1987 Lieyu massacre

Deaths 19 (+)
Location Donggang, Lieyu Township, Kinmen County, Fujian Province, Republic of China
Died Unknown
Date March 7, 1987 (1987-03-07) – March 8, 1987; 34 years ago (1987-03-08) (UTC + 8)
Criminal penalty Unknown


Gen. Zhao's "Three Principles of the People Unify China" Wall on Dadan Island
Erdan fortress bearing Gen. Zhao's same Chinese Unification slogans
Xiamen, Lieyu (center) & Kinmen (left)
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image icon Declassified KDC nuclear cannon strike plan covers Xiamen City & international Port of Economy Zone Distance: 10 km, Effective Radius: 8 km, Population: 1.06 million
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image icon Last seen disoriented boat trail mark
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image icon Dashanding Hill & Donggang Bay
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image icon Fishery port (bottom-left), first scene (center) & second scene (mid-left) have been demolished; landform changed
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image icon Gen. Hau’s Diary (May 20 – Oct. 1)
Minister Cheng endorsed Pres. Chiang's decree to lift the Martial Law a month later
1987 Lieyu massacre
Traditional Chinese烈嶼屠殺事件
Simplified Chinese烈屿屠杀事件
March 7 Incident
Donggang Incident
Traditional Chinese東崗事件
Simplified Chinese东岗事件
Donggang Horrible Incident
Traditional Chinese東崗慘案
Simplified Chinese东岗惨案

The 1987 Lieyu massacre, also known as the March 7 Incident, Donggang Incident or Donggang Massacre, occurred on 7 March 1987 at Donggang Bay, Lieyu Island ("Lesser Kinmen" or "Little Quemoy"), Kinmen, Fujian, Republic of China. According to the diary of Superior-general Hau Pei-tsun, nineteen unarmed Vietnamese boat people were killed by the ROC military. There may have been more than nineteen deaths, containing several families of ethnical Chinese speaking minority.


The 1987 Lieyu massacre was preceded by an incident where a young couple from mainland China swam to Dadan Island seeking asylum in late 1984. At that time, all the islets of the Kinmen Archipelago were considered as war zones under Martial Law, which was to allow Taiwan to prevent an attack by the People's Liberation Army of the People's Republic of China. The commanding major-general of the Dadan Defense Team (大膽守備隊), Premier Deputy Division Commander of the 158 Lieyu Division (烈嶼師), received the couple and escorted them to the superior Kinmen Defense Command (金防部) on the Field army level, but was immediately relieved of his post by the Commander General Song Hsin-lian (宋心濂上將) for violating the directive to "Accept no surrender in the war zone".

As a result, the commander of the neighboring Erdan Island (二膽守備隊), Deputy Brigade Commander of the 473 Brigade, lieutenant-colonel Zhong, summoned all the soldiers to reiterate the order that "Whoever lands on the island must be executed without exception". Soon after this statement, he was exceptionally promoted to the position of 472 Nantang Brigade Commander (南塘旅), taking charge of all the units in the South Lieyu Defense Team (烈嶼南守備隊), whereas General Song was promoted as the director of National Security Bureau back to Taipei in December 1985.

It is alleged that a minimized nuclear test succeeded at the Jioupeng military field in Pingtung in 1986 after nearly 20 years of research and simulation testing, which was recorded on the US satellite image and questioned later by the director of American Institute in Taiwan, David Dean, in 1988 according to General Hau's Diary.

In August 1986, the new Kinmen Defense Commander, General Zhao Wan-fu (趙萬富上將; Zhào Wànfù) instructed the 158 Division Commander, Major-general Gong Li (龔力少將) to construct two propaganda walls – one on Dadan, the other on Erdan – with the slogan proclaiming "Three Principles of the People Unify China" facing the international seaway of Xiamen Bay, whereas Xi Jinping (CCP general secretary since 2012) was the Deputy Mayor of Xiamen City.

At noon on 28 February 1987, one week before the Lieyu massacre, a local Chinese fishing boat crossed Xiamen Bay. It was intensely fired upon until it caught fire near Dadan. The fishermen on board waved a white cloth in an attempt to communicate their surrender. However, the boat was sunk by tank gun shots ordered by the new Dadan commander, Major-general Chien Yi-hu (錢奕虎少將) after receiving the approval of General Zhao. There was only one survivor, who swam to cling onto a rock nearby, but who was eventually lost to the rising tides. Two accounts claimed the incident occurring at 09:00, January 29 on Lunar New Year.


In the morning of 7 March 1987, a boat carrying Vietnamese refugees who had been rejected in Hong Kong earlier arrived in Kinmen requesting political asylum. Kinmen Defense Commander, General Zhao rejected the request, and ordered a patrol boat of the Amphibious Reconnaissance Battalion (ARB-101, 海龍蛙兵) to tow away the boat from the shore with a warning not to return. However, for reasons unclear, the information about the boat's presence in the Southern sea was never forwarded to the front line of the coastal defense units, including those in the Lieyu island.

