February 19, 7:25 PM
by Michael Richardson, Boston Progressive Examiner
Solemn ceremonies at the end of the month will mark the anniversary of the '228 Massacre' in Taiwan. February 28, 1947 is a date that will long be remembered for the brutal oppression by forces of the Republic of China against residents of Formosa.
The uprising and subsequent massacre that killed tens of thousands was triggered the day before by an incident in Taipei involving a humble street vendor. American diplomat George Kerr was stationed in Taipei and was an eyewitness to atrocities and murder. Kerr authored a book about the traumatic events, Formosa Betrayed. Kerr tells the story best.
"On the evening of February 27 a cigarette vendor and her two small children set up a portable stand under the banyan tree in Round Park….Monopoly Bureau agents appeared, accused the woman of handling untaxed cigarettes, and seized her small stock and tiny reserve of cash. People began to gather round. When she screamed in protest, seizing the arm of one of the agents, she was brutally struck down and pistol-whipped about the head. At this the angry crowd moved on the agents. Firing wildly, they opened a way for themselves to escape to a nearby police box. Behind them one person lay dead and the vendor appeared to be dying."
The next day a crowd of 2000 protestors marched on the Monopoly Bureau. Kerr picks up the story.
"I had been lunching nearby with the Director of our USIS program and with Formosan friends. We were attempting to weigh the gravity of the Round Park affair and its consequence when suddenly we heard the rattle of machine gun fire."
Kerr hurried to the Monopoly Bureau.
"As our jeep came into the intersection dominated by the Generalissimo's gilded statue, we found ourselves running between a line of heavily armed Nationalist soldiers, before the Governor's Gate, and a silent crowd of Formosans, facing them across the plaza. On the macadam roadway between lay the bodies of unarmed civilians--who had been shot down as demonstrators approached the entrance of the Government grounds."
Martial law was declared and military patrols would fire random shots as they drove threw empty streets. Days passed as killings continued throughout the island. In March, Kerr again found himself an eyewitnesses to tragedy.
"From an upper window we watched Nationalist soldiers in action in alleys across the way. We saw Formosans bayoneted in the streets without provocation. A man was robbed before our eyes--and then cut down and run through. Another ran into the street in pursuit of soldiers dragging a girl away from his house and we saw him, too, cut down."
"This sickening spectacle was only the smallest sample of the slaughter then taking place throughout the city, only what could be seen from one window on the upper floor of one rather isolated house. The city was full of troops."
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