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1987 Lieyu massacre

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Date  March 7–8, 1987
Attack type  Massacre
Target  Vietnamese boat people
Deaths  19 (?)
1987 Lieyu massacre
Location  Donggang, Lieyu Township, Kinmen County, Fujian Province, Republic of China
Perpetrators  158th Heavy infantry Division, Kinmen Defense Command (金門防衛司令部), Republic of China Army

The 1987 Lieyu massacre (Chinese: 小金門屠殺越南難民事件; pinyin: Xiǎo Jīnmén Túshā Nànmín Shìjiàn), also known as the March 7 Incident, Donggang Incident or Donggang Massacre (Chinese: 三七事件, 東崗事件, 東崗慘案), occurred on March 7, 1987, in the Donggang Bay of Lieyu Island (also known as Lesser Kinmen or Little Quemoy), Kinmen, Fujian, Republic of China. According to the diary of General Hau Pei-tsun, all the 19 unarmed Vietnamese boat people were killed by the Taiwanese Military when they landed on the island. Certain reports state there were more than 19 casualties.



The incident is the result of a previous incident during which a young mainland Chinese couple swam to Dadan Island (大膽島) seeking asylum. At the time, all islets of Kinmen Archipelago islands were considered war zones under the Martial Law ruling of the time which allowed the Republic of China (Taiwan) to prevent an attack by the People's Liberation Army of the Communist Party of China. The local deputy division commander, a major-general of the Army's 158th Lieyu Division (烈嶼師) received the couple and escorted them to the superior Kinmen Defense command (金防部), but was immediately relieved from his post for violating the directive to "Accept no surrender in the war zone". Therefore, the deputy brigade commander, a lieutenant-colonel of the neighboring Erdan Island (二膽島) closer to the mainland summoned all the soldiers to reiterate the strict order that, "Whoever lands on the island must be executed without exception!" Soon afterwards, he was promoted to 472nd Nantang (南塘旅) brigade commander, taking charge of all the units on the South Lieyu Defense Team, which led to the massacre of the Vietnamese boat people in 1987.

A week before the 1987 incident, a local Chinese fishing boat crossing Xiamen Bay was shot intensively until it caught on fire near Dadan Island at noon, February 28. The fishermen on board waved a white cloth in an attempt to communicate but the boat was then sunk by tank gun shots ordered by the new Dadan commander upon the approval of the Kinmen Defense command. The only survivor swam to cling to a rock nearby, but was eventually lost to the waves.


On March 7, 1987, a boat of Vietnamese refugees arrived in Kinmen and demanded political asylum, but was rejected by the Kinmen Defense Command; then, the boat was pulled away by a patrol boat of the Amphibious Reconnaissance Battalion (ARB-101, 海龍蛙兵) with a warning not to return. However, for reasons unclear, the information about this boat's presence in the Southern sea was never passed on to the front line of the coastal defense units, including that of Lieyu island.

Under the heavy fog in the later afternoon, the Vietnamese boat was sighted off the shore of Lieyu at 16:37. Both the 472 brigade commander and the local 1st Dashanding (大山頂) infantry battalion commander arrived at the scene with staff officers to oversee operations. Warning shots were fired by the Taiwanese military. However, the floating boat managed to land on the beach south-west of Donggang ("East Cape", Chinese: 東崗; Pinyin: Dōnggāng) and was hit by crossfire, and 2 bazooka shots by the WPN company in reinforcement,but the default Armor-piercing shells penetrated away the wooden hull structure without explosion. Three unarmed Vietnamese men jumped off the fishing boat and tried to communicate in Chinese "Don't shoot..." but were all shot dead instantly. The local 3rd company commander on site received the order from the brigade commander to lead a team searching aboard and 2 hand grenades were thrown in, but then found that all the passengers were Vietnamese refugees with no weapon on board. The vessel had experienced a mechanical failure, and due to the heavy fog and strong southern currents and the rising tidal waves, the boat was floating close to the bay and was experiencing difficulties pulling away, nor could it take an evasion maneuver to escape.

All of the survivors and bodies of the dead were taken out of the boat and placed on the beach with neither first aid nor any life support supply rendered, followed by intense telecommunication among the division HQ, brigade HQ and the commanders at scene, which quickly came to the conclusion in more execution to eliminate all the eyewitnesses. Some received multiple shots when one bullet did not kill. Among the bodies piled the seniors, women, children, a pregnant woman and a baby in a tiny sweater.

In the morning of next day, March 8, the Medical Platoon of the battalion HQ Company was ordered in to bury all the bodies of boat people on site. The wounded were buried alive, and those who were still moving were dictated to be killed by military shovels. The entire boat was also instructed to be burned down and buried in sand to destroy all the evidences right away. The last victim, a little boy being hidden underneath a board cell was also executed by order with no exception. The guarding sergeant of the battalion HQ company counted the bodies as more than nineteen.

Since some medics defied the direct order of victim execution, the brigade commander dispatched the elite 1/3 of the brigade HQ Company to take over the battalion HQ and the battalion HQ company as emergency measure. Later that day, another fishing boat from China approached Donggang trying to check out what happened overnight. it was also shot to destroy, and sunk in the open sea with 4 confirmed kills to assure all lips sealed - which some veterans later called the "March 8 Incident".

