This article examines the aftermaths of four murders: those of anti–Ferdinand Marcos activists Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes, and Kuomintang critics Chen Wen-Chen and Henry Liu. These murders all occurred during the Ronald Reagan presidential administration and relied upon the transnational reach of foreign governments into the United States. I explore how activists responded to these murders, focusing on the Committee for Justice for Domingo and Viernes, the Committee on Political Freedom, which was formed by Chen’s colleagues at Carnegie Mellon University, and the Committee to Obtain Justice for Henry Liu. I argue that, in contrast to those radicals who saw oppression as flowing outward from the United States toward the Third World, these critics saw the transnational murders as symbolizing the growing convergence between domestic and foreign repression.

On the afternoon of June 1, 1981, Jimmy Ramil and Pompeyo “Ben” Guloy stepped through the doors of the Seattle cannery workers’ union office, where they found Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes at work. Domingo, the union’s secretary-treasurer, and Viernes, the jobs dispatcher, would have recognized the two men as members of Seattle’s Tulisan gang and perhaps assumed they were upset over the union’s refusal to dispatch Tulisan members to the Alaskan canneries where the gang ran a lucrative gambling operation. Domingo and Viernes sought to end corruption within the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union (ILWU) Local 37. They had won election the past October along with several other union reformers in order to return the union to its militant roots. Constantine “Tony” Baruso, an opponent of the reformers who had held onto his post as union president, was away from the office. But his gun was there. Using the .45 caliber that Baruso had given them, Ramil and Guloy shot Viernes, killing him. They shot Domingo as well, but he managed to stumble out of the office and into an alley. There, he was able to tell a passing fireman the names of the gunmen before succumbing to his wounds at the local hospital.1

Those names turned out to be the first clues linking Seattle to Manila. Besides being union reformers, Domingo and Viernes were also members of the Katipunan ng mga Demokratikong Pilipino, or KDP, a left-wing organization formed in opposition to Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos. Activists in the Committee for Justice for Domingo and Viernes (CJDV) would eventually establish that it was, in fact, the Marcos regime that ordered and paid for their killing. The efforts of the CJDV culminated in a historic civil suit against the Marcoses. On December 15, 1989, a federal jury found Imelda Marcos and, posthumously, Ferdinand Marcos responsible for the assassinations. It was the first and only instance when U.S. federal courts have found foreign heads of state liable for murder on U.S. soil.2

If the civil suit was unique, however, the killings themselves were not. They were part of a series of political murders that relied on the transnational reach of foreign governments. In 1956, the Dominican Republic’s Rafael Trujillo regime abducted Basque writer Jesús María de Galíndez Suarez off the streets of New York City, brought him to the Dominican Republic, and murdered him. In 1976, Chilean intelligence operative Michael Townley orchestrated the car bombing of exiled leader Orlando Letelier outside the Chilean embassy in Washington, D.C., killing Letelier’s passenger Ronni Moffitt as well. Just a month after the Domingo and Viernes murder, Carnegie Mellon professor Chen Wen-Chen was found dead during a family vacation in Taipei. Chen’s activities in the United States had been monitored extensively by Taiwan’s government, and Taiwan’s National Garrison Command interrogated him for thirteen hours shortly before passersby discovered his body on National Taiwan University’s campus. On October 15, 1984, three hitmen dispatched by one of Taiwan’s intelligence directors gunned down the Chinese American journalist Henry Liu in his Daly City, California, garage. The assassins then made their getaway by bicycle.3

This article uses the murders of Silme Domingo, Gene Viernes, Chen Wen-Chen, and Henry Liu to explore how democratic rights in the United States became entangled with geopolitics during Ronald Reagan’s presidential administration in disconcerting ways. I reconstruct the work of activists and academics responding to these murders, focusing in separate sections on the Committee for Justice for Domingo and Viernes (CJDV), Chen Wen-Chen’s colleagues at Carnegie-Mellon in the Committee on Political Freedom (CPF), and the Committee to Obtain Justice for Henry Liu (COJHL). All these organizations operated within a political context shaped by the White House’s attempt to reorient foreign policy. During the Reagan administration’s early years, former president Jimmy Carter’s departure from anti-Soviet containment policy and his emphasis on human rights, however inconsistent, gave way to renewed alliances with authoritarian regimes and increased domestic repression.4

Large numbers of radicals in the late 1960s and 1970s, taking up the banner of anti-imperialism, linked inequality within the United States to U.S. foreign relations. According to scholars Joshua Bloom and Waldo Martin, groups like the Black Panthers embraced “the analogy between the struggle for black liberation and other struggles for self-determination,” which were ultimately united in “a larger global struggle against imperialism.” Asian Americans, some radicalized through their military service, saw the U.S. war in Southeast Asia as exporting a home-grown racism to Vietnam and intensifying anti-Asian racism within the United States. More generally, whether they turned their eye to economic aid, U.S. military bases, or U.S. support for counter-insurgency—the varied “logistics of repression,” in the words of two Filipino writers—radical anti-imperialists imagined domination flowing outwards from the United States to the people of the Third World.5

The activists and academics I study drew in various ways from this radical tradition, but they also built upon different, long-standing concerns about the transnational reach of authoritarian governments in order to imagine geopolitics differently. Drawing on organizational files, interviews, and State Department records, I argue that the transnational political murders came to symbolize not the outward flow of U.S. domination but the growing convergence between domestic and foreign repression. Critics imagined this convergence in different ways and for different reasons, but all the actors studied here identified a partial and limited extension of the regimes of Taiwan and the Philippines into the formal borders of the United States. This was due, in part, to the surveillance networks Taiwan and the Philippines had established in the United States. It was also, however, because the Reagan administration’s response to the murders did little to ease activists’ fears that authoritarian governments might monitor, repress, or even kill dissidents in the United States with minimal accountability. Less than six months after the Domingo and Viernes murders, the Reagan administration negotiated an extradition treaty with the Republic of the Philippines that would have intensified political repression in the United States had it been ratified. The administration also refused activists’ demands that it apply pressure on Taiwan to secure the extradition of Henry Liu’s assassins.6

In other words, the CJDV, CPF, and COJHL confronted transpacific authoritarianisms that destabilized the imagined geographic boundaries between authoritarian regimes and the ostensibly liberal democratic United States. These authoritarianisms were only partly driven by the anti-communism that characterized the Reagan administration’s repression of the Central American solidarity activists and its foreign policy “obsession” with Central America. As historian Kyle Longley writes, the Reagan administration “desperately sought but failed to make connections between the groups [in the Central American solidarity movement] and known Communists.” The anti-Marcos movement in the United States comprised both left-wing activists in the KDP and anti-communist members of the Philippines’ political and economic elite, all of whom worried about the convergence between the U.S. and Philippines’ state repressions. Taiwan’s government intended to stifle a militant Taiwanese Independence Movement (which later fed into the democratization movement), which sought permanent separation from communist China. Furthermore, neither Chen Wen-Chen nor Henry Liu were activists. Turning our focus to the Philippines and Taiwan thus raises important questions about how U.S. relations with authoritarian regimes affected the democratic rights of Asian American and diasporic communities beyond the ranks of radicals and activists.7

This shifted focus, in turn, raises the question of whether the frameworks of “homeland politics” or “long-distance nationalism” are sufficient to understand the nature of transpacific political activism during the late Cold War. Activists in the U.S.-based anti-Marcos opposition and the Taiwanese human rights movement were not simply, as one recent book on the anti-Marcos movement argues, fighting from a distance. Their political work was also deeply about the ability to exercise fundamental democratic rights within the territorial borders of the United States. Theirs was a struggle with many fronts.8

Agents of state repression traversed the boundary between Ferdinand Marcos’s dictatorship and the United States’ liberal democracy in part because dissidents crisscrossed the Pacific. Prominent opponents of Marcos, like Philippines’ Senator Raul Manglapus, fled the country shortly after the declaration of martial law on September 23, 1972. Anxious parents of student radicals sent their children to the United States, hoping they would avoid the fate of the many activists filling the Philippines’ detention centers. Once in the United States, this exiled opposition kept “the light of resistance aflame.” Figures like Manglapus, who had been part of the Philippines’ political establishment, formed the leadership core of the moderate Movement for a Free Philippines. Younger radicals, on the other hand, encountered growing numbers of Filipino American youth who were freshly politicized by their participation in the Asian American movement. Together these Filipino immigrants and Filipino Americans built the Katipunan ng mga Demokratikong Pilipino (KDP).9

