For the past 70 years there have been two separate “228” commemorations in the nation: the first, a remembrance of the 228 Incident, when in 1947 Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石) occupation forces turned their weapons on Taiwanese to put down a revolt.
The second “228” commemorates the 1972 Shanghai Communique, issued on Feb. 28, following then-US president Richard Nixon’s visit to Beijing, when Chinese leaders coerced Washington into sacrificing the wishes and rights of Taiwanese in return for formal diplomatic ties with China.
The 228 Incident — also known as the 228 Massacre — was a mass slaughter of civilians by armed forces. It was also a revolt by ordinary Taiwanese against China’s cruel and brutal occupation of Taiwan.
After the Incident, the public, angry and frustrated, asked the US to place Taiwan in its protective custody, while also sowing the seeds of Taiwan’s independence movement. After Taiwan’s democratization, many of the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) files and documents, in addition to other evidence relating to the Incident, were uncovered and brought into the open.
The information that came to light clearly shows who was responsible for the massacre. Seventy years on, Taiwan has the means, through its democracy and transitional justice, to finally bring a resolution to the terrible events.
In 1972, Nixon was duped by then-Chinese premier Zhou Enlai (周恩來) into agreeing to the concepts of “one China” and “Chinese people” in the wording of the Shanghai Communique. In doing so, Nixon forced upon Taiwan an affiliation with China and a fixed identity — not as Taiwanese — but as Chinese.
Although this second act of injustice did not result in any blood being spilt, it was nevertheless a suppression of Taiwanese democracy and tainted the US’ reputation as a global defender of liberty.
After the 228 Massacre, Chiang and his henchmen accused “communist bandits” of stirring up trouble. Instead of showing penitence for the Chinese Communist Party’s actions during the Tiananmen Square Massacre and the Cultural Revolution, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), in an unbelievable act of hypocrisy, recently tried to muscle in on Taiwan’s commemorations of the Incident — an event which was, ironically, a key moment in the formation of a separate Taiwanese identity.
If Xi was genuinely sympathetic toward the plight of Taiwanese standing up to resist a foreign aggressor, then he would follow the example of Washington, which has adapted to the most recent evolution of Taiwanese democracy, reflected upon its past actions and come to the conclusion that the “one China” principle is already well past its due.
Former US ambassador to China J. Stapleton Roy said it best: During the 1970s and 1980s under a martial law system, the legal basis for the Republic of China (ROC) government was the ROC Constitution. However, now, the ROC’s legal mandate is decided by a democratic process, through the ballot box — and Taiwanese no longer identify themselves as Chinese.
Xi is himself a victim of China’s Cultural Revolution. He should be taking a more enlightened position by facing up to the truth and taking care of his own country’s problems before commenting on others.
Xi should commemorate the Tiananmen Square Massacre and dispense with the unjust fabrication that is the “one China” principle to help heal the scars caused by Taiwan’s two 228s.
James Wang is a media commentator.
Translated by Edward Jones
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