Saturday, April 29, 2006

Interview with former Member of Ministry of Justice, Investigation Bureau

Linda Arrigo sent me these notes from her interview with a former member of the Ministry of Justice who worked during the 1980s as an investigator. It gives a glimpse into a world of political intrigue and authoritarian control, corruption, arbitrary arrest and abuse of power, and the extraordinary capacity of humans for change. Linda has graciously consented to me putting them up here. So enjoy!

Note: I have changed the name of the interviewee, designating him by nonsense initials, and certain other biographical information. Parenthetical comments are Linda's.



Interviewee: XXX (SLT), formerly agent of Ministry of Justice, Investigation Bureau


SLT was born in [southern] county, in 1954.
Ordinary family soc-econ, father farmed, had small shops, many, also snooker shops, bar, middle class. [Town] had about 50,000 population then, medium size town environment.

Father was in military under Japan occupation, sent to China, Nanyang, Nanjing, Philippines, in end surrendered to US in Philippines. Now still loyal to Japan, old timer like Lee Teng-hui.

Had three elder sisters, then finally long awaited son -- SLT. But father not intimate with him, didn't speak much. Then two younger bros were born. Father often not home. SLT age 12 lived at school, junior middle school, didn't feel close to family. Mother stayed at home. Junior middle school in Tainan city boarding school, went home once a month. Whole family studied well, including elder sister, who got Japanese degrees later.

High school in [large city] First Senior High School. Mainlander kid got into fight with him, he beat up kid (he was strong since childhood, maybe pingpu indigenous blood). Mainlander kid was believed by jiao guan (counsellor, named Lee Ming) that SLT beat him first, so SLT was afraid of penalty, changed to school in Taipei. SLT didn't speak good Chinese at that time; he is of course native Taiwanese. Went to Taipei to stay with sister, studied at [suburb of Taipei], then took exam and got into Normal Middle School (his second choice).

Got very stylish, bell bottom pants, but no dancing. Handsome, lots of girls chased him. "Innocent", he says. Even now near fifty he is very handsome, thick black hair, big deep black eyes and heavy eyebrows, even shining-white teeth, animated cheeks, like a Filipino, not like a flat-faced Chinese. Handsome enough to be a movie star. Muscles like rock, trim physique like he works out, medium height. He said it is hereditary.

For college, he took the unified college entrance exams, and got National Chung Hsing College (medium ranking), sociology was his highest choice and he got into that department, but he had no special plan. Family not so rich, but sent some money. But didn't study, too many girls chased him. Graduated in 1977.

Family background at time: Younger brother went into gang (killed someone accidentally, went to jail, had to sell land to pay off judge), became godfather. Father was originally older gangster, had hidden knives and guns. Tough to police, but gave them gifts. Brother now has become local elected rep, doesn't spend money to get elected because he has gang power, low-level local government.

SLT got funds for studies from his family, but gave up rights to inheritance, let two brothers take care of father, after family had financial problems when brother arrested. Father never came to his school, no love or expression. SLT was first when in lower schools, but didn't go to own graduation. No opinion for what he should do.

When in military two years, 1977-79, got highest honor for training others -- extremely tough and cruel. Entered as officer, because he was college grad and passed exam. Physical strength. Award for training 140 person company, "lien". Political views at the time: Chiang Kai-Shek is great, anti-commie, we are Chinese, down with Taiwan independence, physical training. No particular questioning.

After military he began looking for work.

At first worked for Teacher Chang, social worker, went to Ilan Christian Children's Fund on east coast, four months. Low salary, must have "love", see poor children and their pitiful conditions, some families hide their wealth to cheat for public assistance.

Took exam and got into Investigation Bureau. At that time SLT just thought how to quickly make money, the MJIB salary was five times as much money as the social work.

