The May 2018 arrest of Roger Lin and six other leaders of Taiwan Civil Government, ordered by prosecutors of the exiled Republic of China, for political fraud has brought renewed interest about the activities of TCG. One of the attention-grabbers of the group is its paramilitary Black Bear squad which trains at the heliport at TCG headquarters.
The formidable looking unit, dressed in gear suitable for Star Wars troopers, makes an exciting contribution to TCG parades, but is it really a paramilitary unit? Some say the squad are sheep posing in wolves’ clothing.
Over the years Taiwan has a history of shadowy groups at the edges of Taiwan independence activity. In the bad old days there were political hit squads from organized criminal gangs like the Bamboo Gang. Mysterious men in black shirts have long hounded pro-independence groups, one time moving against the famous Su Beng at the airport on a return to Taiwan.
Over time the groups and tactics would change. In the early 1990’s an underground Taiwan organization set up its “blue bandannas group” and did battle with police in the frequent demonstrations of that period. One example was the movement against the military general Hau Bo-tsun being appointed Premier in 1990. A rambunctious group threw a few Molotov cocktails but they never had actual uniforms.
When Chen Shui-bian was president of the Republic of China in-exile he was hounded by organized provocateurs wearing red shirts and was harassed in the courtroom at his trial during recesses by persons dressed in red.
The Black Bear squad brings a new look to old traditions and appears to mean business. Impressive at a parade, can the squad do anything besides stand at attention and march? One observer, Toby Openshaw, saw TCG’s massive June 2017 parade outside the Presidential Palace in Taipei and described the Black Bears in less than flattering terms. “I actually happened to be at the indigenous protest on the day, and saw this huge parade of old dudes in storm trooper gear marching with jeeps and banners… It was pretty bizarre.”
Photos of Black Bear training sessions suggest the emphasis was on crowd control, making the squad appear more like a private police force than a paramilitary unit. Photos of individual Bears, when studied closely, reveal them to be wearing dress shirts and ties underneath all the body armor. Of course there is nothing wrong with well dressed storm troopers, but what if all the battle gear is merely to deceive TCG members into donating more money? ROC prosecutors think there is a lot wrong with the Black Bears, although the squad has not been yet singled out as fraudulent. Roger Lin and his wife Julian remain in harsh pre-trial detention, imprisoned in solitary confinement, without visitors, and denied bail. Perhaps prosecutors who sought the lockdown order were afraid if he was not kept incommunicado, Lin might order a jailbreak by the Black Bears.