Wed, Feb 28, 2001 - Page 8 News List

The 228 Incident and Tiananmen Square

By Li Thian-hok 李天福

Taiwan's 228 Incident and the Tiananmen Square Incident share a number of similarities. Both derived from movements for reform, rather than outright revolts. In the former, the Settlement Committee, consisting of community leaders from all major cities in Taiwan, had asked for an end to official corruption and the establishment of local autonomy. In the latter, the students in the square merely petitioned for the elimination of corruption and freedom of the press, speech and assembly.

In both cases, however, the government deliberately mis-represented the nature of the protest. General Chen Yi (陳儀) said the Taiwan disturbance was the handiwork of a small group of hooligans and communist agitators. In China, Bo Yibo (薄一波) said: "The people with ulterior motives who are behind this student movement have support from the US and Europe and from the KMT reactionaries in Taiwan."

Both protests were terminated by brute force and the widespread killing of unarmed citizens. The KMT soldiers massacred 28,000 citizens, first indiscriminately and then systematically targeting community leaders. The PLA killed some 3,000 students and civilians in and around Tiananmen Square.

Both events are significant because of the effect they had on the destiny of Taiwan and China. In Taiwan, the massacre after the incident forced Taiwanese to realize that they were quite distinct from the "mainland" Chinese in their value systems and their poli-tical culture.

The incident sowed the seeds of the Taiwan independence movement. Given a free choice, without the threat of military invasion by China, a great majority of the people on Taiwan would opt for independence any day. The Communist Party of China (CPC) has lost the mandate of heaven. The Tiananmen massacre marked the beginning of the end for the CPC's monopoly of power.

The regime is unpopular and plagued with endemic corruption and expanding official abuse of power, including the widespread torture of dissidents and religious practitioners. China's environment is deteriorating quickly and thousands of riots and demonstrations involving disgruntled workers and farmers take place across China each year. The Beijing government is clinging to power with brute force.

What lessons can people in Taiwan learn from these two events? While the CPC regime may be doomed in the long run, it is trying to legitimize its rule by fanning expansionist nationalism and by diverting its people's passion to the "sacred" national goal of liberating Taiwan. A calamity similar to the 1947 massacre could befall the people of Taiwan again, unless they can demonstrate their courage and resolve to defend their hard-won freedom, and thereby win the support of fellow democracies.

On the 54th anniversary of the 228 Incident, it is prudent to ponder the consequences of "political integration with China." First, Taiwan's democracy will be dismantled, just as the Goddess of Freedom was quickly toppled in Beijing. Freedom of expression, religion and assembly will be suppressed. Second, all private property will be confiscated. The standard of living will plunge to the level of the Chinese people. Finally, life under CPC rule will be devoid of dignity. The life of every citizen will be at the mercy of the CPC's coercion.

If Taiwan were to fall into China's grasp, peacefully or otherwise, Beijing's ambitions for hegemony over East Asia and beyond would get a hefty boost. PLA strategists are already openly discussing a war with the US. In such a conflict, Taiwanese youth will be drafted into the PLA and forced to fight on the wrong side of history. Do the people of Taiwan really wish to fight for the hegemony of China and against the forces of democracy and freedom?

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