On a quiet street of a lovely residential island here, recently released from fears of shelling from nearby Nationalist Chinese islands, a stark reminder of an old problem remains. The official court notice says Zhang Qingfu, 41, was executed two weeks ago for crippling a man in an attempt to escape to Nationalist Chinese held Quemoy.
Quemoy and the other major Nationalist stronghold, Matsu, a familiar part of American anticommunist speeches in the 1950s and 1960s, sit just off the coast of this province, Fujian. Quemoy, bristling with underground bunkers and Nationalist troops, is only a few kilometers from this beautiful, ancient seaport. Five smaller Nationalist islands, two with some Nationalists on them, lie almost inside Xiamen harbor, clearly visible from any vantage point in town.
The communists stopped their bombardment of the Nationalist islands with leaflet-filled shells on Jan. 1, 1979, and the nationalists ended their shelling soon after. Sea trade began to flow here again. Today, a huge ferry cruiser from Hong Kong, one of the new services made possible by the peace, lies in the harbor having disgorged its overseas Chinese passengers who have come to see relatives. have posted several notices and some graphic pictures of the body of the executed Zhang, complete with gaping bullet hole, plus pictures of the boat he wanted to escape in and the severed finger of the man he attacked for refusing to help him. A large sign on Xiamen's Gulangyu Island, favored address for residents here, says "military zone, entry forbidden," closing off the portion of the island closest to the Nationalist islands.
The taint of the old security precautions also appeared to affect the handling of a series of questions submitted in advance by 24 foreign journalists based in Peking who are making an unprecedented visit here.
Xiamen's mayor, Wu Xingfeng, spent an hour last night reading off what he said were the answers to the questions, but failed to give any details of new trade arrangements, military preparedness or dealings with Taiwan, and abruptly left without taking any direct questions.
At a museum on the island, exhibits praise the example of the 17th century hero Zheng Chenggong, better known by the name the Dutch gave him, Koxinga. In 1661 he invaded Dutch-held Taiwan with 900 ships and 25,000 men and after nine months of fighting expelled the usurpers of Chinese power.
This seems only designed to sublimate old feelings, as people here show little interest in gearing up for an attack on modern day Taiwan. The shops are bustling and newly painted; the parks, full of trees and blossoms, hold scores of youthful strollers. As one university student said, "You ought to see the beach at night."
New banners along many streets extol a modern Army hero, the late Pvt. Lei Feng. But Lei made his name by keeping his Army truck clean and sewing clothes for friends. He died in a civilian accident, far from any battlefield.
Instead, it may have begun to dawn on authorities here that the sight of the five close in enemy islands might serve as an excellent tourist attraction. tGulangyu island has a spectacular crows-nest lookout reached by winding stone staircases. From so high, the Nationalist islands look like lumps of cookie batter dropped onto the smooth harbor, with picturesque sailing junks not far away. The islands are named Big Carrying Pole, and Carrying Poles Number Two, Three, Four and Five, with Quemoy and little Quemoy just out of view.
When the wind is right, often at 2 a.m., Xiamen residents can hear the booming loudspeaker on Big Carrying Pole.
"People of the mainland. Come over to our side," it says. It plays sweet love songs popular here, but Xiamen people prefer to get them on pirated Hong Kong tapes.
"We know that economically Taiwan is better off than China," said one Xiamen university student. But few seem eager to leave the city.
"The Cantonese are all running across the border to Hong Kong, but not much of that happens here." one said. Convicted of attempted murder for stabbing and breaking the legs of a friend who would not help him get an escape boat, the executed Zhana Qingfu "got just what he deserved," a student said.
Koxinga, the 17th century hero, died from illnes at age 38 soon after he chased the Dutch off Taiwan. His son took over, but soon found that the Chinese dynasty he had supported in Peking had been overthrown by a Manchu invasion. When the Manchus reached Fujian, they ruthlessly moved all the Chinese peasants back 10 miles from the coast to cut off supplies to the Koxinga forces. Eventurally the resistance on Taiwan collapsed, but this last chapter is not celebrated in the Koxinga museum.
Ships sailing in and out of Xiamen pass Quemoy and sometimes exchange friendly signals with the Nationalists there. Taiwan, however, is about 100 miles away and still something of a mystery. Xiamen residents say foreign seamen tell them they cannot disembark on Taiwan if they have been on the mainland. Xiamen people do not seem to know how much their town's rocky scenery and desires for economic diversity and prosperity resemble the faraway Taiwan.
"Taiwan is like a treasure island becasue it is unknown," said Lin Yuru, a teacher at Xiamen University. "I've read a little about it in books. It is just the unknown."