The KDP’s political program reflected the commitments of both these streams of activists that nourished its membership ranks. It sought political transformation in both the Philippines and the United States. The KDP believed that U.S. economic and political domination over the archipelago distorted the Philippines’ class structure and generated poverty, necessitating a left-led “national democratic revolution” in the Philippines that would culminate in the redistribution of land and true national self-determination. But the KDP also committed itself to fundamental change in the United States as well, calling openly for a socialist transformation of society. The KDP’s radicalism and dual focus on Philippines and U.S. politics set it apart, sometimes bitterly, from civil rights groups like the Filipino American Young Turks of Seattle, which saw international politics as a distraction from more pressing domestic issues.10

Dissidents moved between the United States and the Philippines in both directions. Though in much smaller numbers, many traveled from the United States to the Philippines to do political work. Among them were individuals like Ka Linda, a Philippines-born Catholic progressive sent to the United States along with her cousin just before the declaration of martial law. After living in the United States for twelve years, and leading the KDP’s lobbying work in Washington, D.C., Ka Linda returned to the Philippines to participate in the armed struggle against Marcos, as a regional commander of the New People’s Army.11

Gene Viernes, born and raised in Washington’s Yakima Valley, traveled to the Philippines after he and the other union reformers had won election to most of the leadership positions in the cannery union. In April of 1981, the twenty-eight-year-old Viernes met with high-ranking officials of the anti-Marcos union federation Kilosang Mayo Uno to discuss the possibility of linking Filipino and American worker struggles. Covertly, Viernes also visited the New People’s Army, which was leading the armed resistance to Marcos, in the southern region of Mindanao before returning to Seattle. In May, Viernes and Silme Domingo successfully shepherded a resolution at the ILWU national convention calling for a union delegation to visit the Philippines to investigate “the state of the trade unions, working conditions, and civil liberties of Filipino workers.” On the first day of the next month they were murdered.12

The Committee for Justice for Domingo and Viernes (CJDV) launched on June 22, 1981, three weeks after the killings. Many leaders of the CJDV were not affiliated with the KDP. Bob Santos, informally known as the “mayor” of Seattle’s multiethnic International District for his years of involvement in local politics, served as organizational chair for several years. Aki Kurose, a member of the steering committee, was an educator and Quaker peace activist. KDP members, however, also held influential positions within the Committee for Justice. Cindy Domingo, Silme’s twenty-seven-year-old younger sister and a KDP member, would coordinate the organization’s national work when it launched its civil suit. The co-chair of the Committee for Justice, tireless housing-rights activist Elaine Ko, was also a KDP member. Because KDP members tended to operate within the CJDV on the basis of a shared strategy, the KDP’s analyses proved to be influential in shaping the organization’s work.13

The CJDV’s work would eventually reveal the extent to which Marcos had established a tightly controlled apparatus of transnational surveillance and harassment. Initially, however, activists relied on speculation and instinct to interpret the political significance of the murders. The KDP’s analysis of the incident in its internal newsletter, Ang Aktibista, suspected that either the “U.S. or Japanese canning industry” or the Marcos dictatorship was ultimately responsible. In these early months, however, the CJDV decided to highlight the murders as an attack on the project of union reform that Domingo and Viernes had led, hoping that this would bolster the committee’s credibility and allow it to build a network of labor union allies.14

The CJDV’s response to the murders underwent a dramatic reorientation after it learned of Marcos’s Philippines Infiltration Plan, an operation to position covert Marcos agents in the United States in order to surveil and disrupt the anti-martial law movement. A classified 1979 Senate Foreign Relations Committee report authored by counsel Michael Glennon described the plan; the report was subsequently leaked to syndicated columnist Jack Anderson. According to the report, Marcos’s agents had arrived in the United States by 1973, and their work attracted the attention of the FBI as early as 1974. The government, however, did not seek their registry as agents of a foreign government, as required by federal statutes. In fact, U.S. intelligence seemed mostly uninterested in their activities and gathered what the Washington Post called “scant information” on them, even as the Senate report speculated that the Philippines’ agents might resort to violence.15

The CJDV’s legal team had originally contemplated a conspiracy between the canning industry, gambling and vice operators, and “the Marcos dictatorship which, through its local consular officials and other interests had become fully aware of the threat posed by the effective new local #37 leadership.” After tracking down the Anderson column and learning of the infiltration plan, however, CJDV attorney Michael Withey formulated a new theory of the legal case. In a memo that would shape the CJDV’s understanding of the murders, Withey wrote: “I propose that we allege that the murder conspiracy against Gene and Silme arose out of a plan initiated by the government of the Philippines to infiltrate its agents into the United States for the purpose of surveilling, intimidating, and harassing Filipinos who are opposed to the Marcos regime.” Withey concluded the memo by noting that “the United States government knew, or should have known, that foreign intelligence agents from the Philippines were entering into the United States,” in violation of federal law. 16

Although subsequent writing on the CJDV civil suit has primarily emphasized how it exposed Marcos’s culpability for the murders, the organization initially filed the suit in order to advance its argument about the U.S. and Philippines governments’ complicity in repression. The suit, filed on September 14, 1982 during Marcos’s tour of the United States, alleged a conspiracy between the governments of the Philippines and the United States, as well as private individuals, to violate the “equal protection rights of that class of people who are Filipinos living in the United States and who have opinions and beliefs opposed to the government of the Philippines under Ferdinand Marcos.” To the press, Cindy Domingo argued that the civil suit raised issues beyond the fact of Marcos’s violation of human rights. The U.S. government was culpable for “covering up for the activities of those agents, as well as by themselves conducting surveillance against the anti-Marcos movement.” She continued: “The basic issue before the people of the U.S. is whether we will tolerate the present operational policy of the U.S. government to permit agents of fascist pro-U.S. regimes of the Marcos type to operate with a free hand to stifle their opponents within the U.S.”17

Subsequent developments appeared to support the CJDV’s claims. Just three days after the widely televised assassination of opposition leader Benigno Aquino on August 21, 1983, moments after his flight from the United States landed in the Philippines, two members of the U.S. Congress held a press conference discussing a leaked Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) document describing a high-level group of attaches sent by Marcos to the United States in July of 1982 that would “undoubtedly report on, and possibly operate against,” dissidents in the United States. As California Representative Don Edwards noted, the group—described in the DIA document as the “most impressive Manila has dispatched to the U.S. in recent years”—included an individual identified by Amnesty International as a known torturer, and the document itself revealed that U.S. officials knew of Marcos’s extraterritorial surveillance operations.18

Yet nothing seemed to represent the convergence of U.S. and Philippines state repression more than the extradition treaty negotiated between the two governments at the end of 1981. Previous attempts to negotiate an extradition treaty had broken down in 1974, and the Carter administration, concerned with “lengthy pre-trial detention in the Philippines and other aspects of the judicial system under martial law,” declined to resume negotiation efforts. Three days before President Reagan took office, however, Marcos formally lifted martial law by issuing Proclamation 2045. The proclamation, however, maintained the suspension of habeas corpus in cases involving subversion and held in effect all decrees previously issued under martial law. Indeed, during the late 1970s and early 1980s, as Alfred McCoy has argued, Marcos proclaimed that his country was liberalizing politically while he simultaneously intensified his secret security operations. The lifting of martial law—and the Domingo and Viernes murders—occurred as the number of summary executions and extrajudicial killings in the Philippines were rising precipitously, from 5 deaths in 1975, to 139 in 1980, 218 in 1981, and 538 in 1984.19

Nevertheless, the Reagan administration successfully concluded negotiations for an extradition treaty with the Philippines in November of 1981. Because the Senate never ratified it, historians of U.S.-Philippines relations have tended to neglect the treaty. Activists in the U.S. anti-Marcos movement, however, regarded the treaty as nothing less than a direct attack on their democratic rights. As they saw it, the extradition treaty threatened to make the removal of political dissidents to the Philippines all but certain. Traditionally, political activity had been protected from extradition requests; this was known as “the political offense exception.” While the treaty with the Philippines upheld an exception for political offenses, it changed the manner of determining which individuals would qualify for the exception. Previously, judicial courts had decided that matter; the new treaty, however, provided that in disputes over the political offense exception, “it shall be the responsibility of the Executive Authority of the Requested State to decide.” As a memorandum from the Congressional Research Service indicated, the treaty was designed to lodge the power to determine the applicability of the political offense exception squarely in the executive branch, and therefore, “there would be no judicial review available. Thus, it could be argued that there is in this regard no American due process of law provided for the person sought, an argument,” the memo noted in restrained manner, “with definite constitutional overtones.”20