As a seasonal heavy fog appeared on the coast and gradually turned clear in the afternoon, the Vietnamese boat was sighted by an infantry post off the south shore at 16:37, where it had been too close and too late to apply for the indirect fire support by artillery intervention. The local 1st Dashanding Infantry Battalion (大山頂營) Commander Major Liu, the 472 Brigade Commander Colonel Zhong and the 158 Division G3 Chief Operation Officer (參三科科長), Colonel Han Jing-Yue (simplified Chinese: 韩敬越; traditional Chinese: 韓敬越), arrived at the scene with staff officers. The 629 Light Artillery Battalion which happened to be taking a field drill practice in the ancient airport on the northeastern beachfront turned around to launch one single star shell lighting up the background horizon sky, but found no invasion force approaching; meanwhile warning shots, followed by expelling shots were fired in sequence as per the procedure steps of Army Rule of Engagement with T57 rifles, .30 Caliber and .50 Caliber machine guns in short range by about 100 infantrymen from the reserve platoons of three companies while another one coming in.

The Vietnamese boat was stranded on the sand beach south-west of Donggang (Dōnggāng) Fishery Port (Fort L-05), a sensitive strategic point in front of the mobile positions of M40 recoilless rifles and M30 mortars with the communication transit station nicknamed "04" (homonym to 'You die' in Chinese pronunciation) on hill with a 30-degree angle of blind corner on radar screen by the steep landform in front of the classified 240 mm howitzer M1 (aka. "Black Dragon" or "Nuclear Cannon") rail-gun positions of Kinmen Defense Command, and the 155/105 mm artillery battalions of 158 Division. It was hit by crossfire from L-05, L-06 and Fort Fuxing Islet of the 2nd Battalion, plus two M72 LAW (Light Anti-Tank Weapon) rounds by the WPN Company in reinforcement. Armor-piercing shells penetrated through the sky-blue wooden hull without detonation. Three unarmed Vietnamese men jumped off the boat, raised their hands, and pled in Chinese, "Don't shoot...!" but were all shot dead instantly.

The local 3rd Dongang Company (東崗連) Commander, Captain Zhang, received the order from the brigade commander to dispatch a search team boarding the boat. Two hand grenades were thrown into the boat, then found that all the passengers were Vietnamese refugees with no weapon on board. The passengers said that the vessel had experienced a mechanical failure. Because of the heavy fog, the strong seasonal currents and the rising tide since late afternoon, the boat drifted into the open bay. The surviving passengers and the 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 with the Division Headquarter (DHQ), the commanders at the scene received orders from their superiors – alleged directly by Commander General Zhao – to execute the passengers to eliminate all the eyewitnesses. Some received multiple shots when the first bullet had not killed them. Among the bodies piled were elderly people, men, women, one pregnant woman, children, and a baby in a sweater.

The last words of the pregnant woman before being executed by .45 pistol was in English: "...Help me...Help my baby...My baby seven months...", then the battalion operation officer made joke on her dead body and have never shown remorse during the annual reunions in the later years. A senior lady was pulled out of the boat cablin presented 6 gold bars, and one bag of US bills and Hong Kong notes begging for mercy, which were submitted to the Brigade HQ after her execuation but somehow disappeared, since these items were never enumerated in the KDC Incident Report.。

In the morning 09:00 of 8 March 1987, the Medical Platoon of the Battalion Headquarter (BHQ) Company was called in to bury all the bodies at the beach. The platoon members were ordered to execute any surviving refugees. The wounded were buried alive, and those who were still moving or crying were dictated to be killed by military shovels. The entire boat was also instructed to be burned down aside from the only 3-blade propeller non-flammable to gasoline, then all buried in sand to destroy all the evidence right away. The last victim, a young boy being hidden underneath a board cell was also found and executed by order without exception. The guarding sergeant of the BHQ company overnight counted the bodies as more than nineteen.

The Ammunition Specialist of the 3rd Company collected the following major consumption reports (not including the other companies and the Fuxing Islet of 2nd Battalion): 320 M60 machine gun shots, 162 T57 rifle shots, 21 T75 Mortar shells (above mainly during the warning and expelling usages), 36 M1911 pistol shots (mainly for execution), 2 grenades not detonated, 6 shells of M20 Bazooka (2 of them not working), plus 2 M72 LAW shells not detonated.。

Since some medics defied the direct order of victim execution, brigade commander Zhong instructed the Nantang Brigade Headquarter (RHQ) Company commander captain leading 1/3 soldiers to take over the Battalion headquarter and the BHQ company as the emergency measure to maintain order. Later that day, a real fishing boat from China approached the coast attempting to check out what happened. It was also shot to destroy, and sunk in the open sea with 4 confirmed kills to ensure that nobody survived – an event which some veterans later called the "March 8 Incident".