1980 March started training, wear uniforms. Same night, five recruits who didn't want to wear uniform didn't show up -- uniforms issued to 100 in morning, but some left before night, hated to be in military. Group had 10-20 Taiwanese, more Taiwanese left, they told SLT that MJIB was bad, hurt Taiwanese people. But at that time there was Tsui Tai Ching policy, agency was trying to get Taiwanese on purpose -- needed for work, speak Minnan native dialect. Only 80-some graduated, some thrown out for going out with girls in group. Group had 7 girls at first, 4 graduated, not allowed to have romance within group. SLT had no ideology. SLT had girl friends who were mainlanders, didn't think about native/mainlander discrimination at all.

At time of the Kaohsiung (or Meilidao) Incident (that was December 10, 1979, riot set off by military as excuse to arrest the opposition for "sedition"), MJIB increased local agents by 200 in 17th recruitment class, no screening. SLT was 18th class. Taiwanese only began to be recruited in 1963.

His grades in MJIB training were good; poetry, wrote political topics scolding opposition, anti-Taiwan Independence and anti-commie, awards. Took test, good, got Taipei County assignment. His supervisor was Wang Guang-sheng, who later bragged he caught Chiang Ching-Kuo assassins in 1970 (actually they were caught on the scene by New York City police), recently he was with Soong Chu-yu.

Some people thought the MJIB was a good chance for him: power, money, bribes. Mainlanders introduced each other -- two or three generations of intelligence people were in the service. Relatives, brothers and sisters. Hsieh Shen-fu, Taiwan Fertilizer chairman, three brothers were judges. Tests not fair, their own people wrote the tests, also orals. Agency could also accept lower educational level for special recommended recruits. Many people thought great honor to be in intelligence service. Salary, basic NT$14,000, plus 4,000 for gas, at that time basic bureaucrat salary 4,000-5,000. MJIB after two years, over 20,000, more than double regular established career bureaucrat. If SLT were still in MJIB, would be making about 120,000 monthly now. Also additional bonuses.

Taiwan economy just advancing in the late 1970's. "Da cheng yi pien", older police said, get along with people, make money. Very few investigators didn't, but he didn't accept money. SLT was assigned first station chief of San Chung (industrial suburb of Taipei), his deputy there happened to have died. Also older investigator there. Lots of underground factories, numbering 210,000, each factory paid 500 NT per year "Lien Yi Fei", Friendship Expense to local elected representative. Police got money from all, while MJIB only got money from illegal factories. But this still brought the station chief 21 wan (wan is Chinese measure, NT$10,000, at that time US$250) in one week--you could buy one house with it. SLT was afraid to take it. He just had to keep his mouth shut. But he didn't understand, and he didn't take it, he sent the money back. This may have contributed to his problem later; he was seen as a threat to the usual system of rakeoff.

Six dangwai ("outside the KMT", opposition politicians) wrote a statement against martial law, National Legislators Kang Ning-hsiang, Huang Huang-Hsiung, Chang Deh-Ming, You Ching (Control Yuan then, jian cha wei yuan), Fei Hsi-ping, Cheng Yu-cheng. Date was 1980 Dec., end of year after election that was a resounding success for the opposition. Cheng Yu-cheng was originally KMT Hsinchuang (Taipei county) mayor bypassed by KMT; Cheng's father was an informer for MJIB, became he became dangwai together with Hsieh Mei-huei, and elected as Nat Leg. Su Chiu-chen lawyer became Nat Leg, also Su Hong Yueh-jiao.

As station chief, SLT was in charge of the informers, "hsien min", "secret people". There were 3-4,000 hsien min on his list, some received monthly retainers of NT$ 2,500, some nei-hsien (inside informers) got NT$50-100,000 a month, huge fortune.

MJIB told SLT to get materials on the opposition figures, and he first went through his relative to talk to Cheng Yu-cheng, 9899-700 was tel number, date was Jan or Feb 1981. He was openly the MJIB station chief, but when he called he didn't give his name. SLT inquired of whoever answered the phone what Cheng Yu-cheng would do next, and offered congrats. SLT said "You did some work for freedom and democracy", to be polite. Perhaps because of this congrats, only three/four months after he took office, SLT was suspected of sympathizing with opposition and charged. Person who answered phone asked the caller's, but SLT didn't say. Probably call was recorded.

