JAPAN'S GREAT CONTRIBUTION to Formosa was the introduction of a rule of law and order. Police rule was often harsh, and the application of law often unfair when Formosan interests clashed with the interests of the ruling Japanese, but nevertheless the legal system provided an essential foundation for economic and social advance. This was understood. The chaos and uncertainties of the 19th century gave way to orderly process. If questions of subversion or rebellion were not at issue, every Formosan enjoyed a reasonable degree of security for his person, property and livelihood. The courts were respected and the right of appeal was there. If a Formosan challenged a Japanese in court (or even in argument at the local street-corner police-box) the scales of justice were often out of balance, but in normal village life every individual enjoyed protection of the law.* After the surrender these safeguards vanished.
As we have seen in an earlier chapter, the greatest confusion reigned in the first months of the "Take-Over Period." Japan's post-surrender Premier Shidehara announced that Japanese property overseas would be transferred to the Allies as reparations, but the formal Japanese Property Custodian Board on Formosa was not set up at Taipei until December, 1945. Representatives of the U. S. Army Advisory Group were active Board members. whose presence strengthened Japanese attempts to make an orderly business of the legal transfer. But this impeded Chinese who sought to lay hands on confiscated property before legal controls were too highly developed in the transfer system. We have noted earlier that at this point complaints went "up the back stairs" to American authorities at Chungking, accusing Americans at Taipei of undue "meddling." American attempts to support an orderly transfer of property titles became "attempts to protect the Japanese," and orders came down from Wedemeyer's headquarters directing his officers to consider themselves no longer an "Advisory Group" but merely a "Liaison Team," concerned only with repatriation problems.
The confusion of this so-called "Take-Over Period" was easily exploited by thieves and racketeers of every stripe, some of them highly placed in the Governor's official family. In their view the law was a nuisance, and it came as a distinct surprise that "degraded Formosans" dared to expose them in the press and attempted ceaselessly to bring charges into the Courts.
This involved a painful loss of face.
An incident which took place immediately after the surrender may be said to have set the tone for Chen Yi's administration of legal affairs. His Chief Procurator for the Supreme Court (i.e. his "Attorney General") was found to be using the High Court's vermilion seal upon forged orders with which his agents expropriated private property. In this instance they were compelling Tamsui motor-craft owners to engage in illegal transport of stolen goods to the mainland. The case came to light when a small-craft owner, ordered to load stolen sugar for a hazardous cross-channel trip, pleaded a mechanical breakdown, removed the motor to a hiding place, and then boldly went up to Taipei to enlist the help of well-known Formosan lawyers and the local press. He won his case, and Chen Yi's Chief Procurator had to leave Formosa, for the Governor was not yet sure of himself, and it was too early in the Occupation to defy public opinion in a case given such wide publicity.
In another example Governor Chen's Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry ordered Formosan fishermen along the East Coast to deliver their craft to Keelung "for safekeeping during the winter months." This would have been virtual confiscation, and few owners complied. It was known that the "protected property" might merge with a large fleet of confiscated Japanese craft then being employed in clandestine trade with the Ryukyu Islands and Japan, and in smuggling "liberated" goods to Shanghai.
The daily press was happy to publish details of alleged or proved dishonesty in every department of the administration. Such examples of official malpractice in high places could be cited almost without number. The effect was to place before the Formosan public a picture of corruption in Government, from the highest to the lowest office. This was the "new democracy."
Under these circumstances law enforcement would have been difficult for the most honest law agency; Chen's Department of Legal Affairs faced an enormously complex task, for all legal documentation was in the Japanese language. Codes peculiar to Formosa must be collated with Chinese law.
Lawyers and judges, to function at all, had to be literate in both the Chinese and Japanese languages, and conversant with one or more of the local dialects. The use of the Japanese spoken language in official business was technically forbidden, but in many instances it had to be employed. Although few mainland Chinese had both the linguistic and legal qualifications, they were given the highest appointments at Taipei.
Circumstances compelled Chen Yi to appoint qualified Formosans as district and local judges and procurators. The majority were bilingual, having studied literary Chinese while passing through the higher schools, and having taken law degrees at the Japanese universities. I knew many, including several very able men who had been my students at Taipei before the war and were graduates of Tokyo Imperial University. They enjoyed the confidence of the Formosan layman, and they kept me well informed of many incidents affecting Formosan interests under the new dispensation.