As the treaty awaited ratification by the Senate, the Reagan administration also advanced a broader effort to reform existing extradition law. The proposed legislation, the Extradition Act of 1981, would grant the Secretary of State power to determine whether the political offense exception pertained to a specific extradition request. Legislators introduced the act to the Senate in September and then again in December of 1981; in the House of Representatives, the judiciary committee had rejected this proposal by the end of 1981. But even the revised legislation, H.R. 5227, did not allay the concerns of anti-Marcos activists and their supporters. In a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee in early 1982, Romeo Capulong from the anti-Marcos group Alliance of Pilipino Concerns argued that the bill eliminated an earlier provision stipulating that extraditable offenses had to have been committed under the jurisdiction of the extraditing government. Capulong concluded that “speech and conduct occurring entirely within the United States” might be subject to extradition if it violated the criminal law of a foreign country. Princeton University political scientist Richard Falk raised the question of whether the legislation could adequately protect individuals requested for extradition by the Marcos regime, a government that did not hesitate to “fabricate criminal charges against its political enemies, charges involving terrorism.” Scrutiny in U.S. courts of probable cause for extradition requests tended to be pro forma, thus it was “nearly impossible to establish a claim of political offense [exception] under these circumstances.”21

Anti-Marcos activists followed the developments surrounding the extradition treaty with concern. In September of 1980, the Marcos regime had arrested and wrought a confession—likely coerced—from Filipino American Victor Burns Lovely regarding a spate of bombings in Manila. Subsequently, the United States began cooperating with the Marcos regime’s request to investigate Filipino dissidents for possible involvement with terrorist groups in the Philippines. The putatively moderate leadership of the Movement for a Free Philippines had, in fact, developed links with groups in the Philippines carrying out urban bombings, and they were the main targets of FBI home raids and interrogations. The KDP’s national executive board, however, warned its members against taking the developments lightly: “while the FBI would investigate those connected with the bombings, it will no doubt use this as an excuse to scale up its surveillance and investigation of our activities. Thus there is a very real threat to the left and the organized anti-martial law movement in the U.S. For what is objectively attacked is the principle of opposition to the Marcos regime.”22

The remarks proved prescient. On January 5, 1982, the Marcos regime issued indictments for forty opposition leaders on charges of subversion, including the editor of KDP’s newspaper Ang Katipunan, Rene Cruz. The indictments, based on Burns Lovely’s confession, named Cruz along with Senator Raul Manglapus and several leaders of the Movement for a Free Philippines group as masterminds of an alleged plot to violently overthrow the Marcos regime. The list included bitter political antagonists, and the accusation that they were secretly cooperating to foment a wave of violence was dubious. Coming on the heels of the negotiated extradition treaty, however, what the list did reveal were the likely targets of extradition. As if to confirm the opposition activists’ fears, the Philippines’ government established trials in absentia for Marcos’s political opponents living in exile in the United States as the Congressional debate over extradition law crawled forward.23

In private communications, the Assistant Secretary of State of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, John Holdridge, opined that Marcos might welcome the treaty’s implied threat to the anti-Marcos movement. In a briefing prepared for Secretary of State George Shultz, Holdridge noted that ratification of the treaty would be greatly aided by a commitment from the Philippines government that it would not seek “extradition on existing charges of any Marcos political opponents.” Holdridge then cautioned Shultz against requesting such a commitment from Marcos during his 1982 visit to the capitol. “Marcos may not want to give up the disquieting effect the treaty has on political opponents by making such a commitment,” Holdridge wrote, “and he would be sensitive to such a suggestion.”24

Some prominent figures in the Filipino American community welcomed the extradition treaty precisely because of its broader significance for civil liberties. Silvestre Tangalan, then president of the Filipino Community of Seattle, Inc., was one. In an article in the April 14, 1982 edition of the Seattle Weekly, Tangalan remarked that the treaty would benefit both the United States and the Philippines, adding, “it’s not good that they [Marcos critics] can say anything they want against the government.”25

The CJDV and KDP activists saw things differently. For them the extradition treaty served Marcos’s domestic political goals as well as Reagan’s foreign policy imperatives. Both required tamping down the anti-Marcos opposition. What this convergence between the Reagan and Marcos regimes ultimately threatened, though, was the stable distinction between authoritarianism and liberal democracy. The treaty portended a new geography of repression, in which Marcos’s control no longer ended at the formal boundaries of the Republic of Philippines. Local 37 leader David Della described the extradition treaty as “the most sweeping legal attack on the U.S. based opposition […] The treaty legally extends Marcos’ dictatorial rule to the lives of the immigrant Filipino community here.”26

By 1983, the most dangerous revisions to extradition law had been defeated in Congress, and the U.S.-Philippines extradition treaty languished without the prospect of ratification. Prospects for the CJDV’s civil suit were less bright, however. Shortly after the suit was filed, the U.S. State Department argued that the Marcoses should be granted immunity, based on their status as foreign heads of state. The presiding judge concurred before hearing any opposing arguments. Such a decision followed from established legal precedent, though it also appeared to demonstrate the CJDV’s broader point about the transpacific reach of Marcos’s authoritarianism. In July of 1983, however, the judge went further and dismissed the United States as a defendant from the civil suit, since the CJDV had not alleged direct participation in the murder conspiracy. It would take several more years, legal appeals, and a democratic revolution in the Philippines to resolve the civil suit’s fate.27

Carnegie-Mellon professor Chen Wen-Chen died in Taiwan just a month after the Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes murders in Seattle. Attending Chen’s memorial service on July 18, 1981, Carnegie-Mellon University president Richard Cyert noted that many of the mourners had placed “tattered paper bags with clumsy eyeholes over their heads.” This was not histrionics: after the service, a supporter of Taiwan’s ruling party, the Kuomintang (KMT), snapped photos of the attendees.28

The scene at Chen’s memorial illustrated the sense of pervasive monitoring that existed on U.S. campuses with Taiwanese students and professors.29 Compared to the Marcos regime’s operations within the United States, the Kuomintang’s surveillance network was even more extensive and intrusive. According to one scholar, it covered at least “Columbia, Cornell, Iowa State University, MIT, Princeton, State University of New York, University of California at Berkeley, University of Chicago, University of Florida, University of Minnesota, and University of Wisconsin at Madison.”30

The KMT imposed martial law in 1949 as the Communist revolution on mainland China seemed increasingly likely; it would last for thirty-eight years. By the 1970s and 1980s, many Taiwanese students resented what they saw as an authoritarian regime dominated by mainlanders. The regime’s surveillance in the United States purported to manage what one historian has called the “Nkrumah problem”: the development of anti-colonial political sensibilities among international students moving from relatively repressive to relatively free polities. Nearly 55,000 students left Taiwan between 1960 and 1979 to pursue their studies in the United States, often ending up at public universities in the Midwest. Once in the United States, they had the opportunity to connect with the Taiwan Independence Movement (TIM), which advocated for the permanent political separation between Taiwan and China in order to undermine the legitimacy of KMT rule. The TIM had grown from scattered efforts in the 1950s into the main expression of anti-KMT and anti-martial-law sentiment by the mid-1960s, with its own national organizations. Many students who originally intended merely to pursue their educational and professional development in the United States became what Wendy Cheng has described as “accidental activists.” A study published in 1973, based on six hundred interviews, provided a startling portrait of this community. The author, a political scientist, estimated that between 10 and 20 percent of students were politically active and sympathetic to Taiwan Independence, while upwards of 80 percent participated in Taiwanese social clubs.31

The Taiwan Independence Movement had its radical wing. On April 24, 1970, Cornell graduate student Peter Huang unsuccessfully attempted to shoot Taiwan’s director of intelligence and future head of state, Chiang Ching-Kuo, during Chiang’s visit to New York City. Huang, by his own account, hoped the assassination would loosen imperialism’s grip on the Third World: “Since the Jiang regime is an accomplice of Washington during the Vietnam War, I hope that any attempt to weaken Jiang would possibly, even if only possibly, assist the Vietnamese struggle for independence.” More violence would occur at the end of the decade, when KMT suppression of a human rights march in southern Taiwan led radicals to mount a series of bombing attempts and other assaults on several of the KMT’s offices throughout the United States.32

The vast majority of activists who sympathized with either the Taiwan Independence Movement or with broader anti-KMT sentiment, of course, were nonviolent. They worked to establish Taiwanese Associations or campus-based Taiwanese Student Associations. These associations functioned primarily to organize social gatherings, such as softball tournaments or holiday meals, and drew in a wide swath of students with different political orientations. Since the leadership core of the associations were frequently committed to Taiwan Independence, however, the associations also incubated Taiwanese nationalist identity and created social networks that activists could mobilize for political purposes.33

