Wang Hsiao-po (王曉波), an adjunct professor in Shih Hsin University’s Chinese literature department, spoke at a symposium at the Taipei 228 Memorial Museum on Feb. 28. Wang said that, relative to Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) killing of more than 400,000 people in Chinese anti-communist purges, the killing by his Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime of 20,000 people in Taiwan during the 228 Incident of 1947 was a “minor case.” This and other remarks made by Wang have shocked many in Taiwan.
It is astonishing that the Ministry of Education could appoint someone with such scant regard for Taiwanese history, such a poor grasp of human rights and such confused values to serve as convener of the panel reviewing adjustments to senior-high school language and social studies courses. It puts Wang in a position to poison the minds of high-school students and Minister of Education Chiang Wei-ling (蔣偉寧) should resign for having made such a blunder.
Did the 228 Incident really arise out of the Civil War between China’s nationalist and communist parties? Was it really a communist rebellion? According to internal documents of the Investigation Bureau, there were only about 70 members of the Chinese Communist Party in Taiwan when the 228 Incident erupted in 1947. It was the strong popular indignation sparked by the army’s suppression and massacre that created room for the communist party to grow, and its membership in Taiwan rose to about 500 by the end of 1948 and 1,300 by the end of 1949. These figures make it clear that the communist party’s growing influence was a result of the 228 Incident, not a reason for it.
In 1948 the communist party’s East China Bureau held a meeting in Hong Kong that included a review of the 228 Incident. The party admitted that its underground members in Taiwan had not made clear judgements about the situation. It recognized that its members were inadequately prepared before the incident, had not proposed a clear plan of action as it took place and had abruptly broken up amid arguments when the time came to pull out. These points, among others, show that the communist party had very limited influence over the 228 Incident.
When the incident began, Chiang Kai-shek knew that the communist party was not yet a significant force in Taiwan. As he wrote in his diary: “At present, communist bandit organizations have not penetrated deeply, so it should be easy to deal with the incident. However, we have no well-trained troops available to dispatch and this makes me very worried.”
He also wrote grudgingly about Taiwan governor Chen Yi’s (陳儀) misrule: “Chen Yi did not take preventive measures before the incident and did not report truthfully on the situation once it broke out. Only when the incident had turned into a raging fire did he ask for assistance. It is really quite deplorable.”
Wang blames the 228 Incident on the Civil War between the nationalists and communists. During the current curriculum adjustments, he even inserted the idea that the reason the White Terror took hold in the 1950s was the confrontation that then existed across the Taiwan Strait. Can the Chinese Civil War really be taken as a pretext for the KMT’s abuse of power or allow the KMT to deny its responsibility for what happened?
The main reason Chiang Kai-shek decided to send troops to Taiwan to suppress the rebellion by force can probably be seen from his diary entry for March 7, 1947, one week after the 228 Incident.