Standing against them were Chen Yi's civil police force, brought in from the mainland. At the surrender in October, 1945, the police organization numbered 13,000 officers and men, but of these only 5600 were Formosans, in the lower ranks. The Governor ordered Japanese members of the force to remain at their posts until December 10 but under the circumstances the Formosan public treated them indifferently. Formosan police employees found it very difficult to obey "lameduck" Japanese superiors, and the incoming Chinese paid them no heed whatsoever.
But to fill the 7400 posts vacated by the Japanese, Chen Yi did not promote experienced Formosans and recruit others for "freshman" jobs. Thousands of newcomers were placed on the rolls, inexperienced relatives and friends of mainland Chinese already established in the Administration. Many policemen could speak neither Japanese nor the local Chinese dialects, and hundreds were mere boys in their teens, younger brothers for whom lucrative jobs must be obtained. The authorized pay was of much less interest than the prospect of bribes and perquisites. When all police jobs vacated by the Japanese had been filled, the Government began to discharge Formosans to make room for more newcomers.
And here again, as with the Army, Formosans at first were tempted to jeer at blundering novices. But questions of face were involved, the policeman took courage in arms, and soon there was no laughter to be heard at police expense. I one day witnessed a shouting argument between some Formosan hecklers and a trio of policemen near the Round Park Police Station in Taipei. A tense crowd gathered near. Suddenly one of the policemen drew his revolver and, firing, lunged at his tormentors. But his aim was poor; as the crowd scattered one of his wild shots felled an innocent bystander. The three police made no effort to pursue the hecklers, but satisfied themselves by dragging the bleeding corpse to the station steps, flinging it there to remain through the day, an example and warning to all "degraded Formosans." It had been a question of face.
City mayors controlled the urban police forces. At the surrender Chen Yi made expatriate Huang Chao-chin the Mayor of Taipei, and Huang made one of his cronies (Chen Shang-bin) the new Chief of Police. They had been associates in the Nationalist Chinese Foreign Service.
Soon after he took office and assumed control of the police organization it became evident that Huang's officers were collaborating with the underworld gangsters known locally as loma or "tiger eels."
Years earlier the Japanese in Formosa sometimes gave habitual criminals a choice between long penitentiary terms at hard labor or employment along the China coast as subsidized dope peddlers, racketeers and rabble-rousers in the ports. They had an evil reputation from Shanghai to Hong Kong, tainting the reputations of all Formosans at that time. Now in 1945 they swarmed back to the island to prey upon their own people.
At Taipei each "tiger eel" gang had its own sphere of influence, its city ward, and its police affiliation. They were rivals in petty theft, dramatic robberies and extortion. By night the streets were unsafe; loma gangs broke into shops and dwellings, noisily ransacked the premises, and trucked away the loot, assured that no policeman would show his face unless it was to give a helping hand. Frightened victims stood by helplessly, knowing it was useless to summon aid. It was dangerous, too, for any complainant became a marked man. The police stations were crowded with people brought in under false accusations, to be imprisoned, fined, or released according to the size of the bribes they were able to pay.
For example, in early 1946, a Formosan employed in a textile company charged that a Chinese colleague was embezzling large funds. The accused bribed the police to allow him to decamp for Shanghai. Then the police jailed the plaintiff, who was held under arrest for many weeks, on the grounds that he had "held administrative responsibility." He was released only after his family was bankrupted paying bribes.
Day after day the Formosan press recorded incidents involving the police as irresponsible incompetents, law-breakers, or racketeers. My notes for the first three weeks of February, 1946, show some typical cases.
On February 1, several inexperienced young mainland police burst into a crowded theater, firing wildly. The terrified audience poured into the streets. It was learned that the officers were searching for a suspect who "might be in there," but none was found. On February 8 a Chinese merchant from Keelung paid four policemen to accompany him some thirty miles inland to the town of Taoyuan, where they attempted to force a local shopkeeper to sell his stocks at a ridiculously low price. Angry townspeople discovered these "negotiations" in time to drive the policemen and their friends from town. This involved a loss of face.
