Tue, Feb 29, 2000 - Page 8 News List

The true cause of the 228 Incident

Hsieh Chang-chang 謝常彰

The 228 Incident occurred without warning in 1947, but its effects spread quickly throughout all of Taiwan within four days. Three months later Ko Yuan-fen (柯遠芬), the head of the Taiwan Military Garrison (警備總部), made a speech about incident, blaming it on "post-war poverty, hunger, social division, and instability."

The incident was a taboo subject for 40 years, until Chen Yung-hsing (陳永興) and others established the 228 Peace Day Association (二二八和平日促進會) in Feb-ruary 1987, breaking the public silence on the subject. Only then did the government begin to discuss and deal with the incident.

However, the government claimed that the 228 Incident was caused by the "alienation" between officials and public and "cultural" and "language" differences. If this were true, however, then the 228 Incident should have first occurred in some other country, instead of Taiwan.

Taiwan was placed under Chinese control at the end of WWII, as per the order of the Allied Command. Battered and desperate from the war, Taiwan-ese clung to the idea that they were returning to a democratic China -- their "motherland." They thought they would be allowed to serve in all levels of the government, and educated youth entertained dreams contributing to the building of a new China.

Chen Yi (陳儀) seized the moment and falsely pronounced Taiwan as already having been reintegrated into China's territory. Japanese government officials were replaced almost exclusively with -- in Chen's words -- "Chinese" officials, with the exception of a token number of mixed Chinese-Taiwanese (半山). The KMT even solicited officials from Fujian Province to replace Taiwanese then serving in the government.

Society was further racked by KMT factional struggles, increasingly turning Taiwan into a lawless society. The appearance and discipline of the KMT army stationed in Taiwan was also appalling, and soldiers frequently bullied and stole from the people. The police carried out random searches and ran smuggling operations. Life was becoming increasingly difficult for regular people, while officials prospered.

The public soon knew all about official corruption and the ineptitude of the KMT regime under Chen Yi , but their previous belief in government propaganda tempered their anger and toned down their demands. In the end, Taiwanese only asked for equality and the chance to increase their standard of living.

The government ignored all of their political and economic proposals, however, and prohibited Taiwanese from working in the government on the basis that they "lacked democratic traditions and language competence." The Taiwanese then "stupidly waited" and threw themselves into learning Mandarin Chinese.

By November 1946, just two months after the Constitutional Assembly started its sessions, Chen revealed the so-called "Three Year Plan for Self-Governance," whereby direct elections for county commissioners and mayors would be put off until 1947, two years later than similar elections in mainland China.

The government also continued to hold "civic training" courses for residents in Taiwan. In addition to language classes, the courses also included content from the "New Life Movement," which had been promoted in mainland China 13 years previously.

People were forced to submit to norms of "propriety, justice, honesty and righteousness" while suffering the rule of corrupt and tyrannical officials.

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