Wed, Feb 28, 2001 - Page 8 News List

Coming to grips with the truth about 228

By Lee Min-yung 李敏勇

Reflection on the history of the 228 Incident, which took place in 1947, was not initiated until the justice and peace movements emerged from late-1980s civil society. It was not until the mid-1990s that the government started to face this issue and to conduct limited investigations.

On the surface, there have been responses of sorts from the government, from the local level up to the central level, including the erection of a monument and a museum. But the society, even the state, has not learned a lesson from the incident.

The truth of the matter is that the formal responses have not come from those who were in power at the time. The oppressors have not stood up and offered an apology. Rather, it was the politicians with Taiwanese origins who have come out.

Lee Teng-hui (李登輝), in his capacity as president, represented the KMT and highlighted the formal responses in the mid-1990s with certain measures and activities. At that time, he convinced Taiwan's different ethnic groups that a reflection on the history of the incident would both help to free the KMT from its guilt and enable all of the people to move forward.

In a certain sense, Lee should also be counted as one of the victims of the incident. But he became the KMT leader and took up the role of offering apologies on behalf of Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) and the KMT party mechanism.

Those with Chinese consciousness within the KMT were not appreciative of what Lee did -- offering apologies is obviously not one of the customs of their culture. The official responses toward the incident by the two Taiwanese -- Lee and Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) -- whether in their capacities as Taipei mayor or Taiwan's president, may just be viewed by these people as overstepping the bounds of appropriate behavior.

Observing what Lee went through and Chen is going through, we can see that after the incident and the historic reflection and the official responses, there are still cultural and political misgivings in Taiwan society.

There are various obstacles on the road toward Taiwan's nation-building. The cultural and political grudges are precisely what have obstructed the real establishment of state sovereignty and democratization.

Historical education and cultural grudges from the old era won't enable Taiwan society to truly learn the meaning of history. We have made Feb. 28 a memorial day, but what does it mean to commemorate this day? Have we really commemorated it? These questions are worth considering.

Lee Min-yung is a poet.

Translated by Wu Pei-shih

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