Political prisoners’ belated letters to family members before execution will break your heart

Heartbreaking letters written by Taiwanese political prisoners condemned to death and written 60 years ago to their loved ones have only recently been delivered.

The thoughts and words are enough to tear at your soul.

The prisoners were allowed to write one last letter before their executions during Taiwan’s period of political repression known as the White Terror. The New York Times only recently obtained copies of the messages.

In one of them, inmate Huang Wen-gong chose his yet-to-be-born daughter as the intended recipient.

“Before long I will leave this earth. I am trying to stay calm, to talk with you for the first and last time on this paper,” he told the child he would never see.

“I fear you can’t imagine what it’s like, alas. To face this moment and be unable to see you once, to hug you once, to kiss you once … I am heartbroken. My regret is unending.”

During the 38-year White Terror period, Taiwan was subject to martial law under the ruling Chinese Nationalist Party. Anyone who opposed the government were branded as spies and subject to imprisonment and execution.

The New York Post reported:

The letters were meant to be delivered to family members shortly after the executions but took 60 years to arrive.

Most are short and formal but for those who received them they are the only link to the deceased. Some, sadly, never reached their intended audience.

 

No one even knew that the letters existed until Chang Yi-lung, the granddaughter of Huang Wen-Gong, searched for information about her family at Taiwan’s archive and was handed a stack of documents, including the letter to his unborn daughter, Chang Yi-lung’s mother.

She then campaigned tirelessly to have other messages to loved ones released, the Post reported:

Even after discovering the documents, Ms. Chang’s family had to lobby to have them turned over. The government agreed in 2011 after the Taiwan Association for Truth and Reconciliation started to apply pressure.

The decision helped dozens of families get closure. Cheng Jin-he was among them. He was executed in 1970 and urged his son to reflect but not be bitter.

 

“On this earth you will never see your father again. This is the saddest thing. No one can avoid the pain of parting forever, but in this sorrow we must control our tears, we must swallow the bitterness and spit it out with laughter,” he wrote.

“No matter whether it brings you joy or distress, you must not forget your mother and father. Now you have an even more important responsibility on your shoulders. In order to love your father you must improve yourself, only then can you comfort your father’s spirit. No matter what you do, you must engage in self-reflection often. This is what your father would have wanted.”

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