Taipei, Taiwan – Tsai Kun-lin, a dedicated Taiwanese activist and publisher, passed away at the age of 92. He devoted his later years to sharing his experiences as a political prisoner and educating younger generations about Taiwan’s “White Terror” period.
Born in Taichung in December 1930, Tsai’s life took a dramatic turn when he was arrested at the age of 20 by the then-Kuomintang (KMT) government. His alleged crime? Membership in a high school reading group. This led to a shocking charge of treason, and Tsai found himself in a harrowing ordeal.
During his time in custody, Tsai endured severe interrogation techniques, including electric shocks, and was coerced into signing a false confession. Subsequently, he spent a decade in a labor reform camp on Green Island, where he continued to suffer further torture.
After his release in 1960, Tsai’s life took a new trajectory. He got married and began working in advertising before transitioning into the world of publishing. In 1966, he founded “Prince,” a widely recognized children’s magazine.
Tsai’s journey into civil society activism began with “Prince.” He used the magazine as a platform to seek donations for the Taitung Red Leaves youth baseball team in 1968. Thanks to the generous support of readers, the Red Leaves, primarily composed of Indigenous players, had the opportunity to travel to Taipei. Their unforgettable victory, defeating a team of Japanese all-stars 7-0, is credited with igniting Taiwan’s love for baseball.
Reflecting on Tsai’s impact, members of the Red Leaves team shared their condolences. Hu Ming-cheng, one of the pitchers from the 1968 Red Leaves, fondly recalled Tsai’s dedication in shuttling Indigenous children between Taipei and Taitung. “I am grateful and I miss him,” Hu said. Catcher Chiang Hung-hui emphasized that without Tsai’s support, the “Legend of the Red Leaves” might never have happened, nor would Taiwan have developed such a strong passion for baseball.
In 1983, Tsai concluded his tenure as the publisher of “Prince.” He then took on the role of editor for “Bella,” a fashion magazine, while also becoming a volunteer and activist for White Terror victims during his retirement.
Tsai’s remarkable life story, including his experiences as a political prisoner, was chronicled in the four-part Chinese-language graphic novel, “Son of Formosa (來自清水的孩子),” published in 2021. The novel vividly portrays Taiwan’s White Terror era, a period of political repression by the KMT government from 1949 to 1992. It garnered international acclaim and was later translated into English, Japanese, and French.
While Tsai Kun-lin’s physical presence may be gone, his legacy and dedication to justice live on. Chin Him-san, a fellow victim of White Terror, has vowed to continue Tsai’s important work. Tsai Kun-lin’s life serves as an inspiration for future generations, reminding us of the enduring power of activism and the importance of sharing the stories of resilience and hope.