Understand context of 228 Incident - Taipei Times
Fri, Mar 14, 2014 - Page 8 News List

Understand context of 228 Incident

By Chen Tsui-lien 陳翠蓮

“Taiwanese people have only recently been brought back into the fold. They have been enslaved by the Japanese invaders for a long time and have forgotten their motherland, so they are afraid of authority and lacking in moral fiber,” he wrote.

Instead of reflecting on its misgovernment following the end of World War II and the seething resentment it had provoked, Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalist government attributed Taiwanese resistance to “enslavement” and sought to teach them a lesson and subdue them by resorting to armed force.

During the repression of the 228 Incident, many prominent members of society were publicly executed, with their bodies put on display. It was an expression of the culture of tyranny. The kind of pre-modern political culture espoused by Chiang Kai-shek and Wang — one in which rulers can slaughter people to achieve their aims — and their attitude of seeing ordinary people as minions, should be anathema in any civilized society.

Since the time of Japanese rule, Taiwanese have been striving for values such as freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The path to these goals has had its ups and downs, and new democratic pioneers have always arisen to continue the efforts of their forebears. Since Taiwan established a democratic system, civic education in schools has worked hard to inculcate civilized values and safeguard democracy by reminding students of the mistakes committed under the old authoritarian regime.

However, these facets of civic education are worthless in the eyes of Wang, who has said they are meant for US citizens and copied from US social science books. He also complained that existing social studies courses “go on and on” about the White Terror until it gets “really boring.” Now the real reasons why references to the White Terror are being deleted from social studies course outlines and why the modified curricula emphasize Chinese cultural traditions become clear.

The Period of National Mobilization for Suppression of Communist Rebellion came to an end in 1991, and for the past two decades, people have been working hard to establish a democratic system and the rule of law. However, the thought processes of Wang and his ilk are stuck in the past and have never moved forward. Unwilling to emerge from the imagined continued Civil War between nationalists and communists, they have lost touch with society. They look down on democratic Taiwan and cannot wait to embrace China, dictatorial as it is.

When attending symposiums in China, Wang and other members of his review committee have even said that they want to get course outlines revised in a way that promotes “the great task of uniting the motherland.” The curriculum adjustments formulated by the team that Wang heads are a fine example of these kinds of confused values being put into practice.

Chiang Wei-ling’s appointment of such a person as convener of the course outline adjustment review team looks a lot like a declaration of war against Taiwan’s civilized values. Should he not take responsibility for this sorry affair by stepping down?

Chen Tsui-lien is a board member for Taiwan Democracy Watch and professor of history at National Taiwan University.

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