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Chen Yi as pictured in <i><a href="/content/The_Most_Recent_Biographies_of_Important_Chinese_People" style="color:blue">The Most Recent Biographies of Important Chinese People</a></i>
Chen Yi as pictured in The Most Recent Biographies of Important Chinese People

Chen Yi (Chinese: 陳儀; 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 and Mainland Chinese 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.

Early life

Chen was born in Shaoxing, Zhejiang during the Qing dynasty. After studying at Qiushi Academy (now Zhejiang University), in 1902 he went to a military academy in Japan for seven years.[1] 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."[2] []

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.[2] [] 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 Fujian, 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.[2] []

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.[3][4] 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,[5] 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. Native Taiwanese, who were generally anti-Communist and supportive of the KMT, cheered the retrocession, believing their exports could now be directed to help China rather than Japan.[6] [] The local elites established "Preparatory Committees to Welcome the National Government", to help distribute promotional materials on behalf of the Chinese Nationalists.[7]

Chen did receive some praise for his dedication to work, his frugality, and incorruptibility.[8] [] 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.[8] []

Chen was later removed from the position of Taiwan governor general for his mishandling of the administration of Taiwan. Chen's policies led to the 228 Incident of 1947, and during the brutal suppression of local protests that erupted after the 228 Incident, an estimated 5,000[9][10] to 28,000 local and non-local Taiwanese civilians were killed.[11]

In the early years of KMT Chinese rule of Taiwan, rampant corruption in the new administration headed by Chen caused high unemployment rates, widespread disease, and severe inflation, which in turn led to widespread local discontent.[6] [] In addition, new policies announced in early 1947 further enraged locals: direct elections would be delayed until late 1949, despite the adoption of the Chinese Constitution in 1947; land and properties seized by the Japanese fifty years earlier would only be available to wealthy individuals who were connected to the government rather than those families whose lands had been seized; and monopolistic control would be concentrated among a few government officials.[6] [] 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 Wenhui Bao 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.

Anti-KMT riots flared following the 228 Incident, which was sparked by the beating death of a widow on February 27, 1947. Agents from the Taiwan Monopoly Bureau beat a widow to death during her arrest for selling smuggled cigarettes in violation of the state monopoly of tobacco. Enraged onlookers forced the agents to flee; as they escaped, they shot indiscriminately into the crowd, killing one.[6] []  [9] A peaceful protest march occurred on February 28, demanding justice for the widow's killers; after marching to the headquarters of the Monopoly Bureau, they moved on to the Governor-General's office, where four were shot and killed without warning by machine guns.[6] [] The resulting riots forced the Governor-General to barricade government offices in Taipei, declaring martial law on February 28.[6] [] Riots spread to the rest of Taiwan over the next few days;[9] in Taipei, civic leaders formed the "Committee to Settle the February 28th Incident" to meet with the Governor-General, urgently requesting that martial law be lifted to reduce the consequences of protests. Chen agreed to lift martial law starting on March 2.[6] []

Chen announced his love for the native Taiwanese in a radio address at midnight to mark the beginning of March 2, proposing to meet with the Committee by March 10th; the Committee would also be responsible for drafting suggestions to reform his administration.[9] During the address, troops and police continued to shoot unarmed civilians in several incidents witnessed by American consulate officials, killing approximately thirty.[6] [] In the wake of the radio address, Chen promised to withdraw government forces by the evening of March 3, and a "Loyal Service Corps", consisting mainly of students under the authority of the Committee, patrolled the streets to keep order.[6] []  [9] The committee's recommendations, submitted on March 7, were intended to upgrade the status of Taiwan from a colony to a province of China and give the native Taiwanese a greater role in their own governance,[6] [] which Chen had already mostly agreed to.[9]

Meanwhile, Chen had secretly requested military troops to be deployed from Fujian against the Taiwanese insurgents;[3] the Committee was a ruse to allow time for the troops to arrive. On March 8, local forces cleared the streets of Keelung and Taipei with machine gun fire, allowing 8–10,000 police and troops from the Twenty-first Division to land.[6] [] More than 1,000 unarmed Taiwanese civilians were shot and killed over the next week.[9] Troops were seen robbing civilians and looting.[6] [] Publicly, Chen stated he had not requested military support, which was supported by a report from Pai Chung-hsi to Chiang Kai-shek; because of the report, Chiang professed ignorance of conditions in Taiwan and denied that he had dispatched the troops in a meeting with United States ambassador to China John Leighton Stuart in Nanjing.[3] Stuart's independent investigation, led by the American consul in Taipei, concluded that Chen had indeed requested the troops,[3] and by late March 1947, the central executive committee of the KMT recommended that Chen be dismissed as Governor-General over the "merciless brutality" he had shown in suppressing the rebellion.[12] Chen was replaced as governor by Wei Tao-ming after Stuart's report was given to Chiang on April 18, 1947.[6] [] Wei's position as governor was specifically proscribed from the military authority that Chen's position held as Governor-General, in response to the inefficient government of Chen.[3]

Chen had executed or jailed all the alleged rebel leaders he could identify and catch, and his troops had prosecuted and executed between 3,000 and 4,000 throughout the island, according to a Taiwanese delegation in Nanjing. A key consequence was that "virtually all of the small group of leaders with modern education, administrative experience, and political maturity" were killed.[2] According to reports from foreigners in Taiwan, leaflets signed by Chiang promised leniency for those who had fled the initial wave of killings and urged them to return; many of those who did so were imprisoned or executed.[10] After the initial indiscriminate killing and looting, troops selectively targeted 'elites' such as students, intellectuals, civic leaders, people identified as previously critical of government policies, and prominent businesspeople to eliminate resistance.[6] []  [9][13] The total death toll from the incident remains in dispute and has become a political issue in the decades following the end of martial law in 1987.[14]

Later career

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.[15] Chiang immediately relieved Chen's chairmanship on the charge of collaboration with the Communists. In 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[15] 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."[16]


  • "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)[17]
  • "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)[18]
  • "I never forgot private enterprise. I always intended to re-establish it." — (1947)[19]

See also

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