It turns out that after all these years there is one massacre that Beijing is willing to talk about and commemorate, just not the one that happened in the heart of the Chinese capital almost 28 years ago.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office spokesman An Fengshan (安峰山) on Wednesday told a news conference in Beijing that the Chinese government would hold a series of events to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the 228 Massacre.
He then tried to claim that the 1947 protests in Taiwan against the then-Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime were part of a greater struggle by Chinese for liberation from the KMT and blasted “pro-independence forces” in Taiwan for “hijacking” the incident for nefarious purposes.
With a nod toward tomorrow’s Academy Awards, An deserves an Oscar for best supporting actor for his delivery of the lines: “They have distorted historical facts, instigated contradictions based on provincial origins, tearing at Taiwan’s ethnic groups, creating antagonism in society. I think the motives behind this are really despicable.”
Once again, An’s trite script not only proved that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is impervious to irony, but that the CCP and the KMT are fraternal twins, as his remarks sounded so similar to the tripe the KMT trots out about the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and other pan-green camp members “stirring up ethnic enmity” every time an effort is made to hold the KMT and former presidents Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石) and Chiang Ching-kuo (蔣經國) to account for the atrocities of the massacre, the imposition of martial law and the decades-long White Terror era.
Although if there is one thing that both the CCP and the KMT know a lot about, it is distorting historical facts, what is most interesting about An’s comments was the timing.
This is not the first time that China has tried to capitalize on the massacre, but previous efforts were largely aimed at Chinese academics, not the public in China and certainly not the average Taiwanese.
It would appear that with the KMT now consigned to a minor opposition party, and Beijing’s obstinate refusal to deal with President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) administration or the DPP, China is hoping to curry favor directly with Taiwanese, just as it has been doing with its call for Chinese tourists to visit only pan-blue-camp-governed counties and cities.
It will be telling to see exactly what China does to commemorate the massacre, since any mention of people fighting for their basic rights against a dictatorship would not only raise the specter of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre, but draw uncomfortable parallels to the efforts by democracy and human rights advocates to hold the CCP accountable for its actions and press for change in China.
However, An’s news conference also serves as a reminder of the need for Tsai’s government to finally provide Taiwanese and the world with a full and accurate accounting of the 228 Massacre, and to hold those responsible to account.
Tsai on Thursday promised to do just that.
As she said, since the lifting of martial law, previous administrations have admitted to mistakes, apologized and erected monuments, but the focus has been on identifying the victims and compensating their families.
However, more needs to be done as part of a move toward reconciliation so that the truth about this key point in Taiwan’s history cannot be hijacked by China or further whitewashed by KMT apologists — such as former president Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who, the year before he became president, described the 228 Massacre as simply a “crackdown” carried out by the KMT in response to “missteps by local officials.”