During the night of February 17 some thirty police officers -- Mayor Huang's men -- drove from Taipei to suburban Keibi village, forced their way into a prominent landowner's home, and announced that they were there to "conduct an examination." Household members, fleeing through the back door, shouted "Thieves!" which brought out the neighbors armed with makeshift weapons, and the local Formosan police unit. The sirens wailed, whereupon a nearby Nationalist Army unit dashed into the village in a truck, from which a mounted machine gun fired wildly into the night. The Mayor's officers took cover, sending two men back into the city for reinforcements. When dawn came at last the absurd and dangerous character of this three-way battle was revealed, and as a Keibi villager later remarked to me, the whole thing, recalled conditions of the 19th century.
On February 16 a member of the Police Training Institute Staff -a Foochow man -- was caught robbing a house, and on February 18 the Chief of the Kaohsiung police forces shot up the premises of a Formosan who refused to sell goods to him at a ruinous discount. This had caused him to lose face before a crowd of onlookers.
We need not linger on the question of prison administration and the treatment of anyone so unfortunate as to fall into the hands of the police. An UNRRA officer inspecting the Kaohsiung prison in September, 1946, found that accommodations built for one hundred persons now held seven hundred, and that fifty prisoners had died recently from lack of medical care. The prison dispensary had used a total of $18.00 worth of medical supplies in a period of seven months. In the view of Chen Yi's Public Health Director, Dr. King, one does not waste a saleable commodity on prisoners.
This recital of petty theft and systematic police-gangster operations suggests the setting in which the ordinary Formosan citizen attempted to pick up the threads of everyday life after war. Abuses of the "scavenger period" in late 1945 were felt most keenly in and near the ports and the larger towns, where the ill-disciplined Nationalist Army conscripts wandered about, but abuses of the regular police system were felt in every town and village across the island.
Throughout 1946 Formosan leaders addressed themselves to the problem of police control, which rested in the hands of town mayors and district Magistrates. These men were appointed by the Governor. Obviously the solution lay in an elective system whereby the public could choose the Governor, the mayors, and the magistrates.
It was evident to us that Army, Party and Government entered Formosa in confidence that they would have no difficulty controlling representative assemblies in this "backward area." Flushed with the prospects of his new opportunities in Formosa, Governor Chen repeatedly promised Formosans a large share in government.
His "Training Classes," inaugurated on December 10 have been described. They neatly entangled leading Formosans for a month or two just as the Japanese left their posts, thus giving mainland Chinese an opportunity to fill them.
On December 26 the Governor announced plans to establish "Organs for Hearing the People's Opinion." These were Peoples Political Councils (PPC's) to be made ready to assist the Government by May, 1946.
All citizens who fulfilled registration qualifications would be eligible to vote. Any citizen who desired to become a candidate for membership in the Councils must satisfy certain conditions and be approved by the Government and Party. Only natives of Formosa were eligible and each man was to be elected for a two-year term. Certain large occupational guilds were to be represented, and each Council was expected to have a proper percentage of women among its members. District and Municipal Councils would elect representatives to the Provincial Council, and in due course the Provincial PPC would send elected delegates to the National Assembly.
All these arrangements looked well on paper -- especially when set forth in English summaries for visiting American V.I.P.'s. But the mainland Chinese, in practice, adopted the "tutor's" attitude, as if all this business at the polls was a new experience for the Formosans. No references were made to the fact that for ten years Formosan voters had been going to the polls and candidates had become thoroughly familiar with all the necessary campaign business of posters, public addresses, and the shepherding of votes. It was true that before 1945 the end-product was a very limited voice in district assemblies in which half the members had been nominated by the Japanese administration. But for this very reason the Formosans now looked forward eagerly to truly representative voting privileges. Many who prepared to stand for election in 1946 had been agitating for just such island-wide Assemblies since Woodrow Wilson stirred them with the notion of self-determination for minorities at the end of World War I.
Thoughtful Formosans promptly objected to the oath which required them to swear allegiance to the Nationalist Party, the Kuomintang, in these words:
I promise, with sincerity, to keep the Peoples Three Principles, to support the Kuomintang Government, obey the National laws and ordinances, perform the citizen's duties, and bear one part in the foundation of Great China.
On the strength of this oath and a certificate of registration, all citizens at least twenty years of age were granted voting privileges. According to official figures a total of 2,393,142 persons had become eligible to vote by midyear 1946. This number was not to be accepted at face value, for it was well known that registration procedures had not been carried through in many places at the time the figures were published.