Chen Wen-Chen was not an activist. He was closer to the modal international student from Taiwan: a participant in the local Taiwanese Association and critical of the KMT’s regime of martial law, but not a regular participant in protests or other public political activity. Still, during his trip to Taiwan in the summer of 1981 government officials asked Chen to “voluntarily” report to Taiwan’s National Garrison Command. On July 2, Chen endured a “voluntary” thirteen-hour interrogation about his political activities in the United States, including his support for the Taiwanese Independence Movement and allegations that Chen helped finance the pro-Independence Formosa Journal. His interrogators presented him with an astonishing collection of evidence that provided an uncomfortably intimate window into his life in the United States: copies of personal letters, tape recordings of phone calls, and another recording of him speaking at a public forum. Security personnel claimed to have delivered Chen to his relative’s house after the interrogation, but he apparently never entered the house. Chen was found dead on National Taiwan University’s campus the next morning.34

The circumstances of Chen’s death remained murky. The Taiwanese government suggested suicide or accidental death. Forensic pathologist and former coroner Cyril Wecht, who traveled to Taipei with Chen’s colleague Prof. Morris DeGroot, concluded that Chen had been dropped from the roof of the NTU library. What was clearer, however, from the nature of Chen’s interrogation was the extraordinary scope of Taiwan’s surveillance operations in the United States. A Congressional hearing on Chen’s death at the end of July only reinforced this impression. Carnegie-Mellon president Richard Cyert entered into the record a reporting form used by student informants, which solicited the names of “enemies,” along with their academic status and political attitudes. Republican James Leach of Iowa, based on interviews conducted through his district office, described a system that began with briefing departing students in Taiwan about the dangers of radicalism, and utilized scholarships, airplane tickets, cars, and cash payments to reward informers. Typically, the KMT assigned student party members to be “squad leaders” for particular campuses, where they would work with a wider network to compile reports on student political activity. This was not the first public exposure of KMT surveillance in the United States; newspapers in California and Hawai‘i had both previously published the KMT’s student reporting forms. It was, however, the most comprehensive and highest-level public discussion of it within the U.S. government.35

The Chen hearing propelled New York Democrat Stephen Solarz, chair of the Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, in his successful effort to pass a bill that would prohibit arms sales and other military aid to governments that harassed or intimidated individuals in the United States. However, the Solarz Amendment vested the power to decide whether to halt arms sales and military aid with the president, and even though President Reagan continued his predecessors’ course of normalizing relations with China, he was decidedly against abruptly ending arms sales to Taiwan. Even sympathetic lawmakers like James Leach were hesitant to put Taiwan’s security at risk in the way that enforcement of the Solarz Amendment would have required. The legislation would ultimately be a non-factor in the later campaign to hold Taiwan accountable for Henry Liu’s murder.36

Despite Solarz’s efforts, then, Chen’s fate seemed to undermine the strict geographical separation between martial law and liberal democracy. Monitoring of foreign nationals by foreign intelligence was itself a lawful activity. But as a kind of vast and diffuse panopticon, KMT operations degraded the right of Taiwanese Americans to express political opinions in the United States. Ostensibly protected activity in the United States might lead to imprisonment or worse in Taiwan. Indeed, it was because Chen was not an extremist, and not even one of the most visible activists, that his death was, to many, so chilling. U.S. officials in Taipei themselves observed that, in the wake of Chen’s death, “most Taiwanese and many mainlanders are tense […] They see Chen as basically innocent of any wrongdoing and yet dead because some people here believed he deserved death. Many fear that many others returning from abroad could risk a similar fate.”37

This was a lesson that Richard Cyert, moved by the spectacle of disguised mourners at Chen’s memorial, readily grasped. For him and the other academics that formed the Committee on Political Freedom at Carnegie-Mellon, the example of Chen also brought into focus the more general problem of protecting the rights of international students and professors within the United States. In March of 1983, these academics organized a conference on the protection of civil liberties of foreign nationals at U.S. universities. The conference brought together an experienced and expert group, including Jai Hyon Lee, the former South Korean diplomat and dissident who secured political asylum in the United States in 1974; Mark Schneider, who worked on human rights at the State Department under President Carter; Columbia professor James Seymour, who functioned as a covert go-between for dissidents inside and outside of Taiwan; and Michael Glennon, who had prepared the 1979 classified Senate Foreign Relations Committee report on foreign intelligence activity in the United States.38

As many of the panelists noted, the chief problem lay with the countries that political scientist Jeanne Kirkpatrick labeled “authoritarian,” as opposed to the “totalitarian” ones. The United States typically reacted quickly and forcefully to abuses of power by totalitarian states. In 1980, Libya orchestrated the shooting of dissident and graduate student Farida Zagallai in Colorado, which led to the swift expulsion of Libya’s diplomatic corps. Forceful state action was less forthcoming, however, when the offending party was South Korea, the Shah’s Iran, or Taiwan.39

Among the many panelists, it was Glennon who most forcefully argued for the U.S. government’s complicity in eroding democratic rights. For him, the general reluctance to take action against authoritarian states’ operations in the United States might be attributed to a fear of retaliation. Any expulsion of foreign intelligence operatives who worked under cover of diplomatic immunity would immediately trigger the reciprocal expulsion of U.S. intelligence personnel from those same countries. More fundamentally, though, Glennon proposed that the rights of foreign nationals in the United States were vulnerable as a result of intelligence liaison relationships: formal or tacit agreements between U.S. and allied foreign intelligence agencies to share information or otherwise coordinate their activities. Whether such agreements were lawful if they led to violations of civil liberties within the United States was a matter of controversy. Glennon perceived that the Solarz Amendment, which relied upon the Reagan administration’s scruples about aiding repressive regimes, would be utterly ineffective in protecting civil liberties. He nevertheless argued that the first step to protecting the rights of foreign nationals was simple: “our government should stop supporting the intelligence agencies of countries which are engaging in harassment, intimidation, and surveillance of their nationals in this country.” He was not optimistic about the prospects of this happening under Reagan, however, telling the conference attendees: “we ought not to expect any meaningful answer or resolution [to these problems] soon, surely not before January 20, 1985.” Reagan, of course, would win re-election.40

Looking back several years later, Professor of Asian American Studies Ling-chi Wang would remember Chen Wen-Chen’s death as a prelude to the Henry Liu murder. Yet in analyzing both the conditions that produced Liu’s death as well as the stonewalling of the Committee to Obtain Justice for Henry Liu’s efforts, Wang would develop a very different understanding of the convergence of U.S. and foreign repression than either Glennon or the CJDV.41

Unlike Chen, Henry Liu was a mainlander. Liu fled to Taiwan as a member of the KMT military during China’s civil war. On the island, he developed into a journalist and later moved with his wife Helen to Washington, D.C., where he earned a master’s degree from American University. In the United States, he grew more critical of the KMT and his short commentaries on Taiwan’s political class became more caustic. The family moved from Washington, D.C., to fog-submerged Daly City, California just outside San Francisco. Liu became a U.S. citizen and the couple raised their young child and managed a pair of gift shops while Henry worked on a biography of Taiwan’s head-of-state, Chiang Ching-Kuo, as well as a biography of former politician K.C. Wu that delved into some of Chiang’s misdeeds as director of Taiwan’s intelligence agencies. The KMT tried mightily to divert Liu from his Chiang Ching-Kuo project, and they partially succeeded. Liu struck some of the more sensitive material from his biography before it was published, in exchange for several thousand dollars from the regime. Regardless, Liu’s revisions were not to the satisfaction of at least one senior official in Taiwan’s government. Vice Admiral Wang Hsi-Ling, head of Taiwan’s Intelligence Bureau of the Ministry of National Defense, directed Bamboo Gang leader Chen Chi-Li to kill the author.42

Shortly after Henry Liu’s murder on October 15, 1984, Helen Liu asked Ling-Chi Wang to serve as the principal spokesperson for the Committee to Obtain Justice for Henry Liu (COJHL). Wang was charged with formulating and publicizing the COJHL’s perspective. He brought to this task a distinctive biography. A native of Fujian in southern China, Wang had first come to the United States as a student at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. From there, he attended Princeton Seminary and then the University of Chicago as a student of ancient Semitic literature. The 1960s civil rights movement in the neighborhoods surrounding the university deeply impressed Wang, who had already developed a commitment to social justice through his reading of the Old Testament. During a summer break in San Francisco with his future spouse Linda, Wang worked with some of Chinatown’s youth who were organizing community anti-poverty programs. The experience changed his life. He wrangled a transfer to UC Berkeley and ended up pioneering the ethnic studies program there while staying active in campaigns to improve Chinatown’s housing conditions and launching litigation for bilingual education. It was in San Francisco’s Chinatown that Wang also first crossed the KMT, which issued a vaguely worded manifesto in 1968 that seemed aimed at him. Wang took it as a veiled death threat. Three years later, Wang’s comments at an event on U.S.-China relations elicited open calls for his death from pro-KMT individuals in the audience.43

