Today marks the 67th anniversary of the 228 Massacre, a brutal crackdown on civilian protests launched by the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime on Feb. 27, 1947, that subsequently ushered in the White Terror era, during which tens of thousands of the social elite — Taiwanese and Chinese — were imprisoned, tortured and murdered.
In view of a national tragedy as catastrophic as the 228 Massacre, the last thing any person of conscience wants to see is its commemoration become a formality, where leading political figures carry out scheduled appearances and rote speeches out of sheer habit, without putting their hearts into it and making an effort to understand the history and the significance of this tragic chapter in Taiwanese history.
To this day, many of the families of people killed during that time, not knowing why their loved ones were taken or where their remains lie, are still waiting for justice to arrive.
The public is voicing its concern and accusing the KMT government of saying one thing but doing another.
As usual, the government has planned a 228 memorial ceremony, this time in Hualien, during which President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is to deliver a speech and present a certificate to the family of Song Chun-lan (宋春蘭) to restore her reputation.
Going by Ma’s previous speeches to mark the occasion, he will most likely expound on how he understands the suffering and pain of the people killed during the incident and renew his pledge to uncover the truth behind the tragedy, promote reconciliation, create a harmonious society and prevent human rights violations.
However, Ma’s sincerity has to be questioned. To what extent does the president mean what he says?
The public has valid cause for concern, as Ma’s words are seldom backed up with action, and in some situations — as in the case of the Ministry of Education’s controversial revision of curriculum guidelines — are the opposite of what he will do.
In Ma’s 228 speech last year, he pledged that he would instruct the ministry to increase the amount of educational material dealing with the incident to teach future generations about the tragedy.
However, the opposite has happened: Rather than expound the materials concerning the White Terror era, the ministry recently announced a revision to the high-school curriculum guidelines that downplay the White Terror era.
In the ministry’s so-called “minor adjustments” to the civic and social studies curriculum guidelines, the phrases “White Terror,” “prisoners of conscience” and “Germany’s Nazis” are removed and the phrases “the persecution of people by a government’s abuse of power” and “a colonial government’s discrimination against colonized people” have been added.
The changes have prompted criticism from academics, who have condemned them as attempts to overlook the cases of people killed during the White Terror era and to legitimize the persecution of political dissidents. Other “minor adjustments” made to the history, civic and social studies, Chinese language and geography curriculum guidelines have also been criticized by academics as part of the Ma government’s “de-Taiwanization” effort.
Ma can attend as many 228 memorial services and clamor as loudly as he wants about his administration’s efforts to bring justice and reconciliation, but the truth remains: The ministry under his leadership is rubbing salt into the wounds of grieving families who lost relatives during the White Terror era.