No justice, no peace
Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou's (馬英九) commentary ("Reflection upon the 228 Incident," Feb. 28, page 8) demands a swift rebut-tal. While he has apparently read some of the primary source documents regarding the event, he nonetheless fails to grasp the essence of the problem.
Ma's first mistake is to focus on the initial stage of the 228 Incident, when there was a popular uprising against the corrupt governor Chen Yi (陳儀). He notes, no doubt correctly, that some Taiwanese leaders called upon citizens not to target mainlanders for their ethnicity, and that some "mainland intellectuals" supported the cause of the Taiwanese people. He says these facts "highlighted the bright side of human nature."
However, the terrible part of the 228 Incident was not the events of the uprising itself, when the violence was sporadic and disorganized. It was only when the military crackdown began that people died in their thousands -- and they were killed systematically by KMT troops on the orders of Chiang Kai-shek (
By any normal definition, these acts were crimes against humanity, and they are therefore punishable in all jurisdictions with no statutes of limitation. But in fact not one single person has ever been put on trial for any of the deaths. No wonder there is no sense of justice for society, and no sense of closure for the victims and their loved ones.
Moreover, the KMT government forbade even the mention of the words "228" until the early 1990s (when Ma was already well established in the KMT hierarchy).
Those who defied the ban were summarily arrested, imprisoned, exiled, or even killed. Meanwhile, the guilty were promoted and rewarded by the regime. Unable to assign guilt to the actual perpetrators, and facing this officially orchestrated whitewashing campaign, it was legitimate for victims to blame the KMT regime as a whole for their suffering. It is also understandable that some of that feeling was transferred to mainlanders in general, who benefited from special privileges under that regime and whose public spokespeople led the cover-up operations.
The Taiwanese of 1947 could see with their own eyes which mainlanders were guilty and which were also victims. But the subsequent actions of the KMT government blurred this distinction, thereby creating the ethnic tensions that reverberate to this day. In his long career in the KMT, Ma took no action to address this problem, even when he was minister of justice. If he now wants to do something constructive, he should call for the arrest and prosecution of all those perpetrators who are still alive.
What will bring the "unity" Ma appears to seek are not more "condolences to the victims," but an end to the impunity of those who committed heinous crimes against humanity.
Residency `rights' lacking
I was pleased to read that the government is considering relaxing the permanent residency rules so that more than 800 foreigners who do not qualify under the current requirements, could do so under the relaxed restrictions proposed by KMT Legislator Apollo Chen (
However, as the first foreigner in Hsinchu and the first American in Taiwan to receive the Permanent Residency Per-mit (Card No. 013501, issued April 21, 2000 ), I am more concerned with the long-term implications of what having this permit means. Even though I now have the right to live in Taiwan for the rest of my life without a visa, I am still barred from receiving several social services and benefits -- and even voting in local elections.