Mon, Feb 28, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Time to face the truth about 228

By Chang Yen-hsian 張炎憲

"New immigrants" is a term that can be used to refer to the "Mainlanders" who arrived in Taiwan after 1945 in the wake of the Japanese defeat. In fact, this term is more appropriate than "Mainlanders"; after all, Taiwan is a society of immigrants, made up of different ethnic groups and separate waves of immigrants who have coalesced into what is now Taiwanese society.

The immigrants that came in 1945 from various parts of China constituted an armed community, including government, political parties, military, public servants and ordinary people, so that they were necessarily more isolated from society at large, more defensive and xenophobic.

After 50 years of living in Taiwan, these new immigrants have gradually become integrated and can no longer be easily distinguished from other inhabitants. But because their family background, upbringing and education is different from that of immigrants who came to Taiwan prior to 1945, they naturally have a different perspective on history and culture.

This is most evident in different interpretations of the 228 Incident. Some of the new immigrants feel that the incident has nothing to do with them. Despite this, whenever the incident is spoken of, they feel they are being censured.

Others believe that the incident was a revolt against the government and that in order to maintain its authority, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) acted correctly in using military force to suppress the dissidents. They accept the rationalization of the KMT for its actions.

Still others believe that the Taiwanese rejected the new immigrants, and that the government acted as it did to protect these immigrants.

These points of view and the feelings they represent are understandable. But if the new immigrants isolate themselves from the facts of the 228 Incident, they will never overcome the psychological obstacle that this event represents.

One, the incident was a conflict between the rulers and the ruled. After the defeat of the Japanese, the undisciplined and corrupt forces that took over the governance of Taiwan caused people in Taiwan to lose their initial delight and hope for a new future and fall into the depths of despair. Finally they rose up and demanded reform.

The government ignored the voice of the people and sent soldiers to suppress dissent, arresting and executing many Taiwanese. The victims also included new immigrants and Aborigines. Anyone who was perceived as a threat to the government faced arrest and execution.

Two, the 228 Settlement Committee's list of 32 demands were demands that the Taiwanese people originally made under the Japanese colonial regime. Through a deep understanding of Taiwan's historical development, we can see that these demands are the striving for liberal democracy and independence, and that when the government puts pressure on the people to suppress these ideas, the people will fight back.

Three, during the KMT government's long monopoly on power, it protected its community interests, and used a lock-down policy to suppress Taiwan's history, culture and language. This pressure made it impossible for the voice of Taiwan's community to be heard, creating a gulf of misunderstanding between the Mainlanders and Taiwanese.

The problems created by the one-party state were simplified and represented as a ethnic question, but if we look back over the decades of the KMT's rule, we can see that the true source of the problem is the KMT's need to protect its own interests and those of the community it represented.

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