Wang’s background in Chinese American civil rights and his seemingly perennial conflict with the KMT’s efforts to dominate Chinatown politics fundamentally influenced his view of the Liu murder. But his perspective took shape gradually as the COJHL pressed its demands, mostly in frustration, upon the Reagan administration. The Daly City police investigation made breakthroughs at a frantic pace, owing to the November arrest in Taiwan of hitman Chen Chi-Li as part of a nationwide police sweep of gangs. After the subsequent revelation that Chen had made a confession tape while still in California, implicating Vice Admiral Wang Hsi-Ling and other intelligence officials in its planning, the COJHL formulated its key demands. The organization called for extradition of all suspects from Taiwan, public denunciation of the crime by the White House, a formal federal investigation into the murder, and an apology and compensation from Taiwan.44

As in the Domingo and Viernes case, extradition was a crucial issue. However, the COJHL found themselves viewing the issue from a very different perspective: the problem was not a potential extradition treaty, but the lack of one with Taiwan. Tom Lantos, Helen Liu’s Congressperson, managed to arrange a meeting with Taiwan’s representative Frederick Chien in early February. According to Lantos’s notes, Chien assured Lantos that the president of Taiwan was personally interested in a complete investigation with proper punishment for the guilty in Taiwan. Lantos was dismayed. He pressed Chien not to get stuck on the legalities involving the absence of an extradition treaty; if the suspects were tried in Taiwan, the situation would be “not satisfactory to me, Congress, or constituents.” Chien maintained his position. An extradition, he speculated, might spiral into a false attempt to implicate higher-ups in exchange for a plea-bargain deal. He added that the guilty parties would want to return to the United States, because in Taiwan they were likely to receive the death penalty. Chien’s prediction, however, was wrong. The two murderers convicted in Taiwan would each serve less than a decade.45

It is unlikely that the arguments of a single U.S. representative would have persuaded Taiwan’s government. To the COJHL’s dismay, however, the Reagan administration maintained a conspicuous silence about the murder generally. Though it secured Taiwan’s agreement to allow the questioning of suspects by Daly City police and the FBI, the White House pointedly did not make any public statement about extradition. After unsuccessful attempts to secure a meeting with the White House counsel, the Justice Department, and the State Department, Wang concluded angrily that the Reagan administration, in spite of its outspoken denunciations of international terrorism, either “did not care about Henry Liu’s life or had some other national interests involved in its relationship with Taiwan.”46

Wang was successful, however, in securing a congressional hearing about Liu’s murder. In the statement he submitted for the hearing, Wang synthesized the lessons from his experiences in Chinatown, his work with the COJHL, and his study of Chinese American history to produce a new theorization of the sources of Chinese American oppression. Wang argued that the issue of Chinese American rights in the United States could not be reduced to institutional racism. Rather, the KMT’s attempt to dominate the politics of Chinese American communities grew out of a specific ideology, which saw the Chinese diaspora as part of a “worldwide nation of Chinese under the rule of the Guomindang [KMT] […] national boundaries in no way inhibit its claim of jurisdiction and prevent it from enforcing its will.” This ideology aligned with the ideology and practice of institutionalized anti-Asian racism, which saw Asian Americans as inassimilable and perpetually foreign. For Wang, KMT domination and anti-Asian racism intersected, but not through the kinds of legal or institutional mechanisms decried by the CJDV or Michael Glennon. Rather, their effects overlapped and reinforced each other, combining to position Chinese Americans as outside the U.S. polity and the democratic rights it afforded. The result was that “the Chinese American community is a de facto colony of Taiwan.”47

For Wang, the Reagan administration’s relative inaction only underscored this condition: “To the Taiwan government he says: America acknowledges and accepts the extraterritorial rule of Taiwan over the Chinese American community and will tolerate terrorist acts as long as they are confined to acts inflicted on Chinese Americans.” Wang also decried Reagan’s message “to the Chinese community across the U.S.,” which “has been loud and clear: Chinese Americans do not have the same constitutional rights as the rest of the Americans and they therefore cannot expect his administration to protect them against acts of terrorism from the Taiwan government.”48

Wang’s statement at the 1985 hearing contrasted with an earlier analysis Wang presented at the 1980 National Conference on Chinese American Studies. At that time, Wang surveyed the development of Chinese American communities in the decades following World War II and saw KMT repression as “ensuring full compliance with the assimilationist conviction and the Cold War ideological consensus” (emphasis added). By the time of the Congressional hearing in 1985, the Chen Wen-Chen and Henry Liu deaths had convinced Wang that assimilationism actually ran counter to the KMT’s paramount goal of maintaining the loyalty of international Taiwanese students. Furthermore, the United States’ normalization of relations with the People’s Republic of China meant that the KMT’s geopolitical goals were no longer synonymous with those of the United States. Wang reversed his earlier interpretation: the KMT, he now felt, sought to incorporate Chinese Americans into a transnational nation-building project predicated on restricting assimilation into the U.S. polity.49

On February 25th, 1986, a massive uprising triggered by a blatantly stolen election forced the Marcoses out of Malacañang Palace. The family fled to Hawai‘i on helicopters provided by the United States, bringing with them crates containing cash, valuables, and governmental documents. U.S. Customs promptly took possession of the crates; buried in the Marcoses’ documents was a record of expenses for “special security projects” paid to the Mabuhay Corporation, managed by the San Francisco physician Leonilo Malabed. One of these payments, for $15,000, was the one ultimately made to Tony Baruso for the assassination of Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes. The CJDV legal team was able to reinstate Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos as defendants in the civil suit, and the couple became the first heads of state found liable for murder in U.S. courts. But even as the legal case narrowed its focus to the Marcoses, Malabed, and Baruso, the Committee for Justice team and its lawyers held fast to the broader political purposes it had developed in 1982 and 1983. In a 1986 memo written after the ascension of Corazon Aquino to the Philippines presidency, CJDV attorney Michael Withey and national coordinator Cindy Domingo looked forward to the cooperation of the new Philippines government. This openness would allow them to focus their political energies on efforts “to thoroughly expose the 20-year history of U.S. support for Ferdinand Marcos as a particular example of U.S. militarist policy abroad and its erosion of democratic rights at home.”50

The Henry Liu case also became intertwined with the movement for democracy in Taiwan, but in very different ways. The KMT rushed the murder suspects through perfunctory trials, often not introducing crucial pieces of evidence or witnesses. To the COJHL, the trials seemed designed to stop any inquiry from advancing higher than Admiral Wang. As Helen Liu observed, “The prosecutor’s attribution of Admiral Wang’s criminal motivation to alleged trivial personal grudges between Wang and Henry Liu did not even convince Admiral Wang himself.” Taiwan’s opposition, still legally barred in 1984 from forming a political party, immediately grasped how the case might give an impetus to the cause of democratization, if not Taiwanese independence. Ling-chi Wang worked with leader-in-exile Hsu Hsin-Liang to present the COJHL’s position to Chinese American communities around the country. Formosa and other opposition newspapers gave prominent, and sometimes exaggerated, coverage to the murder: the headline of a January 1985 article claimed that the KMT had confessed to responsibility for the murder. The CIA, commenting on Taiwan’s political situation in 1985, noted that the revelations about the government’s involvement in the murder and other scandals had “rocked” the KMT and “damaged its political credibility.” Another report observed, “The murder of Chinese-American writer Henry Liu has been particularly embarrassing to the Taiwan authorities and has led to calls in the Legislative Yuan for [Prime Minister] Yu’s resignation.”51

The KMT duly escalated its press censorship, geometrically increasing the number of print runs confiscated, articles banned, and journals shut down. It prevented the Taiwanese publisher of the U.S.-based China Times from sending its money to the United States to operate the press, forcing its closure. China Times editor Derek Lee claimed the final crackdown occurred, in part, because of the paper’s “thorough, objective coverage of the Liu killing.” The opposition, however, remained emboldened by its sense of the government’s weakness, pressing successfully for the lifting of martial law in 1987. It was, in the end, the democratization of Taiwan that ensured Chinese American constitutional rights would no longer be threatened by “de facto colonial status.”52

