I was born in 1947, the year of the 228 Incident. In those days of silent disappearances and killings, my pregnant mother had to climb over walls just to visit the doctor for a check-up.
One story I often heard as a child was the public execution of Pingtung Assembly Council deputy speaker Yeh Chiu-mu (葉秋木). After shooting him, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) did not allow his family to collect his body, which was left on display for three days to intimidate the public. Having heard such stories since childhood, I felt strong sympathy for the victims and their families.
As Pingtung County commissioner, I submitted a special budget, which was approved by the county council, to erect Taiwan’s first officially sponsored 228 memorial. Later, as premier, I approved an order for flags throughout Taiwan to be flown at half-mast on Feb. 28.
I allocated NT$1.5 billion (US$43 million) over five years so the 228 Memorial Foundation could do its work, and commissioned the Report on Responsibility for the 228 Incident.
A building on Nanhai Road in Taipei that once housed the Taiwan Provincial Assembly Council was chosen for the new National 228 Memorial Museum. We allocated a generous budget for refurbishing the building, and the museum was inaugurated on the 60th anniversary of the 228 Incident. That day, a stamp was released with the image of the museum — the first stamp to bear the words “Taiwan Post.”
As someone who was born in 1947, who moved from the south to the north and then went from county commissioner to premier, I saw the truth about the 228 Incident gradually come to light. I was gratified to see Taiwan gradually face its history. It is better to deal with the past honestly, and I sincerely hoped that Taiwan could get over the scars of history and look forward to a brighter future.
Before he was elected president, Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) often took part in 228 memorial events, visited relatives of victims and bowed his head in mourning at the graves of those who died. He admitted the KMT was at fault and apologized on the party’s behalf. He wrote articles and made speeches in Hoklo, saying he was deeply pained about the events of 1947 and that they would remain forever engraved in his heart.
He twice voiced his approval for establishing the 228 Memorial Museum, and when I ordered flags to be flown at half-mast on 228 Memorial Day, he approved and said it would be reasonable to treat the anniversary as a national day of mourning.
Many said Ma was putting on a show to win support for his election bid, but I preferred to take his words at face value.
Although the KMT treated Taiwan and its people brutally, the kind-hearted Taiwanese have chosen to forgive and put their trust in the party. But what have they got in return?
Just 23 days into Ma’s presidency, the Ministry of Education ordered the 228 Memorial Foundation to remove a 228 Incident exhibition from the National Taiwan Democracy Memorial Hall. Earlier this year, the KMT legislative caucus annulled the budgets for the 228 Memorial Foundation and construction of the 228 Memorial Museum. Work on the museum was halted even before that, and remains in limbo.
Just days ago, Ma’s protege, KMT Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇), suggested in his bill on memorial days and festivals that Feb. 28 should be a day of remembrance, but not a holiday.