SLT was transferred to Tamsui (north Taipei county) in March to do work among Tamkiang students, Wen Li College, five schools in all. Openly went to visit principals and college presidents, said I am sent as investigator. Students were agents, he got 200 from previous station, he had 1,000 hsien min overall, really managed 300-400, also informers heads in each students' department, gave them gifts three times a year, gave each informer head 20 or so gifts to issue. Students knew who some of them were. Some heads came to station three times a week, to eat and get training and gifts.

Ruan Cheng-chang (came from navy admiral) held hsien-min training, large scale all over Taiwan, got reported to CCK. After Meilidao (MLD) in 1979, intelligence agencies were afraid of Taiwanese, but they could buy off people with just a little money, very proud. At that time MJIB could get 1,000 yi (yi = hundred milllion) from industry very easily, just ask, probably all industries gave money. At least NT$ 500-1000-2000 wan at a time in "donations".

SLT was in charge of political dissidents, including contacts with China (at that time all contacts with China would be considered sedition), but also tax evasion. MJIB could go after anybody, then take payoff and stop investigation in process. At many levels this process could go on. Writer Lee Ao (a mainlander who was jailed together with Hsieh Tsung-min in 1975, but in 2000 ran for President on the New Party ticket) also had contacts with MJIB, also got money through extortion -- threatening to put out exposes in magazines.

(Number Three section of MJIB is political section, Yeh Chao-hsiang thought he could take over from Ruan because of credit for MLD, but failed....MJIB had materials on Lee Teng-hui, how he belonged to leftist youth organization in 1940's.)

SLT as Tamsui station chief had to oversee Tamkiang foreign teachers, leftists, Yang Tsu-chun (student, Lin Cheng-chieh's girlfriend), Wang Jing-ping (English professor, in 2000 hard-core pro-PRC), Lee Yuan-chen (later women's movement founded Awakening magazine), Yeh Nung-tze (philosphy professor and principal), Presbyterians at school in Tamsui. Summarized reports, sent to CCK. Reports said Wang Jing-ping was homosexual, for example, but SLT himself had no way to judge.

1981 May 23, Tuesday morning at 6-7 am, SLT was reminded by phone call to go to Taipei County station chiefs' meeting on that day, as previously notified. He arrived on time before 9 am, by motorcycle. Just took off jacket and sat down, then there arrived two cars of Guo An Ju (National Security Agency) and Taipei City MJIB Diao (Cha Chu Mobile Unit), also maybe Political Detective and Prevention Section. Immediately they put him in hand and foot shackles, in seat in front of Wang Guang-sheng and colleagues, he struggled and sprained his hand.

Started to beat him in car. Windows all black, drove to location about one hour away. Stripped naked. All clothes taken, just underpants. Then he was dragged into room 104, An Kun (south Taipei county) military prison. Interrogated in basement. Five days, no sleep or food and little water (one cup a day water maybe). Lights on all the time. Could just hear motorcycles and dogs, so guessed five days. 3 hours per group, 8 groups, 24 interrogators. He was physically threatened, cuffed about the head but not given heavy blows, insulted and humiliated.

(Insults and humiliation sat heavy with SLT. He wants to take revenge on all the colleagues who beat him, and has kept their names (see notebook) and confronted a few. Paid off by one. Wants to see them groveling at his feet, "lick my itchy feet". Wants to catch them in a dark alley. This seems to be his main and abiding motivation for his radio programs and books attacking the MJIB; two thick books. Says they don't dare to attack him back because they are cowards and guilty inside.)

All interrogators asked relationship with Cheng Yu-cheng. They scolded Taiwanese, and they were all mainlanders except for one Hakka. They said Taiwanese are a savage (yeh man) people, were pirates, Japanese slaves why should you be proud of it, why proud of indigenous blood. This verbal attack was a surprise to SLT because he thought he was Chinese. They thought he had lots of pretty girl friends, including mainlander girls. So why did he help tai-du-fen-dze (Taiwan independence people), when did he start friendship with them? Why didn't Taiwanese appreciate the government? You are so lucky to be in MJIB. They said Taiwanese anti-Jap heroes Lin Shao-mao, indigenous, were traitors.

