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A Taiwanese Hakka in the Japanese army (1)
A Taiwanese Hakka in the Japanese army (1)
Chen Kon Lai's grandfather was a poor Hakka farmer who lived near the
small town of Chang Ping in the county of Dongguan in the province of
Guangdong. Chang Ping was and still is a Hakka town. Kon Lai's grandfather
and a few neighbours were imprisoned for defaulting the payment of land
taxes. In around 1880 Kon Lai's grandfather with his family, his
neighbours and their families were bannished to Taiwan.
These exilians chosed to settled down in the "Camphor distrcts", north
of Taiwan because they were many Hakkas settlements there. All the Hakkas
settlements here were surrounded by a two-storyed stockade, a fort-like
structure to protect the settlers from being attacked by the aborigines
who rarely attacked them except on the ground that they did not honour
their promises to the indigenous people.
The aborigines were very fond of roast pig and samshu (an intoxicating
Chinese rice wine). Usually the Hakkas would ask for the permission from
the aborigines to cut Camphor trees in a certain district in their
territory. In return the Hakkas promised to give them a few pigs and a few
jars of samshu. Unfortunately sometimes the Hakkas themselves did not have
those gifts to give them. Under such circumsatances the natives would
launch an attack on that Hakka settlement which did not present the gifts.
China lost the 1894-1895 Sino-Japanese war to Japan and at the result
of it Taiwan was ceded to Japan at the peace settlement in Shimonnseki.
The Taiwanese were against the cession of their homeland to Japan. In
anguish the Taiwanese declared independence on May 25, 1895 and proclaimed
the formation of Republic of Taiwan and they offered the presidency to
incumbent governor Lu Jing Song who fled to Xiamen in Fujian province.
Large contingent of Japanese troops were sent to Taiwan to enforce the
transfer. The Taiwanese put up a strong ressistance. Finally in October
1895 the Republic of Taiwan was crushed. Kon Lai's grandfather was killed
in the struggle against the Japanese, in a battle in Hueng Shan.
Kon Lai was born in 1918. He had a few years education in Chinese and
Japanese at the village of Namsho, a Camphor station. When Kon Lai was in
his teens he stopped schooling and returned home. He followed and helped
his father, who was born in Taiwan, in felling Camphor trees. Life was as
tough as ever since his grandfather's time. He was the third generation in
the Camphor industry.
Kon Lai married Siew Lan, a Hakka girl from another Hakka settlement.
Within a few years he was a father of two boys. It was after his 22nd
birthday that, unfortunately, he was conscribed into the Japanese army as
Japan was preparing to conquer Southeast Asia. Ironically, Kon Lai's
grandfather was killed by the Japanese troops a few decades ago. Now he
was to become a Japanese soldier and he was greatly affronted. Under the
military regime of Japan there was nothing Kon Lai could do but to submit
himself to indignity.
At the end of 1940 Kon Lai was sent to Hainan Island for training in
tropical jungle warfare. With little formal education and Chinese
backgound Kon Lai was allocated into the reserve of the Japanese army. He
was there under training for about two years
In the morning of December 6, 1941 Japanese troops began landing in Kota
Bharu, in the east coast of Malaya. Thus the Japanese conquest of Malaya
had begun. The Japanese froces swept down from the north of Malaya and
overran Malaya and Singapore. After 81 days of retreating and fighting the
British troops surrendered on Sunday 15 Febuary 1942 in Singapore.
Kon Lai did not take in the conquest of Malaya and Singapore. When the
fighting was all over the reserve battalion in which Kon Lai was attached
was dispatched to Malaya. Kon Lai was posted to Batu Gajah, a town in the
district of Kinta in Perak State. There were many small Hakka towns in
Kinta district, like Pusing (my hometown), Siputeh and Papan which were
all within a radius of about three miles from Batu Gajah.
The Japanese were cruel and treated the Chinese badly during their
occupation of Malaya. Kon Lai was surprised to see so many Hakkas here. He
felt as if he was at home in the Hakka settlements in Taiwan. He was
ashamed to wear the Japanese uniform. When opportunity arised he tried his
best to help the Hakkas. .........to be continued..............
CHUNG Yoon-Ngan. email@example.com