The native store owner heard the crying of refugees overnight and made a phone call to inform the National Assembly member, Huang Chao-hui in Kaohsiung, but the contact was soon lost. At the time, all civilian and public long-distance phone calls were being routinely monitored by the Communication Supervision Section of Kinmen Defense Command. Nevertheless, the bodies were not buried deeply at the first scene. Influenced by tidal seawater and high temperatures, the bodies soon began to decompose and were dug out by wild dogs from the landfill (小金垃圾場) on the back side of the western hill, and were later reburied collectively in 3 mounds as the second scene on the higher ground next to the tree line. This task was performed by the 1st Company, who had just resumed their posts after winning the annual Army Physical and Combat Competitions in Taiwan. Accounts of ghost sightings prompted villagers to hold religious ceremonies, (and a tiny shrine was built by soldiers for the same reason on the beach next year as well) making it all the more difficult to prevent the spreading of information about the incident. Nonetheless, both scenes along with 04 Station, L-05 Fort, Donggang Port and even the breakwater bank were all demolished in recent years.

In early May 1987, British Hong Kong newspapers first reported that the refugee boat went missing after leaving the port along the coast for Kinmen, Taiwan. 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 for the following 2 years to confuse outsiders. Twice of "extra bonus" cash summing up to half a month of a captain's salary, $6,000 were also abnormally awarded to the company commanders against the government regulation and ethics on the eve of Dragon boat festival. Until the end of May, recently discharged conscript soldiers from Kinmen began to arrive in Taiwan Proper by the term schedule and finally were able to appeal to the newly founded opposition party, Democratic Progressive Party; thouth all the soldiers at scenes had been listed to sign the oath before departure by order to maintain silence to guard in secret for life. The information of the massacre started to spread in Taiwan.

Ten weeks after the massacre, the President of the Republic of China (Taiwan), Chiang Ching-kuo, reacted to concealment by the 158 Division and the Kinmen Defense Command. General Zhao Wan-fu, said he was unaware of the event. While being questioned by the Chief of the General Staff (參謀總長), Superior-general Hau Pei-tsun on 20 May, General Zhao still lied: "It was just a couple of 'Communist soldiers' (referring to the penetration of People's Liberation Army) being shot in the water", but Zhao's statement was obviously unbelievable. Then Superior-general Hau ordered to move the corpses from the beach to a remote hidden slope in front of Fort L-03 (East Cape) on the right, filled with cement and built a concrete training wall on top of it as the military property to prevent any future investigation. The corpses remain sealed in the final place of the third scene with no mark today.

As a key witness at the DHQ Situation Room (師部戰情室) when the massacre occurred for the investigation by the end of May, the Chief Intelligence Officer of 158 Division G2 (參二科科長), Lieutenant-colonel Xu Lai (徐萊中校), mysteriously disappeared after a supervision task over a company-level night patrol and checkpoints, same to another non-commissioned officer at post within a week. Their bodies were never found.

On 5 June 1987, Independence Evening Post was the first Taiwanese newspaper reporting the massacre with the formal questioning by the newly elected Parliament Member (and future First Lady) Wu Shu-chen, along with PM Chang Chun-hsiung and PM Kang Ning-hsiang from the Democratic Progressive Party to the Ministry of National Defense during the general assembly of Legislative Yuan. Her questions were repeatedly denied by the Military Spokesman, Major-general Zhang Hui Yuan (張慧元少將), who accused the Congresswoman, Mme. 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 uniformed propaganda was broadcast in the evening news on all public TV channels that night, and since next morning on 6 June, all local newspapers received the government instructions to publicize the press release of the Central News Agency originated from the Military News Agency (軍聞社). With the advocacy of Formosan Association for Public Affairs, the United States House of Representatives hence passed the "Taiwan Democracy Resolution" (H.R.1777) on 17 June, calling on the ROC government to end the Martial Law ruling, lift the ban on political parties, accelerate the realization of democracy including the protection of freedom of speech and assembly, and reform the parliament election system for the legitimacy of government; the United States Senate passed the same resolution in December.

The case was classified as military secret ever since for 20 years to prevent any further leaking information or the prosecution will apply. The following media reports were censored and the publication were banned by the Nationalist government. Eventually when the police broke into the Freedom Era Weekly (自由時代周刊, which had publicized the case interviews and editorials before) magazine office for arrest with another count of Treason charge in April, 1989, editor-in-chief, Cheng Nan-jung set himself on fire then died in blaze to protest for the freedom of speech. Military journalist Zhang You-hua (張友驊) of Independence Evening Post on the other hand was sentenced to 1 year and 7 months with a probation period of 3 years in November 1991.

