Never forget the lessons of Feb. 28

By Wang Mei-hsiu王美琇  / 

Thu, Feb 24, 2005 - Page 8

On Feb. 28, we would like to declare to people around the world the significance of Taiwan's existence. We will make this declaration on that day because it is a day of special significance for Taiwan. Fifty-eight years ago on that day, Taiwan was the scene of a terrible massacre. Because of this event, Taiwanese are still filled with fear, anger and an irrepressible energy to oppose those who oppress them. From this event on, Taiwan has declared war on tyrannical government. The 228 Incident is one of the most painful memories of Taiwan's history, and was a painful lesson of what it means to fall under foreign rule. It was also a milestone marking a point of no return in our struggle to achieve democracy.

On the coming anniversary of the 228 Incident we wish to declare that Taiwan, without the agreement of the entire public, will never allow any other country or any individual to dictate its fate or its future.

Taiwan was not a nation that arose free and equal. In the 400 years of Taiwan's history, we have never been an independent country, and have always been ruled by foreign powers or governments. The people of Taiwan have never known what it is to be free. It was not till the beginning of the 20th century that our ancestors came into contact with liberal intellectuals, introduced democratic ideas and began a process of stubborn resistance to colonial government. Although this battle ended in defeat, they managed to sow the seeds of a democratic revolution. This was the prelude to Taiwan's battle for democracy at the end of the Japanese occupation period.

After World War II, the defeated Japanese pulled out their troops that had ruled Taiwan for 50 years. The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) then took over Taiwan and another period of colonial rule followed. However, the Taiwanese remained defiant and the call for democratic revolution never ceased. Under such circumstances, Taiwan's valiant and democratic revolutionaries, despite the KMT's highly oppressive totalitarian rule, opposed and challenged the illegitimate regime. Between 1947 and 1987, the unarmed people of Taiwan experienced the 228 Incident and endured the decades of the notorious White Terror. Tens of thousands of civilians were killed, and tens of thousands were jailed, given prison sentences totalling more than 100,000 years. We paid with the youth and lives of several generations, and tens of thousands of families were ruined. This is the bloody history of how the Taiwanese people won their democracy and freedom. This is the price of freedom.

Taiwan only became a democratic and free country in the last ten years of the last century. That is, it has been less than two decades since we had the first taste of democracy. We cherish this hard-won achievement. Now we are faced with a ferocious China, deploying 700 missiles targeting Taiwan, and threatening to annex the country. To make matters worse, the US, the world's only superpower, often tells us to behave ourselves. Both the US and China have a serious impact on the survival and development of Taiwan and a tremendous impact on our future.

We understand that in view of its national interests, the US must interact with a China that is growing stronger than ever, and do so in ways that are mutually beneficial to both countries. We cannot, however, accept Taiwan's being treated as a pawn and being sacrificed in this power game. We are certainly willing to associate with China as a brother nation and establish dialogue and exchange, but we can never accept China's intention to annex Taiwan and make Taiwan part of China.

Taiwan is currently the world's 16th largest trading nation, and a world-famous maker of computer and IT hardware. It is a wealthy nation with a per capita income of US$13,000, a nation worthy of respect, always taking international responsibility and showing humanitarian care. But despite this, we are still refused UN membership. We cannot help but wonder: Where is the justice of the UN? Is there any reason for the continued existence of the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights? Or does the UN only listen to the US, China and the other powers on the Security Council, while locking justice and human rights away in a drawer?

As God is our witness, we swear on the souls of our ancestors that Taiwan is a sovereign, independent country, and that the Taiwanese people are one of the peoples around the world caring most for democracy and freedom. Despite the flouting of justice and of the declaration of human rights, despite the spirit of the US' founding ideals of freedom and justice sometimes being followed and sometimes forgotten, despite the world's democracies often sacrificing justice to the power of the Chinese Communist Party, and despite Taiwan's wish to become an independent nation being ignored by the world, we will continue to make our weak but clear call heard in the international community.

As God is our witness, we swear on the souls of our ancestors that although Taiwan is not a very large country in terms of population and territorial area, it is our home, our only motherland, the place to which our hearts will always return, and the place where the souls of our ancestors rest peacefully. We were born here, grow up here, and our family, friends and loved ones all live together on this land. The trees and the grass, the local traditions and the eternal spring all carry the traces of our common presence. On this land, we share a common history and memory, a common life experience, and a dream and hope for the future. We deeply love this land which has nurtured us, and we deeply love our country.

We will give our lives, and we will do anything in our power, to defend our country, defend our land and our people, our democracy and freedom, our current way of life and our right to be a free people with free lives. We will never allow anyone to invade our country, take away our democracy and freedom, and destroy the warmth of our home, because this will always be our home and our land to be passed on to future generations.

This pledge will be passed from one year to the next, and from generation to generation. This pledge will spread from the soaring heights of Taiwan's highest mountain to the most beautiful of distant shores around the world, from every city around the world to every simple little village. We will never desist, until Taiwan becomes a truly free and independent country, free from the interference of strong powers. We will never desist, until the world pays heed to Taiwan's weak but clear voice!

As God is our witness, we make this solemn pledge on the souls of our ancestors.

Wang Mei-hsiu is the deputy secretary-general of the Northern Taiwan Society.

Translated by Ian Bartholomew, Daniel Cheng and Perry Svensson