Kabayama was too op­ti­mistic that Tai­wan would fall easily

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

One hun­dred and twenty years ago to­day, Ad­mi­ral Sukenori Kabayama in­au­gu­rated his gov­ern­ment of Tai­wan amid fes­tiv­i­ties in Taipei. Ja­pan’s first gover­nor-gen­eral of Tai­wan was con­fi­dent that the or­ga­nized de­fense of the new colony would soon sub­side af­ter Tang Jing­song, pres­i­dent of the Re­pub­lic of Tai­wan, had fled Taipei with his fam­ily for Fuzhou in main­land China 12 days be­fore and the main body of the Ja­panese in­va­sion army was in the cap­i­tal city ready to march south­ward to pacify the is­land. Kabayama used Tang’s ya­men (ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fice) as the of­fice of the gover­nor-gen­eral.

Kabayama was wrong. Tai­wan’s war of in­de­pen­dence went on.

The in­va­sion army un­der the com­mand of Prince Ki­tashirakawa-no-Miya Yoshi­hisa, com­man­der of the First Im­pe­rial Guard Di­vi­sion, which had ar­rived in Taipei three days be­fore Ad­mi­ral Kabayama did, cap­tured the dis­trict seat of Hs­inchu on June 22. Else­where, on the East Coast an aux­il­iary force com­posed of Osaka Fourth Di­vi­sion re­serves staged land­ings at Suao on June 21, and peace­fully en­tered the main towns of Luo­tong and Yi­lan on June 22 and 23 re­spec­tively.

The thrust to the south of Prince Ki­tashirakawa’s Im­pe­rial Guards was then stalled in Hs­inchu. They were bot­tled up by newly formed re­sis­tance groups of Wu Tang-hsin and Hsu Hsiang. The re­sis­tance forces put up a more spir­ited de­fense, while the sup­ply col­umns along the route from Taipei to the south came un­der the at­tack of lo­cal guerilla bands.

The fight­ing in the Hs­inchu dis­trict turned out to be the sever­est of the war. There was another fierce bat­tle at Baqua Moun­tain that guarded the north­ern ap­proaches to Changhua, the most im­por­tant city in Cen­tral Tai­wan. The Im­pe­rial Guards routed the de­fend­ers and oc­cu­pied Changhua on Aug. 28. Fi­nally, the Sec­ond Di­vi­sion un­der the com­mand of Lt. Gen. Mare­suke Nogi landed near Kaoh­si­ung to fight the Black Flag forces of Liu Yung-fu, who set up a gov­ern­ment in Tainan af­ter Tang’s flight for main­land China.Soon, Liu fled like Tang. Af­ter Liu’s flight, the Rev. James John­ston of the Tainan Pres­by­te­rian mis­sion and his as­sis­tant Thomas Berke­ley, to­gether with a del­e­ga­tion of 19 lead­ers of the city, went to meet the ad­vance party of the Im­pe­rial Guards to pro­pose a sur­ren­der. On Oct. 27, Ad­mi­ral Kabayama said to the peo­ple of Tai­wan that, with the sur­ren­der Tainan, the is­land of Tai­wan had been paci­fied.

Later, on Nov. 18, af­ter con­trol had been gained over the south­ern­most dis­trict of Hengchun, Kabayama is­sued one more for­mal paci­fi­ca­tion an­nounce­ment. But it was pre­ma­ture, for ar­eas to the south of Kaoh­si­ung as well as re­gions in the cen­tral high­lands had not yet been oc­cu­pied. More­over, the Ja­panese were to en­counter fur­ther armed re­sis­tance from Hakka bands in the south, then soon af­ter­ward to ex­pe­ri­ence des­per­ate par­ti­san at­tacks near the end of 1895 and dur­ing the first part of 1896. But he was cor­rect in as­sum­ing that the main work of paci­fi­ca­tion had been com­pleted with the sur­ren­der of Tainan and the demise of the Re­pub­lic of Tai­wan founded on May 23.

June 17 was cel­e­brated as Me­mo­rial Day for In­au­gu­ra­tion of the New Ad­min­is­tra­tion dur­ing the 50 years of Ja­panese colo­nial rule of Tai­wan. It was a hol­i­day in Tai­wan un­til 1945.

Tai­wan’s war of in­de­pen­dence had been doomed be­fore it started. There were no true lead­ers. No as­sis­tance of any kind came from abroad. Qing China, fear­ful of be­com­ing em­broiled in a Tai­wan in­ci­dent with Ja­pan, took steps be­fore to en­sure that any such armed re­sis­tance to the im­pend­ing Ja­panese takeover would re­main a sep­a­rate con­flict iso­lated from China. No coun­tries in the world ex­tended diplo­matic recog­ni­tion to Tang’s Re­pub­lic of Tai­wan. There was no co­he­sion and har­mony among the in­hab­i­tants of Tai­wan. Ten­sion pre­vailed be­tween the mi­nor­ity Hakka and the Hoklo ma­jor­ity, while the Han Chi­nese were in fear of armed in­dige­nous peo­ples as their neigh­bors. It was sim­ply im­pos­si­ble to make a con­certed war ef­fort based on wide­spread pop­u­lar sup­port.

Yet the whole is­land pro­fessed al­le­giance to the re­pub­lic, at least out­wardly, while no less than 150,000 armed men fought the war they knew they could never win and in which many of them laid down their lives in or­der just to keep their newly founded coun­try. They wrote an em­bla­zoned page in the history of Tai­wan. No one can dis­pute Tai­wan’s claim to be Asia’s first re­pub­lic.

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