After five days of this SLT fainted. Didn't know when he woke up, underpants covered with urine and shit. They put him aside (with toilet) for several hours, he could sleep in a small bed.

Second time, he was questioned about relations with communists -- Wang Jin-ping the anti-imperialist professor. (Tamkiang university had had seminars on anti-Americanism, castigated the KMT for collaborating with the Vietnam War, KMT officials for "tooth brush-ism", getting a US green card and being ready to run away anytime.) Then SLT really got angry. He had met Wang and Chen Yung-hsin (novel writer, jailed for Maoist readings in 1960's, now Wang and Chen are leaders of pro-PRC groups in Taiwan like the Workers Party) once on the street, Wang knew SLT was new MJIB station chief, asked humorously who was assigned to following him, they ate beef noodles together, SLT paid the check.

Questioned over three days, SLT fainted again. Again sent to rest room. Lights changed, lights burned out and melted twice. Big light in face in room 104, also beaten there. Two people questioned him, Ong Tsu-wu (son of MJIB head), also Chen, Liu, Ying. SLT didn't admit. Asked when he became Marxist, sympathized with leftists, Hegel, dialectics, Mao -- he didn't know anything. They asked if Wang had "one cup of water sex philosophy", slept with boys, etc. Asked if he gave hsien min list to Wang, or helped students get in contact with each other for Wang's cause. Fainted again.

Hsu Chih-hsien of MJIB told Chen Ching-hsien (female hsien min mainlander) to give testimony against SLT, that SLT had incited students. Hsu said to her that mainlanders should stick together, SLT had seditious thinking, and had slept with several Tamkiang women at same time (using feminist issue to get her to cooperate), so Chen should make attack on SLT.

Third session, the interrogators asked why SLT killed the Lin family children. (This was totally off the wall. The children and mother of Lin Yi-Hsiung, arrested following the MLD incident, were murdered in Taipei on February 28, 1980, in the major political murder in modern Taiwan history. There was great pressure on the government to explain the murders, to finger someone. To the opposition figures, it was obviously an act of the intelligence agencies; the house was watched by all agencies.) Why did SLT sympathize with them. When had he been there. Asked where he was on that day. When was he in Ilan (Lin Yi-Hsiung's native place)? How did he kill three people? (SLT's explanation for the interrogation, at that time after the murders the government had already arrested a lot of people, police chief in Ilan Tsao Chi said he had solved the case. But MJIB wanted to be first to break case.)

He was not beaten seriously, just hit as insult on head, pushed. Right finger stretched back broken. Ribs sore. Finally SLT threatened his interrogators, said as long as I don't die I will come back and expose you and kill you.

After fifth day, felt ill, ass bleeding, intestine broken and bleeding because could not go to bathroom, eyes not clear because eye membrane damaged. Finger broken when arrested. Ribs sore.

Fourth time, asked why he sexually harassed Chou Ching-yu, Yao's wife (Yao Chia-wen was one of the dissidents arrested after MLD, but then his wife had been elected to Nat Assembly in Dec. 1980). He was told to wear a white suit and be shown off, four sides in front of one-way mirror. Chou was already elected then with 170,000 votes, the highest.

Fifth time, SLT was questioned about relationship with Wang An-Bang, United Daily Lien Ho Bao, reporter with Tamsui town head, did they try to get money from him. Beat. Also cases of leaking information -- blamed him for it, but he didn't even know about them.

After this the interrogators were not so serious anymore. By that time, Chen Wen-cheng had been killed (Chen was Carnegie-Mellon math professor, Taiwanese-American who strongly supported MLD movement, he came back to Taiwan for a trip and his body was found July 2, 1981, thrown off the library building at National Taiwan University, after he had been taken in for interrogation), Nat Leg Kang Ning-hsiang asked if there were any other cases like that, foreign human rights concern.