As these complicated trajectories demonstrate, the transnational political murders of the early 1980s represented the entanglement of democratic rights inside and outside the United States’ formal borders. Through the efforts of individuals like Cindy Domingo, Helen Liu, Michael Glennon, and Ling-Chi Wang, the deaths of Silme Domingo, Gene Viernes, Chen Wen-Chen, and Henry Liu came to signify a convergence between U.S. and foreign sources of repression. Defying conventional radical imaginaries that presumed oppression and exploitation inside the United States flowed outward toward the Third World, these activists and academics mapped a more complex set of dynamics. More than that, they took on the formidable task of holding foreign governments accountable for transnational political repression. Their civil suits, political advocacy, outreach efforts, and grassroots organizing eventually produced a modicum of justice.53

Until recently, Asian American historians neglected to study these deaths, giving far more attention to the murder of Vincent Chin in 1982. Scholars usually interpret that murder, as well as the lenient sentence given to Chin’s killers, as exemplifying Asian Americans’ lack of civic standing. By contrast, the political issues raised by the transnational murders do not map neatly onto the phenomenon anti-Asian racism and the struggle to end it. In this respect, the transpacific authoritarianisms reconstructed in this article differ from the inter-imperial repression of Indian anti-colonialism enacted by the U.S. and British states in the early twentieth century, which equated the threat of radical politics with a “Hindu” menace. Yet the work of the CJDV, CPF, and COJHL raise far-reaching questions about the place of Asian American and diasporic Asian communities in the U.S. polity via an unexpected but powerful critique of the Reagan administration’s geopolitical vision, as propounded in Kirkpatrick’s 1979 essay, “Dictatorships and Double Standards.” Kirkpatrick, who would serve as President Reagan’s ambassador to the United Nations during his first term, drew a distinction in the essay between what she termed totalitarian and authoritarian governments. Totalitarian governments were communist dictatorships; authoritarian governments were non-democratic but anti-communist and friendly to U.S. interests. Kirkpatrick argued that authoritarian governments must be supported in their struggle against leftist insurgencies rather than undermined in the name of human rights, because authoritarian governments would eventually democratize while totalitarian governments would not. “Dictatorship and Double Standards” had its share of critics, most of whom were troubled by the neat distinction between totalitarian and authoritarian regimes. Indeed, the Reagan administration would end up bolstering repressive governments not only in Asia, but in Central and South America as well. But the activists responding to the transnational political murders asked a question few others posed: what if the boundary separating the purportedly democratic United States from its authoritarian allies was more porous than assumed? Would the boundaries of democracy still encompass a Chinese journalist in Daly City, a Taiwanese professor in Pittsburgh, or two Filipino unionists in Seattle?54

For feedback on earlier drafts of this article, the author thanks Gordon H. Chang, Chris Suh, Patrick Iber, Vivian Yan, Hilton Obenzinger, Estella Habal, Estelle Freedman, Robyn Rodriguez, the participants of the Stanford United States History Workshop, and the anonymous reviewers of Pacific Historical Review. For discussions on the article’s subject matter and other assistance, the author thanks Geline Avila, David Bacon, Cindy Domingo, Max Elbaum, Lillian Galedo, Abraham Ignacio, Riddhi Mehta-Neugebauer, Michael Reagan, Ling-chi Wang, and Michael Withey.


Seattle Police Department Incident Report (Incident No. 81-230287, Unit File No. H81-135); Mike Withey, interview by Calvin Cheung-Miaw, January 15, 2016.


“Memorandum Decision,” Domingo v. Republic of Philippines, 694 F. Supp. 782 (W.D. Wash. 1990); “Marcos’s Estate and His Widow Held Liable in 2 U.S. Killings,” New York Times, December 17, 1989.


On Jesús de Galíndez, see Elizabeth Manley, “The Galíndez Case in the Dominican Republic,” in Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History (Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2017) On Orlando Letelier, see John Dinges and Saul Landau, Assassination on Embassy Row (New York: Pantheon Books, 1980); Taylor Branch and Eugene Propper, Labyrinth (New York: The Viking Press, 1982). On Henry Liu, see David E. Kaplan, Fires of the Dragon: Politics, Murder, and the Kuomintang (New York: Maxwell Macmillan, 1992); Ling-Chi Wang, “Justice Is Stonewalled,” in Silenced: The Unsolved Murders of Immigrant Journalists, ed. The Committee to Protect Journalists (New York: Committee to Protect Journalists, 1994). On the Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes murders, see Rene Ciria Cruz, Cindy Domingo, and Bruce Occeña, eds., A Time to Rise: The Union of Democratic Filipinos (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2017); Mike Withey, Summary Execution: The Seattle Assassinations of Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes (Denver: Wildblue Press, 2018).


Daniel Sargent, A Superpower Transformed: The Remaking of American Foreign Relations in the 1970s (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015); Doug Rossinow, The Reagan Era: A History of the 1980s (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015).


Joshua Bloom and Waldo Martin, Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2013), 312; Karen Ishizuka, Serve the People (New York: Verso Books, 2016); Walden Bello and Severina Rivera, eds., The Logistics of Repression and Other Essays: The Role of U.S. Assistance in Consolidating the Martial Law Regime in the Philippines (Washington, D.C.: Friends of the Filipino People, 1977); Judy Tzu-Chun Wu, Radicals on the Road: Internationalism, Orientalism, and Feminism during the Vietnam Era (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013).


For earlier descriptions of transnational repression by the governments of the Philippines, South Korea, and Taiwan, see Alex Esclamado, “The Story of the Marcos Coercion,” Woon-Ha Kim, “KCIA Agents All Out to Get New Korea,” and Brett de Bary and Victor Nee, “The Kuomintang in Chinatown,” in Counterpoint: An Asian American Reader, ed. Emma Gee (Los Angeles: Asian American Studies Center, UCLA, 1976). On the U.S.-Philippines extradition treaty, see Christopher Pyle, Extradition, Politics, and Human Rights (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2001).


Kyle Longley, “An Obsession: The Central American Policy of the Reagan Administration,” in Reagan and the World: Leadership and National Security, 19811989, ed. Bradley Lynn Coleman and Kyle Longley (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2017), 218; Ross Gelbspan, Break-Ins, Death Threats, and the FBI: The Covert War against the Central America Movement (Boston: South End Press, 1990). On the anti-Communist anti-Marcos opposition, see Jose V. Fuentecilla, Fighting from a Distance: How Filipino Exiles Helped Topple a Dictator (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2013), esp. 37–38. On the Taiwanese Independence Movement, see Wendy Cheng, “‘This Contradictory but Fantastic Thing’: Student Networks and Political Activism in Cold War Taiwanese/America,” Journal of Asian American Studies 20, no. 2 (2017): 161–91; Chih-Ming Wang, Transpacific Articulations: Student Migration and the Remaking of Asian America (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2013).


Fuentecilla, Fighting from a Distance. For a critique of the homeland politics framework, see Catherine Ceniza Choy, “Towards Trans-Pacific Social Justice: Women and Protest in Filipino American History,” Journal of Asian American Studies 8, no. 3 (2005): 293–307. On long-distance nationalism in the anti-Marcos movement, see Augusto Espiritu, “Journeys of Discovery and Difference: Transnational Politics and the Union of Democratic Filipinos,” in The Transnational Politics of Asian Americans, ed. Christian Collet and Pei-Te Lien (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2009), 38–55.


On the KDP, see Cruz, Domingo, and Occeña, eds., A Time to Rise; Helen Toribio, “We Are Revolution: A Reflective History of the Union of Democratic Filipinos (KDP),” Amerasia Journal 24, no. 2 (1998): 155–77. The phrase “keeping the light of resistance aflame” is taken from Madge Bello and Vincent Reyes, “Filipino Americans and the Marcos Overthrow: The Transformation of Political Consciousness,” Amerasia 13, no. 1 (1986): 73–83.


Tony Baruso, who helped coordinate the Domingo and Viernes murders, was a particularly controversial figure. The Filipino American Young Turks of Seattle campaigned for Baruso in his 1970 run for state representative. See Peter M. Jamero, “The Filipino American Young Turks of Seattle: A Unique Experience in the American Sociopolitical Mainstream,” in Filipino Americans: Transformation and Identity, ed. Maria P. P. Root (Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 1997): 299–315. On the KDP political program, see “KDP First National Congress,” folder 37, box 1, Katipunan ng mga Demokratikong Pilipino (KDP) Papers, Accession 5889-001, Special Collections, University of Washington, Seattle; “The Political Programme of the Katipunan ng mga Demokratikong Pilipino,” July 27–28, 1973, 47–48, Pacific Northwest Labor and Civil Rights Project,; see also Espiritu, “Journeys of Discovery and Difference.”


