he and Tsai Tsai-yuan compiled a partial list of political prisoners, which they gave to Peng Ming-min (who was still in Taiwan at the time), who in turn gave it to the US ambassador. In 1970, a new list of 237 political prisoners compiled by Tsai passed through many hands, including Rev. Milo Thornberry (an American minister at the Taiwan Theological College and Seminary), author Meng Hsiang-ke, Li Ao and Amnesty International secretary-general Martin Ennals. Ennals took it to Japan, where it was published in Taiwan Chenglian. So for the first time a list of political prisoners came to light in the international media as a joint covert effort by then-current and former political prisoners of Taiwan. 

In 1970, jailed dissidents such as Tsai Tsai-yuan and Chen Chung-tung, as well as released prisoners including Roger Hsieh and Tsai Chin-keng, overcame numerous obstacles as they worked together collecting detailed information on 214 political prisoners, which they passed on to Amnesty International. This information became a vital reference for subsequent international aid efforts for political prisoners in Taiwan. 

After the Kaohsiung Incident of 1979, the KMT  arrested the opposition in one fell swoop, an act that evoked concern around the world. Pressure from the international community reinforced resistance against KMT oppression both within and outside Taiwan.



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