To qualify as a candidate for elective office was not so easy. A curriculum vita had first to be submitted to the local government office. If the Governor's representative or a Party official approved of the candidate's educational qualifications and his "attitude," his application might be approved. If it were rejected, there was no appeal. The difficulties here were two; the Governor's man was usually a Kuomintang member and approval often had a price tag attached to it.
The next hurdles were the Civil Service examinations.
Formosans becoming candidates for provincial, district or city PPC's had to pass Class A examinations, and those who were candidates for the lower village, town or regional assemblies must pass Class B tests. Here again, money and favor carried weight. As of October, 1946, said the Government, 10,671 persons had passed the First Class examinations, and 26,803 had passed the Second Class tests. With Party proctors controlling the enrollment lists and examinations, they anticipated docility in the Assemblies.
But the Government and Party had not established a firm enough grip upon the system in early 1946, nor were the individual Party workers from the continent accustomed to working with such an alert and well-informed electorate.
The first local elections were held in February and March, 1946. Eight district and nine municipal councils convened in April, and were to meet thereafter for a few days at intervals of three months.
The public paid little attention to these familiar local convocations. All eyes were on Taipei, where for the first time in Formosa's history there would be an island-wide Assembly.
The first session opened on May 1, 1946. It was to be in session ten days, and then adjourn for six months. In a transparent attempt to control the agenda Governor Chen arranged to have expatriate Mayor Huang Chao-chin made Chairman of the meetings. This caused keen popular disappointment; the public felt that Lim Hsien-tang, the Home Rule leader now sixty years of age, should have enjoyed the first Chairmanship after his lifelong fight to establish such an Island Assembly.
Governor-General Chen addressed the ceremonial opening session, with the usual worn references to the National Father, Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the National Leader, Chiang Kai-shek, and to democracy, progress, and the peoples' rights.
The oldest councilor present rose to respond. He had been a youth of twenty-two years, he said, when the Imperial Chinese Government ceded Formosa to Japan, he had witnessed the confusion of the short-lived "Republic" in 1895, and the full course of Formosan development under the Japanese. Now in this keynote address he wished to warn the new Government that its actions and achievements would be compared not only with the achievements and shortcomings of the Japanese during the preceding half-century, but would be compared as well with the confused and corrupt administration by men sent from the mainland in the 19th century.
These remarks were not welcomed by the Governor or his representatives, but otherwise the occasion went off well enough. That night, however, Taipei seethed with stories of an incident which had taken place elsewhere in the city. The Commissionor for Education (Fan Shou-kang) had addressed a Youth Corps rally in the afternoon. Speaking in a mainland dialect few Formosans could understand, he had an aide translate into the Formosan vernacular. As his remarks became plain, a storm of anger swept through the audience. According to subsequent press accounts, he asserted that Formosans "have thoughts of independence; they are slave-converts [of the Japanese], they are discriminating against people of other provinces, and they are indifferent to public affairs." He then branded all Formosans as "backward people, unfit to be considered true Chinese."
He had been goaded to this outburst by sharp criticism of his own incompetence in office and by frequent editorials and Formosan speeches which discussed the legal status of Formosa, Formosan rights under international law, and the legality of Nationalist claims that the island had become Chinese territory before a Japanese treaty had been signed, ceding it to China.
His remarks were promptly reported in the Council. An indignant Formosan (Keh Kuo-chi), retorted in these words:
There is a notion of independence in this province. Formosans have revolutionary ideas and spirit. The arrival of Chen Cheng-kung [Koxinga] in Taiwan was motivated by a patriotic, revolutionary desire to overthrow the Manchu dynasty and to restore the Ming Government. What was meant then as an act of independence was but for the national salvation. The Formosans have this revolutionary national idea. When Formosa was ceded to Japan, it was done to save the whole mainland of China.
As for the thought of alienation from China, we love and respect natives from other provinces who come to work on our behalf, and truly work for the reconstruction of Formosa, but if they come for the purpose of making money and for high official positions, we certainly want to get rid of them ... to govern Formosa by Formosans is an obligation incumbent on Formosans ... 
