Monday, February 23, 2009

Anniversary of '228 Massacre' leaves unfinished business in Taiwan for war crimes

February 21, 2:22 PM, 2009
by Michael Richardson, Boston Progressive Examiner

Next week ceremonies in both Taipei and Washington, D.C. will mark the 1947 massacre of an untold number of tens of thousands during the infamous, long-suppressed '228 Massacre' committed by Republic of China troops. A Taipei memorial to the victims of the massacre has a plaque that tells the story.

"In 1945, when news of Japanese defeat and surrender reached Taiwan , the Taiwanese people were overjoyed that unjust colonial rule had come to an end. But soon the Taiwanese people were surprised to find that Chen Yi, the newly appointed Governor of Taiwan had no understanding if Taiwan and its people. He instituted unfair policies that discriminated against the Taiwanese people.

To make matters worse, Chen and his officials were undisciplined and corrupt. As a result, production and consumption lost balance, and unemployment and inflation skyrocketed. The people's resentment was mounting and fast reaching a boiling point."

"On 27 February 1947, while investigating sales if illicit tobacco on Yen-Ping North Road , Taipei , officials of the Taiwan Tobacco and Wine Monopoly Bureau beat up and injured a female vendor. Then they opened fire, killing an innocent bystander. The public was outraged. The next day, citizens of Taipei took to the streets and demonstrated. The marched to the Governor's office and appealed for the immediate punishment of the murderers. In response, shots were fired at the demonstrators and several were killed or wounded. This triggered a furious island-wide protest and struggle against the regime. In order to resolve the disputes and to calm the people's growing anger, leaders from around the island began setting up committees to mediate between the protestors and the government. At the same time, they demanded immediate political reform."

"Chen Yi was insensitive and responded with highhandedness and treachery. On the one hand he negotiated with the committees and, on the other, he treated the leaders as if they were thugs and traitors and asked Nanking for troops. Upon receiving Chen's report, the Chairman of the National Government in Nanking Chiang Kai-shek, immediately ordered the dispatch of troops. On 8 March 1947, the 21st Division under the command of General Liu Yu-ching landed in Keelung . On 10 March, martial law was declared in the whole of Taiwan . Ke Yuan-fen, the chief of staff of the Taiwan Garrison Command: Shih Hong-hsi, the commander of the Keelung District; Peng Meng-chi, the commander of the Kaoshiung District; Chang Mu-tai, the commander of a military police regiment; and others started brutal 'cleansing of the countryside. ' During the subsequent crackdowns and purges, many innocent people were implicated. Within a few months, the number of deaths, injured and missing persons reached tens of thousands. Keelung , Taipei , Chiayi, and Kaohsiung suffered the highest casualties. This incident has become known as the 228 Massacre."

"Since then, the Taiwanese people were under prolonged martial law for nearly half a century. Both those in the government and the general public were forcibly silenced; no one dared touch upon this taboo subject--the 228 Massacre. However, the grievances and resentment against this atrocity continued to rankle and it was felt necessary to confront this problem openly before healing could take place. Mistrust between Taiwanese and mainlanders, and the argument on whether Taiwan should declare independence or be united with China , have become hot issues with potentially worrisome implications. After the lifting of the Martial Law in 1987, people in all walks of life feel that there would be no hope for peace and harmony unless the deep-rooted malaise was properly addressed. Accordingly, investigation and research into the 228 Massacre were started; the Head of State issued a public apology; the victims and their families were compensated; and a monument was erected. However, the task of healing a serious trauma in society must depend on the whole-hearted collaborative effort by all its people. We have, therefore, inscribed these words on this memorial plaque in the hope of consoling the spirits of the victims and comforting their grieving families. It is also hoped that these words will serve as a warning and a lesson to all Taiwanese compatriots. Henceforward, we must be one, no matter which communal group we belong; we must help each other with compassion and treat each other with sincerity; we must dissolve hatred and resentment, and bring about lasting peace.

May God bless Taiwan and keep it evergreen."

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