The Early Days
The activity of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Taiwan can be traced back to about 1930. At that time a young Japanese man named Saburo Ochiai attended some Bible lectures given at the Taipei Civic Auditorium by a representative of the International Bible Students, as Jehovah’s Witnesses were then known. He immediately accepted what he heard and shared it with a friend named Yeh Kuo-yin. Together they made a trip to share their faith with people south of Taipei. Later, they traveled to the east coast, and a few individuals from the towns of Kuanshan and Chihshang showed interest in the Bible’s message.
In 1937, two zealous missionaries arrived, Yoriichi Oe and Yoshiuchi Kosaka. They did much to assist the group of Bible students that had formed in the eastern part of Taiwan. As a result, a number of those who came in contact with Jehovah’s Witnesses in that part of Taiwan could readily see that these Christians were teaching Bible truth. Many were thus helped to develop a love for the Bible and for God.
Although Jehovah’s Witnesses proclaim peaceful good news, they receive opposition. The period from 1939 to 1945 proved to be very difficult for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Taiwan, which was then ruled by the Japanese imperial powers. Because of their Bible-trained consciences, the Witnesses refused to engage in worship of the Japanese emperor. Some of the men were stripped and beaten mercilessly with bamboo rods, and at least two women were badly mistreated. Among those imprisoned were Brother Oe and Brother Kosaka mentioned earlier. Kosaka later died in prison, and it is believed that Oe was executed by the Japanese.
Following World War II, some false reports about Jehovah’s Witnesses, which had been spread by the Japanese authorities, continued to cause difficulties for the Witnesses in Taiwan. For a number of years, they were denied the legal freedom to hold Christian meetings. Even though the Witnesses suffered much injustice and opposition, they held fast to their faith in God and the Bible.
Expansion on the West Coast
In the meantime, the work on the west coast started to open up. Many with traditional Chinese beliefs showed an interest in the Bible. In 1952, Marion Liang, who had become a Witness while in Hong Kong, came to Taiwan to study at the Taiwan National University. A few years later, in 1955, Clarence and Louise Halbrook, graduates of the Watch Tower Bible School of Gilead, arrived in Taiwan as missionaries. About that time a government geologist by the name of Wang Cho-Ping and his wife, Wang Yao-Chin, started to study the Bible with the missionaries. The Wangs were baptized in the late 1950’s. All these faithful workers—and many others—did much to help establish the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses on the west coast of Taiwan.
Legal Corporation Established
In many countries throughout the world, Jehovah’s Witnesses have enjoyed the legal freedom to worship God without hindrance. In the early 1960’s, Jehovah’s Witnesses in Taiwan sought to have their work in that land legally registered. Application was made to register the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, a legal agency used by Jehovah’s Witnesses, and this was approved by the Taiwan Provincial Government on April 14, 1964. This religious corporation was subsequently registered by the Taipei District Court on May 8, 1964. With this full legal recognition, the Witnesses took title to a property that had been purchased at 5 Lane 99 Yun Ho Street, Taipei. For many years this property served as the Taiwan branch office of the Watch Tower Society and as a center for the Witnesses’ Bible education work.
Missionaries Teach and Train Local Evangelizers
During the past 45 years, missionaries from over 13 different countries have worked along with local Witnesses in the Christian ministry. These missionaries volunteer their time to study the Bible with all who desire to learn.
Mary Christ first arrived in Taiwan in 1960. After more than 54 years of missionary service there, she states: “It was exciting to be sent to Taiwan as a missionary. I have really enjoyed serving here because of the polite and friendly manner of the local people. The people are very patient and have never made me feel bad because of my limited language skills. I have found that many people are genuinely interested in the Bible’s message and are eager to learn. Some with whom I studied the Bible have been sharing in the evangelizing work for more than 51 years now.”
Expansion at the Branch
By 1968, the original branch facilities in Taipei had become inadequate, so a larger Chinese-style building was constructed in 1969 to fill the need. This building is situated near the Taiwan Normal University. It includes a Kingdom Hall and accommodations for missionaries.
By 1991, however, the need for further expansion was recognized, so construction was started on a much larger complex at Shetze, Hsinwu Village, Taoyuan County. These new facilities provide sufficient office space to care for the spiritual needs of the Witnesses and interested people in Taiwan. This complex also includes a residence building to house the volunteer workers, a dining room, and laundry facilities.