Tue, Mar 01, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: The sobering lesson of 228

As a critical event in this country's history, the 228 Incident of 1947 provides Taiwanese with an opportunity to reflect on both the violence and terror of that time and injustices that continue to this day.

The wholesale slaughter -- both arbitrary and strategic -- of tens of thousands of civilians and intellectuals by the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) armed forces ended an all-too-brief period in which Taiwanese freely believed that rule by "China" would be benevolent and enlightened.

The main causes of the 228 Incident were the government's corrupt and inept management, the looting of Taiwan's assets by the new administrators and the general oppression of Taiwanese people. A generation of Taiwanese came to distrust the KMT, cutting off politics from the people and elevating the most discreditable elements of society to positions of power.

Last year's 228 Hand-in-Hand Rally, which protested China's military posturing, was a milestone in Taiwan's political history. From one end of the island to the other, 2 million people formed a human chain in an affirmation of peace and democracy. The impact of the rally is thought to have tipped the presidential campaign in President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) favor, delivering him the votes needed to hold off a strong challenge by the pan-blue camp.

Yesterday, in the face of continuing threats from Beijing, most recently manifested in its proposed "anti-secession law" (反分裂法), the Hand-in-Hand Taiwan Alliance launched an "oppose annexation, protect Taiwan" campaign at home and abroad so that the international community can witness the power of democracy in Taiwan.

The public is divided on the need for national independence, and therefore lacks a sense of crisis in the face of this anti-secession legislation. But the 228 Incident serves as a lesson of the bloody folly of assuming that outsiders know what is best for Taiwan.

For this reason, prior to the probable passage of the anti-secession legislation in March, the "oppose annexation, protect Taiwan" campaign is under way. This not only serves to remind Taiwanese of the consequences of the legislation, but also serves to warn China and announce to the international community that many Taiwanese do not intend to suffer unilateral determinations as to its fate.

The anti-secession legislation will more than likely be applied to Taiwanese nationals in China, and ordinary people and businesspeople may be victimized on the slightest pretext. Any statement and any action may be sufficient grounds for Taiwanese to be accused of fomenting secession.

In commemorating the 228 Incident this year, the Hand-in-Hand Taiwan Alliance's campaign represents the spirit of the new era. With the Lunar New Year direct charter flights and the bizarre 10-Point Agreement between Chen and People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) fresh in their minds, Taiwanese can be forgiven for becoming rather infected with a sense of reconciliation, but they now risk losing sight of the fact that the anti-secession legislation may threaten their personal and national security.

The move to denounce the legislation and remind the public of China's ill will is therefore a welcome wake-up call at home, for China and for the international community.

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