Ka Linda, “In the Armed Struggle,” in A Time to Rise, ed. Cruz, Domingo, and Occeña, 172–85. Ka Linda is a pseudonym.


On efforts to reform the International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union (ILWU) Local 37, see Ligaya Domingo, “Building a Movement: Filipino American Union and Community Organizing in Seattle in the 1970s” (PhD diss., University of California, Berkeley, 2010); Ron Chew, Remembering Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes: The Legacy of Filipino American Labor Activism (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2012). On Gene Viernes’s visit to the Philippines, see “KMU Leader Returns a Visit; A Warm Welcome for Arellano,” Philippine Liberation Courier, February–April 1982; Espiritu, “Journeys of Discovery and Difference,” 50. On the ILWU resolution, see International Longshoremen’s and Warehousemen’s Union, Proceedings of the Twenty-fourth Biennial Convention, April 27–May 2, 1981. On Judge Barbara Rothstein’s reasoning that the ILWU resolution spurred the assassination plot, see Domingo 694 F. Supp. 782.


Jamero, “The Filipino American Young Turks,” 302–5; “Committee for Justice for Domingo and Viernes forms in Seattle,” press release, in Cindy Domingo Papers, folder 14, box 15, Accession 5651-003, Special Collections, University of Washington, Seattle; Cindy Domingo, interview with Calvin Cheung-Miaw, February 17, 2016.


“National Council Report, July 1981,” Ang Aktibista 5, no. 3 (1981), folder 1, box 13, KDP Papers; “Update” newsletter, August 3, 1981, folder “CJDV Update,” box 5, Accession 0704-002, John Caughlan Papers, Special Collections, University of Washington.


Jack Anderson, “Filipino Agents Hunt Foes in the U.S.,” The Washington Post, August 11, 1979; the still-classified report is Activities of Certain Intelligence Agencies in the United States, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Subcommittee on International Operations, 1979. The report is also described in Kaplan, Fires of the Dragon.


Memo from John Caughlan to Jim Douglas and Mike Withey, July 19, 1981, folder “Early Memos,” box 5, Caughlan Papers; memo from Mike Withey to legal team, April 20, 1982, folder 3, box 3, Accession 5906-001, James Douglas Papers, Special Collections, University of Washington.


Memo, “Press Statement of the National Committee for Justice for Domingo and Viernes,” September 14, 1982, folder “Press Statements,” box 5, Accession 0704-002, Caughlan Papers. For discussions that emphasize Marcos’s role, see Espiritu, “Journeys of Discovery and Difference”; Chew, Rembering Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes. For discussions of U.S. government complicity, see Cruz, Domingo, and Occeña, eds., A Time to Rise; Withey, Summary Execution.


Ferdinand Marcos later admitted to surveillance of the U.S.-based opposition. See “On Tape, Marcos Says Manila Monitored Dissidents in the U.S.,” New York Times International, December 8, 1989. The FBI's policy was to allow foreign intelligence agencies to monitor foreign nationals without interference unless there was evidence of other criminal activity. See Don Edwards to William Webster, 1 August 1983, Don Edwards Congressional Papers, Special Collections, San Jose State University Library. On the leaked Defense Intelligence Agency document and press conference, see Withey, Summary Execution, 206–9; Nancy Rocamora, “Marcos Agents in the U.S. Exposed,” Ang Katipunan, September 1983; “New Philippine Defense Attache Team Is Assigned,” July 23, 1982 and “Press Release,” August 1983, both in folder 21, box 64, Edwards Papers.


On the Carter administration’s refusal to negotiate an extradition treaty, see Office of the Assistant Secretary for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs to Tony Hall, 21 November 1980, ProQuest Digital National Security Archive. On U.S.-Philippines relations, see Raymond Bonner, Waltzing with a Dictator: The Marcoses and the Making of American Policy (New York: Times Books, 1987); H.W. Brands, Bound to Empire: The United States and the Philippines (New York: Oxford University Press); Alfred McCoy, Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2009). Data on summary executions and extrajudicial killings are found in McCoy, Policing America’s Empire, 405; Raissa Robles, Marcos Martial Law: Never Again (Quezon City: Filipinos for a Better Philippines, 2016), 157.


The extradition treaty is not mentioned in Bonner, Waltzing with a Dictator, or in McCoy, Policing America’s Empire, and is mentioned only briefly in Brands, Bound to Empire, 320. For a fuller discussion of the extradition treaty, see Pyle, Extradition, Politics, and Human Rights. The quoted report is American Law Division (Congressional Research Service), “The Proposed Extradition Treaty between the United States and the Philippines—A Legal Analysis,” February 8, 1982, ProQuest Congressional (crs-1982-aml-0013).


Extradition Act of 1981: Hearing on S. 1639, Before the Comm. on the Judiciary, 97th Cong. (1981), ProQuest Congressional; Extradition Reform Act of 1981: Hearings on H.R. 5227, Before the Subcommittee on Crime of the Comm. on the Judiciary, 97th Cong. 64–68, 147–51 (1982), ProQuest Congressional. On the efforts to reform extradition law, see Steven Lubet, “Extradition Reform: Executive Discretion and Judicial Participation in the Extradition of Political Terrorists,” Cornell International Law Journal 15, no. 2 (982): 247–91; M. Cherif Bassiouni, “Extradition Reform Legislation in the United States, 1981–1983” Akron Law Review 17, no. 4 (1984): 495–574.


“U.S. Cooperates with Philippines, Investigating Links to Terrorists,” New York Times, October 4, 1980; Memo from National Executive Board to All KDP Chapters, October 27, 1980, folder 20, box 12, Accession 5889-001, KDP Papers. On links between the MFP and the urban bombing campaigns, see Fuentecilla, Fighting from a Distance, 54–65; Mark R. Thompson, The Anti-Marcos Struggle: Personalistic Rule and Democratic Transition in the Philippines (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 81–95.


“Opposition Leaders Indicted; Extradition Request Expected,” Philippine Liberation Courier 6, no. 1 (1982): 1; “Grand Jury Moves against Marcos Foes,” Philippine Liberation Courier 5, no. 12 (1981): 2; “Marcos’ Secret Death Decrees,” San Francisco Chronicle, May 16, 1983.


John Holdridge also noted in the same memo that the Philippines’ Solicitor General had privately assured negotiators that existing charges against political opponents were non-extraditable. However, the Philippines’ government had publicly requested extradition of four political opponents for charges connected to terrorism under Carter. Memo from John Holdridge to George Shultz, 11 September 1982, Digital National Security Archive; cable from U.S. Embassy, Manila to Secretary of State, 28 April 1980, Digital National Security Archive.


Silvestre Tangalan quoted in “CAMD/PSN Commentary on Pro-Extradition Treaty Position of Silvestre Tangalan, President of the FCSI, and the Philippine Consulate,” Pacific Northwest Labor and Civil Rights Project,


“Press Statement of the National Committee for Justice for Domingo and Viernes,” September 14, 1982, folder “Press Statements,” box 5, Accession 0704-002, Caughlan Papers.


Nadine Cohodas, “Protects Rights of Those Sought: House Committee Approves Bill on Extradition Procedures,” Congressional Quarterly Magazine, October 1983, 2089; Withey, Summary Execution, 195–209; “Suggestion of Immunity submitted by the United States of America,” Domingo v. Republic of Philippines, 694 F. Supp. 782 (W.D. Wash. 1990), folder 2, box 6, Accession 0704-002, Caughlan Papers.


Richard Cyert, “Death Chills a Campus,” New York Times, August 27, 1981; Alvin Rosensweet, “Congress to Probe Chen's Death, Legislator Vows,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, July 20, 1981.


“Taiwanese” is a controversial term, in part because it elides the presence of Taiwan's aboriginal population. I use the term to denote residents of Taiwan who consider themselves culturally and socially distinct from settlers from mainland China who arrived during the 1940s and after. In this and the following section, Chinese names are rendered with the family name first, with the sole exception of Ling-chi Wang.


On the extent of Taiwan's surveillance operations, see Michael J. Glennon, “Liaison and the Law: Foreign Intelligence Agencies’ Activities in the United States,” Harvard International Law Journal 25 (1984): 3; Cheng, “‘This Contradictory but Fantastic Thing.’” On KMT domination in Chinatowns, see Charlotte Brooks, Between Mao and McCarthy: Chinese American Politics in the Cold War Years (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2015).