Then (after 13 days), the agents gave SLT towel, soap, toothpaste and brush, face basin, small razor (too small) -- clean yourself up. All those people came, Wang Guang-sheng his supervisor et al. next day. Tomorrow is your birthday, thanks for helping us with this case. (SLT is sarcastic about this, how had he helped with "the case"? "I was one who was raped, not the rapist.")

SLT said to the interrogators, you are my colleagues, why should you hit and insult me? They said, you're Taiwanese, who asked you to be Taiwanese.

He was married in college to a mainlander girl, but she wouldn't stand up for him when he was arrested although her father was military, so he divorced her immediately after she came out of hiding -- she had run away from his home in Sanchung when he was arrested. At that time he had brought his mother and father to live in Sanchung with him, but then he was reassigned to Tamsui and just came back on weekends. Interrogators scolded him, said he married mainlander girl, but didn't love Chinese. She said she was afraid, but he divorced her anyway.

They took him back home by car to Sanchung to see his mother. His mother didn't recognize him, he had lost weight drastically and gone from 82 kg to 57 kg (25 kg lost), in thirteen days. His wife wasn't home, she ran away. She lived in [town] he came back from Tamsui once a week. Then his whole family lived in [town] because of his brothers' trouble. His family was all afraid, but his sister got in touch with Chang Deh-ming (opposition lawyer), then sent him to Lin Chin-gang. SLT had younger uncle in Japan, told MJIB this to save himself with the possibility of foreign concern.

When he got out he saw Chen Wen-cheng's case, so he knew why he got out. The next day after body found on July 3.

After two days at home, the agents picked him up again and took him to Makung (Penghu Islands, Pescadores, between Taiwan and China) by chartered plane, 40 minutes ride, then he was sent to another small island, jailed there but no surrounding wall, cactus wall, long spikes, over 20 people managing it. Location was Wu Deh New Village, Ching Bao Chu's (Intelligence Bureau) training center. For high level intelligence people detention.

Rectify your errors -- big sign. 24 soldiers. 3 officers in charge. Lots of ducks and geese for officers to eat. Four old soldiers to serve them. Three people in detention there.

One was Chang Chun-chi, Garrison Command, Taiwanese, who also questioned LTH about communist connections in the 1950's, also arrested Lee Ao in 1970's. Graft case, got 200 wan from Singapore businessman. Chang had handled lots of cases with Garrison Command, also Taiyuen case (1970 political prison breakout). He caught the six people who were supposed to start the mutiny, but took off prematurely.

Second was Yuan Chu-hong also Garrison, drunkard, killed geese and flowers. Secretly got out at night. SLT was prisoner No. 194. Yuan No. 175. They still got salary, Yuan got 10,000 a month as major, he was an incorrigible misbehaver, so bad he would jack off publicly, wouldn't let other people wear underpants, once tried to hack Chang with knife. Yuan beat up shop owners and police, stole police guns and shot around at random. Ate all dogs he could get (old soldiers believe dog meat gives them body heat and virility), he would beat dogs to death on the spot. Stole police motorcycles and jeeps for joy rides. Went to bars, put hands under girls' dresses, ate freely, left without paying.

SLT was told he had been sentenced to 2 years, he had to stay there, but in the end he was taken away 210 days in all. His life there was going out at night to play in Makung with Yuan, just go out through hole in cactus; swimming in the ocean coast in own enclosure. Just don't go out through main gate; but occasionally Yuan would get so drunk he would go to the front gate and make trouble.

Then a Ku Yueh-guang, mainlander came in to jail, he had made trouble publicly so sent for detention. His wife came to see him, and was found in the camp. Ku got in trouble because of this. SLT told Ku to make a report on Ho, the warden, accusing him of discrimination against Taiwanese because Ho had shouted slurs at SLT, then SLT acted as negotiator to force Ho to forgive Ku -- tear up both complaint reports. So SLT came to be appreciated for his cleverness.

