12.jpgPingtung  2-28 Memorial

28 February is Memorial Day, a national holiday in Taiwan.  To commemorate this day in Taiwan’s historical consciousness, many people choose to fast in remembrance of the cruelty of those times in Taiwan’s past. From midnight to midnight, drinking only water, why not join the people of Taiwan as they meditate so that we may find better ways to take action in this world. As we feel our hunger, let us be reminded to share the stories of Taiwan’s past on that day.

This is what unfolded on that fateful day.

After the end of World War II, the Allied Forces left the occupation of Taiwan to Chiang Kai -shek, who was still holding on to large parts of China with his Nationalist forces. The Taiwanese, who had been under Japanese rule from 1895 through 1945, initially welcomed the Chinese Nationalist forces. But their joy soon changed into sorrow and anger, when the new authorities turned out to be repressive and corrupt.

The 28 February 1947 arrest of a woman selling cigarettes without a license was the spark which led to large-scale public protests against repression and corruption. For some ten days, Chiang still on the mainland and his governor Chen Yi kept up the pretense of negotiations with leaders of the protest movement, but at the same time they sent troops from the mainland.

 As soon as the troops arrived, they started rounding up and executing people, in particular scholars, lawyers, doctors, students and local leaders of the protest movement. In total between 18,000 and 28,000 people were murdered. Thousands of others were arrested and imprisoned in the “White Terror” campaign which took place in the following decade. Many of these remained imprisoned until the early 1980s.

Until a few years ago, the events of 1947 were a taboo subject on the island. The authorities did not want to be reminded of their dark past, and the people did not dare to speak out for fear of retribution by the  secret police.

 The US press reported on the incidents in 1947 both in the New York Times and The Nation. Yet, despite the Cairo Declaration, the US did not act or Formosa’s behalf.  The regime from mainland China was able to establish itself on the island.

 When, after forty repressive years, the harsh martial law in Taiwan was lifted in 1987, the newly-formed Taiwanese democratic opposition started to push  authorities to stop covering up the facts, and to come to a full airing of the matter. It wasn’t until 1990 that the Kuomintang finally decided to open the records. In 1992 President Lee asked for reconciliation and decided that a monument would be built in Taipei. Other memorials had been built earlier in Chiayi and Pingtung.

 Scholars who want to conduct research about the February 28 incident complain that they cannot get access to a number of government archives. Although the Executive Yuan’s Ad Hoc Committee on 2-28 Incident has so far issued two volumes of findings from the archives, the Department of Defense continues to refuse to make public records in its archives covering the period from 1945 to 1950.

 sources:  http://www.taiwandc.org/228-intr.htm

               http://228.culture.gov.tw/web/web-eng/228/228-c3.htm

              http://taiwaneseamerican.org/2008/02/remember-2-28.html

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