The first day's business session set the tone of rancorous discord and conflict marking all subsequent debate. Day after day the Governor's Commissioners and Bureau Chiefs were called before the Council to report upon the "transfer period," the administration's activities during the first six months of the new era, and upon future plans. One by one they were subjected to sharp interrogation.
The performance of two Government representatives will illustrate the general character of these interpolations, The Commissioner of Education was called upon to explain and to apologize for his remarks at the Youth Rally. He protested that it was all a matter of misinterpretation due to language difficulties. He was asked to outline Chen Yi's plans for free, universal compulsory education. He explained to unbelieving councilmen that the Central Government would provide the necessary funds. This they knew it could not do. The Commissioner could not explain why the Finance Commissioner's budget showed large appropriations had been made for education, although there were virtually no funds actually being spent for the schools. When pressed to provide the Council with statistics on current educational affairs, he said hesitantly that he "thought" there were 10,690 students enrolled in higher schools in and near the capital, but that "poor communications" prevented an accurate survey elsewhere. He had no way, he said, to calculate the total number of children in school, but he guessed that "each school has two classes, and each class has fifty pupils."
Council members accused him of presenting a report drawn from ill-digested and misunderstood prewar Japanese records. They noted that the trains were running and the long-distance telephone system had been restored, hence "poor communications" was no excuse. Commissioner Fan left the assembly rooms in anger when twitted on recent disclosures that he had illegally "borrowed" school funds for a private business venture in Shanghai, and had managed to survive the incident only by making restitution of one million yen.
A more chilling atmosphere surrounded the address and interrogation of the Garrison Commander, General Ko, who chose his words very carefully to show his complete contempt for "the people." The Army, he said, was under no legal obligation to report to the People's Council. This was a concession to the forms of democracy, and the Council must appreciate his readiness to present a statement to them. He asked the Formosans to realize that the Army assumed no responsibility for civil law and order, and would tolerate no criticism concerning Army discipline and behavior, for these were not of public concern. Any charges that officers or men behaved in a lawless manner or any general criticism of Army morale must be made in writing and bear the signature of the persons making such charges.
When General Ko had finished, Council members who ignored his warning leaped up to vie with one another in laying on the record, with names, dates, and places, instances in which persons and properties had been subject to abuse by military men. After a few minutes the Garrison Commander, pale with anger, abruptly left the Council chamber.
The testimony of Commissioner Fan had betrayed the incompetence which marked Chen Yi's administration, and General Ko's address had underscored its ruthlessness.
As the sessions drew to a close a list of grievances -- in effect, a general indictment of the Nationalist administration -- was drawn up, with recommendations and suggestions for the Governor's guidance through the forthcoming months. Summarized, the issues fell under four headings. Economic abuse led the list; the Formosans demanded an end to the monopolies of production and commerce exercised by quasi-official companies. They demanded that something be done to restrain the violent and abusive conduct of police and military personnel, and they asked that the Government make a greater effort to fulfill its promises. Capping these, they attacked the Governor for his refusal to employ Formosans at effective, policy-making levels in the administration.
On this last point the Governor announced (on May 12) that he had permission from the Central Government to employ Formosans under Provisional Rules and Regulations Governing Qualifications For Appointment of Government Personnel in Bordering and Remote Provinces, i.e., in "backward" areas; here was an explicit statement of the Central Government's attitude toward "remote" Formosa.
These May meetings provided the first real opportunity for Formosan leaders to emerge in a quasi-political character. Many members used the forum as a means of personal advertisement, which was unfortunate, and the traditional fragmentation of Formosan community life was strongly evident. Prominent men bickered among themselves and local cliques failed to submerge their differences in unity for a common cause.
For ten days the Council chambers had been made a focal point for discontent, and an irresponsible press eagerly exploited every sensational verbal clash, scandalous rumor and factual report discrediting Chen Yi and his Commissioners.
One group of the Opposition (led by Keh Kuo-chi) made violent nationalistic speeches, attacking Chen Yi and his associates for weakening China's position on Formosa. He demanded that Formosans be armed to protect the island from any aggression. "After all," said he, "Formosans have no Chungking to which they may retreat!" Another group spoke with greater moderation, suggesting that reforms in local government must be hastened to prepare for nationwide constitutional government.