The official cover-up story of the Chinese fishing boat sunk by one shell of bombardment applied to the public for 13 years, until being uncovered by the publication of «8-year Diary of the Chief of the General Staff (1981-1989)» (八年參謀總長日記) by Superior-general Hau in 2000. The Government of the Republic of China has made no comment thereafter.


After the scandal was exposed, President Chiang Ching-kuo received a letter from Amnesty International expressing humanitarian concern, and assigned the Chief of General Staff, Superior-general Hau, to investigate this case. The Minister of National Defense, Cheng Wei-yuan also arrived in Kinmen, who dispatched a special envoy of the Political Warfare Bureau to conduct the field investigation with excavation discovering the civilian cadavers and eventually solved the criminal case on 23 May. On 28 May, the Military Police began to detain over 30 officers back to Taiwan to court-martial, including the commanders, corresponding political officers and related staff officers along the 5 levels on the chain of command, whereas 45 officers received the administrative sanction of dishonored transfer. Later on 14 July, Minister Cheng also endorsed the historical decree of President Chiang to end the notorious 38-year-long Martial law ruling period (1948–1987) in Taiwan, except the War Zone Administration (戰地政務) on the frontier regions including Kinmen and Matsu Islands remained under the military governing till 7 November 1992. President Chiang further lifted the ban on the divided family members across the Strait to visit their families in China by allowing transfer through a third place, such as Hong Kong, Okinawa or Tokyo, on 2, November.

In October 1987, Brigade Commander Zhong was sentenced to 1 year and 10 months for abetting murders; Battalion Commander Major Liu was sentenced to 1 year and 10 months for being an accomplice to serial murders; WPN and 3rd Company commanders, Captain Li and Captain Zhang, both were sentenced to 1 year and 8 months for serial murders – but all the sentences were commuted with a probation period of 3 years, therefore none of the convicted field commanders was required to spend one day in the prison though under heavy pressure from the international society and media later, they stayed in rank with posts suspended to continue service without pay until the end of term before relocating to training officer positions; Brigade Commander Zhong took a senior lead colonel position in a military academy, Army Communication, Electronics and Information School. Their later regular retirement and pension plans were not affected.

The superior officers received no official punishment, and recovered their military career after President Chiang suddenly died in January 1988. Principal staff officer, Major-general Fan Jai-yu (范宰予少將) was promoted to the commander of the 210 Heavy Infantry Division of Hualien Expansion in 1989, then further ranked to lieutenant-general, commander of the Penghu Defense Command in 1994, and the Principal of the Political Warfare Cadres Academy in 1996; Division Commander, Major-general Gong Li was shifted to the Chief of Staff of the War College (戰爭學院), National Defense University, then promoted to the deputy commander of the Huadong Defense Command (花東防衛司令部) in 1992, and the Civil Level-12 Director of Banqiao District House (榮譽國民之家) of the Veterans Affairs Council in 2000; Kinmen Defense Commander Zhao was promoted to deputy chief commander general of the Republic of China Army in 1989, and further to 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 development of the nuclear weapons program was eventually exposed by Colonel Chang Hsien-yi, deputy director of the Institute of Nuclear Energy Research at the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology defecting to the United States in January, 1988. Over 100 years after its establishment in 1911, the Republic of China still doesn't have the Refugee Law to regulate the political asylum process in accordance with the international laws today, not to mention that the Government has never rendered an apology nor any legal compensation to the victim families or the victim country. On 3 October 2018, former director of the Amnesty International Taiwan, Parliament Member Freddy Lim of the New Power Party, inquired in a hearing session at the Foreign and National Defense Committee of the Legislative Yuan to examine the victims’ files in the military archives in order to express an apology to their families through the Vietnamese Representative Office (Vietnamese: Văn phòng Kinh tế Văn hoá Việt Nam), but Minister of National Defence, General Yen Teh-fa disagreed: "The troops were following the SOP rules of the Martial Law period to execute (the orders), though it might look like having some issues nowadays; also, they have been court-martialed..." later MND followed up in reply: "It has been too difficult to identify the deceased due to the long time, so (the case) can not be processed further."


  • Hushen (胡神): The 2019 novel by the retired school principle, Tian-lu Jian (姜天陸) analyzes the first scene situation in respect to the humanity concern with his personal experience of service time in Lieyu tunnels, and won the 16th Kinmen Literature Award.
  • The Burning Island (戰地殺人, "Battleground Massacre"): The 2020 film in production by Hsien-Jer Chu (朱賢哲), former member of the 319 Heavy Infantry Division in the Kinmen East region where similar shooting incidents had occurred earlier, interpreted the history as a mirror to reflect the universal value and won the top prize of 42nd Selection of Excellent Screenplays.