Paul A. Kramer, “Is the World Our Campus? International Students and U.S. Global Power in the Long Twentieth Century,” Diplomatic History 33, no. 5 (2009): 775–806; Shirley L. Chang, “Causes of Brain Drain and Solutions: The Taiwan Experience,” Studies in Comparative International Development 27, no. 1 (1992): 27–43; Cheng, “‘This Contradictory but Fantastic Thing,’” 182; Douglas Mendel, The Politics of Formosan Nationalism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973), 163.


Peter Huang quoted in Wang, Transpacific Articulations, 98. On the bombing attempts, see Taiwan Agents in America and the Death of Chen Wen-Chen: Hearings before the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs, 97th Cong. 82 (1981), ProQuest Congressional; on the human rights march, known as the Kaohsiung Incident, see Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, The Road to Freedom: Taiwan's Postwar Human Rights Movement (Taipei: Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, 2004), 118.


Cheng, “‘This Contradictory but Fantastic Thing,’” 175–77.


Taiwan Agents in America and the Death of Chen Wen-Chen, 72–73; Bill Peterson, “After Police Interrogation, a Death,” Washington Post, July 28, 1981; “Report by the Task Force…” in AIT Taipei to AIT DC, July 22, 1981, cable 5673, U.S. Department of State FOIA,


Cyril Wecht, “Murder in Taiwan,” The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology 6, no. 2 (June 1985): 97–103; Taiwan Agents in America and the Death of Chen Wen-Chen.


On the Solarz Amendment, see Robert G. Sutter, “Taiwan and the Killing of Henry Liu: Issues for Congress,” February 1, 1985, ProQuest Congressional; on James Leach’s reservations about invoking the Solarz Amendment, see The Murder of Henry Liu, Hearings and Markups before the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs, 99th Congress 13–14 (1985), ProQuest Congressional. On Ronald Reagan's approach to China and Taiwan, see Michael Schaller, “Ronald Reagan and the Puzzles of ‘So-Called Communist China’ and Vietnam,” in Reagan and the World: Leadership and National Security, 1981–1989, ed. Bradley Lynn Coleman and Kyle Longley (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2017): 191–209.


AIT Taipei to AIT DC, August 12, 1981, cable 5676, U.S. Department of State FOIA,


“Proceedings of the Conference on the Political Freedoms of Foreign Nationals on U.S. Campuses,” March 5, 1983, folder 14, box 84, Tom Lantos Papers, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. On James Seymour, see Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, The Road to Freedom, 153.


“Proceedings of the Conference on the Political Freedoms of Foreign Nationals on U.S. Campuses,” March 5, 1983, folder 14, box 84, Lantos Papers; Bernard D. Nossiter, “Qaddafi Tied to Shooting of Libyan in the U.S.” New York Times, May 24, 1981; Jeanne J. Kirkpatrick, “Dictatorship and Double Standards,” Commentary Magazine, November 1979.


Fear of reprisal may have stopped an early FBI investigation into Marcos’s operations during the 1970s: see Jeff McConnell, “Foreign Agencies in the U.S. Cause Concern,” Boston Globe, January 5, 1986. For Glennon’s statements in the conference, see “Proceedings of the Conference on the Political Freedoms of Foreign Nationals on U.S. Campuses,” March 5, 1983, folder 14, box 84, Lantos Papers; on the legal controversy surrounding liaison agreements, see Glennon, “Liaison and the Law.”


Ling-chi Wang, interview with calvin Cheung-Miaw, December 13, 2017.


David Kaplan also suggests that Liu may have been providing information to KMT intelligence agencies about nationals from People’s Republic of China. Ling-chi Wang and Helen Liu both dispute this. Ling-chi Wang, interview with Calvin Cheung-Miaw, December 13, 2017. For biographical background on Henry Liu, see Kaplan, Fires of the Dragon; The Murder of Henry Liu, 99th Congress, 46–50.


“Daly City Man Shot to Death,” San Francisco Chronicle, October 16, 1984; interview with Ling-chi Wang, December 13, 2017; Sucheng Chan, “The Making of a Quintessential Scholar-Activist,” Amerasia Journal 33, no. 1 (2007): 121–37.


Kaplan, Fires of the Dragon; memo by Ling-chi Wang, “Main Points in the Case of Henry Liu’s Murder,” January 16, 1985, folder 18, box 84, Lantos Papers.


“Notes from Meeting with Friedric Chen [sic],” February 4, 1985, folder 16, box 84, Lantos Papers; “New Taiwanese Law May Free Journalist’s Killers,” San Francisco Chronicle, June 2, 1991. One suspect, who fled Taiwan to Brazil, was eventually extradited from Brazil and convicted in the United States. See Dan Morain, “Case Linked to Taiwan’s Leaders Is Nearing Trial,” Los Angeles Times, March 6, 1988.


Wang, “Justice Is Stonewalled,” 53.


The Murder of Henry Liu, 99th Congress, 56–62. Wang’s statement was republished in modified form as “Can Chinese Americans Afford to Lose the Fight to Obtain Justice for Henry Liu,” Amerasia Journal 33, no. 1 (2007): 63–74.


Ibid, 61.


The ideas generated by the Chen and Liu murders were later developed into Ling-chi Wang’s article, “The Structure of Dual Domination: Toward a Paradigm for the Study of the Chinese Diaspora in the United States,” Amerasia Journal 21, no. 1–2 (1995): 149–69; interview with Ling-chi Wang, December 13, 2017; Ling-chi Wang, “Post-war Developments in the Chinese American Community,” in The Chinese American Experience: Papers from the Second National Conference on Chinese American Studies, ed. Genny Lim (San Francisco: The Chinese Historical Society of America and the Chinese Cultural Foundation of San Francisco, 1984): 269–73.


Wicks Geaga, “People’s Power v. Military Coup,” Ang Katipunan, March 16–30, 1986; “Marcos Subpoenaed in Seattle Murders,” Ang Katipunan, April 1986; “Memorandum Decision,” Domingo; “Marcos’s Estate and His Widow Held Liable in 2 U.S. Killings,” New York Times, December 17, 1989; memo from Mike Withey and Cindy Domingo to National Team, 29 July 1986, folder “CJDV National Plan,” box 5, Accession 0704-002, Caughlan Papers. On reinstating the Marcoses as defendants in the civil suit, see Withey, Summary Execution, 262–63.


“Taiwan: Looking to the Future,” April 17, 1985, Central Intelligence Agency Freedom of Information Act Reading Room,; “Taiwan: Maneuvering for the Succession,” June 3, 1985, CIA FOIA Reading Room; Ling-chi Wang, interview with author, December 13, 2017. A collection of editorials about the trials and Helen Liu’s commentary, from which her quote is taken, are in “Translated Chinese News Articles and Legal Documents Pertaining to the Murder of Henry Liu,” folder 16, box 84, Lantos Papers.


Scholarship on democratization in Taiwan usually describes the Henry Liu murder as one factor in a crisis of legitimacy for the KMT, but most scholars do not consider how democratization affected the KMT’s overseas surveillance operations. See, for instance, Peter Moody, Political Change on Taiwan: A Study of Ruling Party adaptability (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1992); J. Bruce Jacobs, Democratizing Taiwan (Leiden: Brill, 2012); Yun-han Chu, Crafting Democracy in Taiwan (Taipei: Institute for National Policy Research, 1992). On the KMT’s response to journalism about the murder, see “Freedom of the Press?” Taiwan Comuniqué 20, (1985): 14–21; Derek Lee quote in Linda Jue, “Fear: Taiwan's Deadly Export” SF Focus, April 1985, 70–79.


Helen Liu filed a civil suit against the government of Taiwan, which was ultimately settled out of court. See Cynthia S. Lee, “The Murder of Henry Liu: A Tale of Espionage, Dissidence, and the American Tort System,” Asian American Law Journal 22 (2015): 131–35.


Asian American history texts that discuss Vincent Chin but not the Domingo, Viernes, Chen, or Liu murders include Ronald Takaki, Strangers from a Different Shore (Boston, Little, Brown, and Company: 1989); Erika Lee, The Making of Asian America (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2015). On U.S. and British surveillance of anticolonial Indian activists in the United States see Seema Sohi, Echoes of Mutiny: Race, Surveillance and Indian Anticolonialism in North America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014). On Reagan’s foreign policy toward Central and South America, see William Leogrande, Our Own Backyard: The United States in Central America, 1977–1992 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998); Morris Morley and Chris McGillion, Reagan and Pinochet: The Struggle over U.S. Policy toward Chile (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015). For Kirkpatrick’s analysis of geopolitics, see Kirkpatrick, “Dictatorship and Double Standards.”