On the 14th of April, 1997, 17-year-old Pai Hsiao-yen was abducted as she walked to Hsing Wu High School in Linkou District, New Taipei, Taiwan. Pai was the daughter of TV variety show host and pop singer, Pai Ping-ping, and the Japanese author, Ikki Kajiwara.
Her parents would discover that Pai had been abducted later that afternoon when they received a letter in the mail. The letter contained a photograph of Pai. She was bound with her face almost completely covered in masking tape. The letter also demanded $5 million for Pai’s safe return. In the envelope, there was also a sliced of little finger. It was Pai’s.1
The $5 million ransom was one of the highest ever on the island.2 Ping-ping and Kajiwara decided that they wanted to pay the ransom and four times, Ping-ping had arranged to meet the abductors with the ransom money but each time, they failed to turn up.3
Ping-ping and Kajiwara would immediately contact police but it was decided that there would be a media blackout. However, towards the end of April, Pai still hadn’t been found so the abduction was publicized in the media in the hopes that somebody somewhere would come forward with a lead. The abduction was publicized because three of the abductors were identified and apprehended. These men identified three other men who were involved in the abduction. Police needed the public’s help in tracking them down and hopefully finding Pai.
While most news outlets had respected the blackout, there were a handful who had gathered outside the family’s home on a day-to-day basis, making it abundantly clear to the abductors that Pai’s family had contacted police.4
Ping-ping appeared at a press conference and pleaded for the safe return of her daughter. She said she had no regrets in contacting police for help, stating: “I hope everyone can help bring back Hsiao-yen. But if something unfortunate has really happened . . . I hope this can be transformed into increased public awareness.”5
In an attempt to find Pai, Vice-President Lien Chan ordered police and military authorities to conduct an all-out search for both Pai and her abductors. Thousands of police officers and volunteers would comb throughout the northern Taiwan countryside after receiving a tip that Pai may have been abandoned in the rural area.6
15 days after Pai was abducted, there was a crushing update in the case. Her nude body was found in a drainage ditch in a mountainous area near the industrial suburb of Waku. Her grief-stricken parents were transported to the crime scene to identify the body of their only daughter.7
Pai had been strangled to death and it was estimated she had been dead for at least eight days. Her body was weighed down with iron hammers.8 There was evidence that Pai had been tortured before being killed.
The gruesome discovery outraged the nation, and police stepped up the search for the rest of her killers. They conducted checks at airports and ports, fearing that the remainder of the suspects could attempt to flee.
Meanwhile, President Lee Teng-hui apologized for the increasing crime rate in Taiwan: “As head of state, I express my most sincere apology for the worsening social law and order. The government will take full responsibility.”9 The rise in violet crime had come after the lifting of martial law in 1987.
Shortly after his speech, around 50,000 people matched in Taipei to denounce police and officials for their inability to deal with the frightening rise in violent crime. Much of the community demanded that Vice President and Premier Lien Chan resign. He had been the focus of the public anger. He refused to resign but did said he would step down once a revision of the constitution was completed.10
He would resign in August of that year.
Ping-ping would partially blame the government for the murder of her daughter. She said that police had tried to encourage her not to pay the ransom and accused them of bungling the search. She also blamed the media for camping outside her home and following her everywhere, either in car or in a helicopter.11
In total, twelve people would be arrested in connection with the gruesome murder, but three would escape initial capture. They were: Chen Chien-hsing, Lin Chun-sheng and Kao Tien-meen. These three were said to be the ringleaders. In fact, just a couple of months later, these three men would abduct Tsa Ming-tang, who was a councillor, followed by abducting a businessman.
Then in August, the three men were spotted and a gunfight ensued. Chung-sheng turned the gun on himself after being shot six times.12 The other two men made a quick escape and two months later, they murdered a local plastic surgeon, his wife and a nurse after ordering him to perform plastic surgery.
The following month, the two surviving suspects were tracked down. Tien-meen took his own life instead of surrender while once again, Chien-hsing managed to escape. He later held a family hostage but surrendered to police without any more bloodshed. Chien-hsing would confess to the murder of Pai, along with a string of others crimes. It was suspected that he was involved in at least ten murders.13
He was executed on the 6th of October, 1999.
- South China Morning Post, 28 April, 1997 – “Lien Visits Mother of Kidnap Victim”
- The Seattle Times, 27 April, 1997 – “Kidnappers Demand $5 Million”
- The Independent, 13 July, 1997 – “Celebrity Killings Stir Rage in Taiwan”
- Houston Chronicle, 7 May, 1997 – “Kidnapping-Slaying of Celebrity’s Daughter Enrages all of Taiwan”
- South China Morning Post, 27 April, 1997 – “Plea to End Girl’s Kidnap Ordeal”
- South China Morning Post, 28 April, 1997 – “Huge Hunt for Star’s Abducted Daughter”
- Akron Beacon Journal, 29 April, 1997 – “Kidnapped Teen Daughter of Entertainer is Found Slain”
- The Deseret News, 29 April, 1997 – “Slaying of Actress’s Daughter Shocks and Enrages Taiwan”
- The Washington Times, 3 May, 1997 – “Taiwan’s President Offers Apology for Rising Crime”
- Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 19 May, 1997 – “Taipei Regime is Target of Angry Protestors”
- The Times, 23 May, 1997 – “Murder and a Mother’s Anguish”
- New Straits Times, 20 October, 1997 – “Wanted Criminal Shot Dead in Gunbattle”
- New Straits Times, 5 November, 1997 – “Close Call for Two Most Wanted Men”