After the massacre, Chiang Ching-kuo, the then President of the Republic of China (Taiwan) was very mad about what happened in the military, including the facts that the 158 Division collaborated with its superior, Kinmen Defense Command, to conceal the news for two and half months, and the commander of the Kinmen Defense Command, Lieutenant-general Zhao Wan-fu (Chinese: 趙萬富; Pinyin: Zhào Wànfù), also pretended to be unaware of the event. While being questioned by General Hau Pei-tsun, the then Chief of the General Staff, he lied: "It was just a couple of 'Communist soldiers' (which refers to the People's Liberation Army and the Communist Party of China) being shot in the water". But Zhao's statement was not to be believable. General Hau Pei-tsun wants to cover up the truth, and he didn't want to give it up, so he ordered to dig out the corpses from the first scene, then moved them toward another address on a higher hidden slope to the right, filled with cement and built a wall above it to obstruct the incoming investigation.


The bodies were not buried deep on the beach at first. Soaked in the tidal seawater and exposed to the heated temperature under direct sunlight, the bodies soon began to decompose and were dug out by wild dogs from the landfill on the back side of the western hill. Accounts of ghost sightings prompted villagers to hold religious ceremonies, making it all the more difficult to block the news.

In early May 1987, the British Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post first began to report the massacre. Informed by the overseas office, higher officials questioned the Kinmen Defense Command but got no concrete response; instead, the Command swapped this coast defense battalion from the front line with another reserve battalion in the training base in urgency in order to strengthen the personnel control and communication restriction to prevent further leaking news, and their unit designation codes were also shifted to confuse outsiders' questioning. Later, twice of extra bonus cash summing up to half a month of a captain's salary, $6000 were also awarded to the company commanders abnormally on the eve of Dragon boat festival. Until the end of May, recently discharged conscript soldiers began to arrive on Taiwan Island from Kinmen in waves by the term schedule and revealed the occurrence to the newly founded opposition party, Democratic Progressive Party. The news of the massacre started to spread in Taiwan.

The first journalist report in Taiwan about this incident was in the newspaper Independence Evening News (自立晚報) on June 5. The Parliament Member Wu Shu-chen from the Democratic Progressive Party formally questioned the Ministry of National Defense about the incident during the general assembly of Legislative Yuan. Her questions were repeatedly denied by the Military Spokesman, Major-general Zhang Hui Yuan, who accused Wu of "sabotaging the national reputation", and claimed it was actually "a Chinese fishing boat being sunk in the sea after ignoring the warnings". The case has been classified as top secret in the military ever since for 20 years, hence the government never revealed the truth regarding the identity and the number of the victims and what happened exactly. The official cover-up story applied to the public for another 13 years, until being uncovered by the publication of «Diary of the Chief of the General Staff (1981-1989)» by General Hau in 2000. The Government of the Republic of China has made no comment thereafter.


After the scandal exposed, President Chiang Ching-kuo received the letter from the Amnesty International expressing the humanity concern, and assigned the Chief of the General Staff, General Hau to investigate this case. A special envoy of the Political Warfare Bureau was dispatched to Kinmen and found the case true. All the commanders and the corresponding political officers on the chain of command, including Kinmen Defense Command, 158 Lieyu Division, 472 Nantang Brigade, the 1st Dashanding Battalion, the HQ, WPN and 3rd Donggang companies were arrested, which led to a large military position shuffle later.

In the court martial, Brigade commander Zhong in charge at site was sentenced to 1 year and 10 months for abetting murders; Battalion commander Liu was sentenced to 1 year and 10 months for accomplice in serial murders; the WPN and 3rd company commanders, Captain Li and Captain Zhang, were sentenced to 1 year and 8 months for serial murders - but all the above sentences are respited with a 3-year probation, therefore none of the convicted field commanders who executed several victims in person with their sidearms was required to spend a day in jail hence returned duty posts immediately to continue their "services", until later under the heavy pressure from the international society and media. Their later regular retirement and pension plans were not affected.

Nevertheless, the superior officers received no official punishment, and recovered their military career after President Chiang suddenly died in January, 1988. Brigade Commander Zhong took a senior lead colonel position in a military academy (陸軍通校); Division Commander Gong shifted to the Chief of Staff of the War College, National Defense University, before being promoted to the Deputy Commander of the Hua-Tung Defense Command (花東防衛司令部) in 1991 ; Kinmen Defense Commander Zhao was promoted to the Deputy Chief Commander General of the Republic of China Army in 1989, and further the Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Republic of China Armed Forces in 1991; then appointed with honours as a strategy advisor (戰略顧問) to the President of the Republic of China in 2 terms, and then the permanent title as the reviewer member (中評委) of the Central Committee of the ruling party, Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist Party) till his death on Feb. 28, 2016. His official funeral was proceeded with his coffin covered by the National Flag, the military salute of the top-ranked generals, and Vice-president Wu Den-yih presenting the Commendation Decree of President Ma Ying-jeou, who praises Zhao's 50-year career in national security with so-called "loyalty, diligence, bravery, perseverance, intelligence, wisdom, insight and proficiency" (忠勤勇毅,才識閎通), whereas "his virtue and conducts have set a good example model for future generation to follow...." (武德景行,貽範永式... 逾五十載攄忠護民,越半世紀衛國干城,崇勛盛業,青史聿昭).

The Government of the Republic of China has never rendered an apology nor any compensation to the victim families or the victim country.


1987 Lieyu massacre Wikipedia

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