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Rev. Michael Stainton Working with Indigenous People in Taiwan Before and After Martial Law Ep 205

By Felicia Lin

A note from Talking Taiwan host Felicia Lin:

In this episode of Talking Taiwan, I welcome back Reverend Michael Stainton to talk about his time in Taiwan and work with the indigenous people of Taiwan. Much of the time he spent in Taiwan was during the martial law era (before 1987) and he gives an interesting account of what Taiwan was like at the time.

Reverend Stainton is the President of the Taiwanese Human Rights Association of Canada and the Founder and Director of the Canadian Mackay Committee. We had Reverend Stainton on as a guest previously (in episode 173) to talk about Canadian missionary George Leslie Mackay’s contributions to Taiwan.

This episode of Talking Taiwan has been sponsored by NATWA, the North America Taiwanese Women’s Association.



NATWA was founded in 1988, and its mission is:


  1. to evoke a sense of self-esteem and enhance women’s dignity,
  2. to oppose gender discrimination and promote gender equality,
  3. to fully develop women’s potential and encourage their participation in public affairs,
  4. to contribute to the advancement of human rights and democratic development in Taiwan,
  5. to reach out and work with women’s organizations worldwide to promote peace for all.


To learn more about NATWA visit their website:


Here’s a little preview of what we talked about in this podcast episode:


  • In the 1970s, while Chiang Kai-shek was President of Taiwan Chinese Communist materials and materials from China were labeled “banditry materials” at the Stanford Center’s library
  • Students could access the “banditry materials” but were required to sign out and promptly return them because the materials had to remain on premises
  • The Garrison Command would periodically stop by the library to check to make sure none of the “banditry materials” was missing
  • How the death of Chiang Kai-shek was covered by the three television stations in Taiwan
  • How Taiwan was a totalitarian police state in the 1970s
  • What happened when Reverend Stainton was sent to Taiwan as a missionary in 1980 to work with the Presbyterian Church of Taiwan
  • Reverend Stainton’s work as the Director of the Taipei Aboriginal University Student Center
  • How students of the Taipei Aboriginal University Student Center were required to report to the political commissary what Reverend Stainton was teaching them
  • How Reverend Stainton tried to encourage the aborigine students to think about their identity and history by inviting various speakers such as local politicians and an academic who had critiqued the myth of Wu Feng (who was beheaded by the Tsou aborigine tribe)
  • How the police were always watching and Reverend Stainton’s mail was opened and censored (during Taiwan’s martial law era)
  • What happened when the police and garrison command arrived to break up a birthday party that students were having at the Taipei Aboriginal University Student Center
  • How Reverend Stainton knew that his phone was being tapped
  • Some students from the Taipei Aborigine University Student Center went on to become leaders and politicians including Icyang Parod who is the Minister of the Council of Indigenous Peoples (CIP)
  • In 1982 Reverend Stainton switched to doing work in a rural aboriginal development in Wulai
  • How Reverend Stainton helped to uncover embezzlement by the director of the Taipei Presbytery’s community development center in Wulai
  • How Reverend Stainton discovered that he was disinvited from continuing to stay in Taiwan and sent back to Canada
  • The Atayal people began to request that they run the aboriginal development in Wulai be under the Atayal Presbytery church instead of the Taipei Presbytery
  • How Reverend Stainton studied at the Coady Institute after returning to Canada in 1983 and learned methods of community of development
  • How Reverend Stainton was invited to return to Taiwan
  • How Reverend Stainton was invited to work at community development centers in Taidong and Hualien
  • How the president of a cooperative ran for and was elected township mayor, but the KMT found a way to oust him
  • People who planned to participate in the Aboriginal return our land movement demonstration march in Taipei on August 25,1988 were harassed by the police and warned not to participate, busloads of people en route to the demonstration were also stopped
  • In this era Cheng Wen Chen’s murder at Taida happened in 1981 and in 1989, Deng Nylon (Cheng Nan-jung) committed suicide by self-immolation rather than be arrested
  • Reverend Stainton and his wife returned to Canada in 1991
  • How Reverend Stainton’s observation of the variations in behavior of different aborigine groups at the Taipei Aborigine University Student Center made him interested in anthropology
  • How Columbus Leo challenged the blacklist after martial law had been lifted
  • Reverend Stainton was sent by the United Church of Canada to be an observer at Columbus Leo’s trial
  • Observers at Columbus Leo’s trial included David Mulroney
  • The Columbus Leo Support Committee was renamed and continued as the Taiwanese Human Rights Association of Canada (THRAC)
  • The Taiwanese Human Rights Association of Canada organized the first nongovernment sponsored delegation (that included three members of Parliament) to observe the 1992 legislative elections in Taiwan
  • The 1992 delegation included: Jim Peterson (Liberal), Bill Blaikie (NDP) and Mary Clancy (Liberal)
  • In 1996 the THRAC organized a visit of indigenous leaders from Taiwan to Canada, the group included Icyang Parod, some clergy, legislators (two KMT and one DPP)
  • The group traveled to various parts of Canada learning about the different approaches to self- government that indigenous people had taken and met Ovide Mercredi
  • The Nisga’a Treaty
  • What is currently happening with indigenous peoples’ rights in Taiwan
  • The “return our land movement” in Taiwan


Related Links:


Chiang Kai-shek:


Reverend Kao Chun-ming:


Shih Ming-teh:


Kaohsiung Incident (aka Formosa Incident)


Taiwan Garrison Command:


Wu Feng:


Taiwan in Time: The drastic downfall of Wu Feng (an article from the Taipei Times):


Icyang Parod:


Chen Wen Chen murder:


About Chen Wen Chen’s death (from the Taiwan Communiqué):


Cheng Nan-jung:


About Cheng Nan-jung (from the Taiwan Communiqué):


Columbus Leo:


Blacklist – Short Series 2 – Columbus Leo:


Taiwanese Human Rights Association of Canada (THRAC):


Taiwanese Human Rights Association of Canada (THRAC) on Facebook:


David Mulroney:


1992 Legislative Elections in Taiwan (from the Taiwan Communiqué):


Lee Teng-hui:


Jim Peterson:


Bill Blaikie:


Canadian Council of Churches:


TECO (Taipei Economic and Cultural Office) in Canada:


Kuomintang (KMT):


Democratic Progressive Party (DPP):


The Nisga’a Treaty:


Ovide Mercredi:


Seeking land justice for indigenous communities (an article from Taipei Times):


George Leslie Mackay: Canadian Missionary Iconoclast and his Contributions to Taiwan with Rev. Michael Stainton (Episode 173):


Christina Hu Talks About Documentary Filmmaking and her Blacklist Short Film Series (Episode 151):

About the Host

Felicia Lin is the Host and Producer of Talking Taiwan, a podcast which seeks to introduce you to interesting stories connected to Taiwan and the diverse individuals who make up Taiwan’s global community.

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