In detention they were tested every week on reading, watching TV on Ju Kwang (recover the mainland) program, Thursday morning. Ting Chung-jiang, Lee Chung-kuei (Sze Chi-yang's wife), program. Chiang Wei-kuo. Tested, but fake test. Highest mountain -- write Taiwan's. Best performance. SLT was judged "He recognized his errors and regrets". But SLT still didn't know what crime he had been convicted of.

He was suddenly sent back by charter plane. Then MJIB director took him to his office -- SLT considered strangling him on the spot, but he saw director was old. Director gave him some money, 10 wan. Concern for him, no special issue. Sent him to work in Miaoli, Hakka areas where he couldn't talk in his native Minnan. He discovered everybody under him was watching him, all the hsien min watching him. He gave hsien min money, their job was to follow him. They also told him to hurry up and marry. Also told people to borrow money from him so he would have to earn more.

Married a Miss Chen, still married. Haven't talked several years, but still married.

1987 sent to Chiayi, Hsiao Tien-chan was (Fa Wu Bu Chang) Minister of Justice, friend of friend. Sent directly, investigated gangsters. But the MJIB always suspected SLT of stealing papers, AB (personnel) dossiers. After a denial and sly laugh, SLT says he really did so from 1997, got them from other people from inside MJIB (he paid them for the papers, got car loads of documents, once SLT showed me my name in the coded books of those who followed the dissident figures). SLT says he "wanted to overthrow government". Cheng Chuan.

1988 Jan 13 second day after CCK died, SLT resigned. He thought he could be free, didn't dare before that. Then entered Nat Taiwan Univ. graduate school -- politics, San Min Tzu Yi Three Peoples Principles Institute. He knew it would be easy to study for this, and he wanted to look loyal. Went to Australia in 1990. Also went to China, wanted to see how to overthrow KMT.

SLT came out to attack Liao Cheng-hao, former head of the MJIB, when there was an internal MJIB struggle in the late 1990's. He also wrote his books and cooperates with two other turncoat MJIB agents, Bai Hsuan and Li Yi-hsiung. He appears weekly on Hsu Rong-chi's radio station to attack various government operations and persons. (Hsu is somewhat of a gadfly and renegade within the Taiwan independence camp, propagates a kind of radical criticism of both KMT and DPP main parties, but is not of stellar integrity himself.) There was a flap about three years ago when they claimed that a lot of opposition people, including Hsieh Chang-ting, currently the DPP mayor of Kaohsiung and former DPP chairman, were previously paid informers of the MJIB.

SLT says he does business now, goes to China often and the officials there have approached him and other former MJIB officials. But he wouldn't sell out to China, because he wasn't offered enough to make it worthwhile to betray his country -- not for 4-5,000 US$ a month, he told them US$100,000 a month would be more like it. He has no party or loyalty. He makes NT$600,000 a month, he says, from his business selling [products] and other enterprises, and he can take off to travel and have fun every week or so. He has hired to work in his company one of the former staff at MJIB who has inside information on Lee Teng-hui, an agent supposedly did the earliest investigations of the former president in the 1950's, and hints that there are things to expose.


Anonymous said...

Sad, bizarre... authoritarianism is such a corrupting force, not just on the wielders but on the victims as well. It's hard to blame people that get sucked into the system sometimes--they are given all these carrots and sticks and it's no surprise where they end up.

All the more respect we have to give to people that could be conscious of what was going on, choose to not accept it, and perservere. Props to Shi Ming-De and company. All my respect.

Michael Turton said...

Shi remains a personal hero of mine.


Anonymous said...

She Ming-De was once my hero too, until I heard him said,

"Being not voted for a 2nd term is not my loss but all Taiwanese loss"

after his failed campaign for his 2nd-term legislator.

Was it really Taiwanese loss?

In his first term, he was among 3 of the "worst performed" legislators --- he often partied all night and got up late in noon, missed the morning legislative meeting entirely. In the entire season he was one of the legislators whose performance was "close to doing nothing at all."

He was once saviour in the eyes of may Taiwanese. But he simply threw it away.