After the Council meetings moderate opposition leadership was assumed informally by a few articulate, well-educated men. A new Chinese national Constitution was being prepared, and it was expected that when this went into effect--perhaps by the end of 1946--Formosans could claim full rights as citizens under its terms. They looked forward to election of Formosan representatives for the nationwide Peoples' Political Councils to be convened at Nanking.
Public attention focused upon the lawyer and editor Wang Tien-teng, who was expected to represent Formosan interests in the National Assembly. As he campaigned he made no secret of his plan to impeach Governor Chen at Nanking or of his hope to persuade the Generalissimo to reform and clean up the Taipei administration. Using Wang's editorials as evidence of subversion, the Governor had him seized and tried on charges of "inciting to rebellion." The arrest was timed to interfere with Wang's campaign activities.
The story of the Liao brothers is instructive. They were sons of a wealthy Christian landowning family in south-central Formosa. The brothers had left the island in the 1920's to study abroad. Both held doctoral degrees from American universities and each had a Caucasian wife.** Upon returning to China Joshua (the elder) entered Government service and academic life at Shanghai and Nanking. Thomas, the younger, became a chemical engineer on Formosa. When Formosa was handed over to Chiang Kai-shek in 1945 they had every reason to anticipate appointments at high levels in the new administration. But they suffered certain disabilities; they were honest men, and they believed in the principles and practices of democratic representative government -- not notable qualifications for employment under Chen Yi. Just after the Surrender Thomas Liao was given charge of the Taipei Municipal bus services, an honor he soon relinquished.
Throughout 1946 the brothers devoted themselves (and the family fortune) to a campaign of public political education in Formosa. Joshua remained principally at Shanghai lecturing, writing, and conferring with liberal "Third Party" non-Communist Chinese who wanted to see the Nationalist Party leaders driven from power at Nanking before it was too late to rally the country against the Communists. Formosa seemed to offer an ideal opportunity to demonstrate the possibilities of "New China" under fresh leadership. In the Liaos' view, Formosa, properly administered, could become a major asset in the rehabilitation of continental China.
Thomas Liao spent the year 1946 carrying forward a campaign of lectures and organization of public opinion on the island itself, appealing principally to well-educated younger Formosans to demand effective constitutional administration. Both Liao brothers made it perfectly clear that to secure good government and to preserve the freedom and rights of the Formosan people within a Chinese national structure, every educated Formosan leader must expect to incur grave personal risks to life and property. They condemned totalitarian Party rule in the strongest terms, whether it be Communist or Nationalist in name. We will meet them again in a later chapter.
With the lawyer Wang Tien-teng, Thomas Liao stood for election to the National Assembly at Nanking, and made "constitutionalism" the basis of his appeals to the voter.
When the ballots were counted in the autumn election Liao had a majority, but the administration announced that "too many Liao ballots were marked with "imperfect calligraphy." His election was declared void.
Lim Hsien-tang, the old hero of the Home Rule Movement, was too frail to take a vigorous part in the year-long political struggle. He was often accused of having been too willing to accommodate himself to the Japanese Empire system, but his critics conveniently forgot that until the Western Allied Powers came along in 1945 there had not been the slightest prospect that Formosa would ever leave the Japanese Empire organization. He had argued for the realities of his time, but now there had come worldwide change; leadership of a new Home Rule Movement lay with younger men. The struggle for recognition was no longer with Tokyo but with Nanking.
In 1946 the Formosans wanted no change in the form of government, but simply a change in personnel representing the Central Government at Taipei, a return to government by law and to reasonably conservative economic policies. They wanted an end to ruthless exploitation by their Nationalist Party "brothers."
The First Session of the Peoples' Political Council Assembly (held in May) had defined the major areas of popular discontent. The December meetings made it clear that the Government had paid not the slightest heed to warnings and recommendations set forth in May. In the second half of 1946 public antagonism intensified; the Second Session of the PPC Assembly served as a burning glass, bringing popular anger to focus on the National Party record of incompetence and abuse. Henceforth the elected representatives of the people faced the Government in undisguised hostility.
* The dispossession of the small landholder in
favor of the great sugar corporations could be brought about -- and
often was -- by the manipulation of available water supplies
through State-owned or -managed irrigation systems, and there were
other forms of economic pressure under which the individual or
family became helpless, but the individual as such everywhere in
Formosa enjoyed an unprecedented degree of protection.
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1. Hsin Sheng Pao (Taipei), May 2, 1946.