Looking at the lead-up to the 228 Incident

By Chi Chun-chieh 紀駿傑  / 

Sun, Mar 18, 2007 - Page 8

While Taiwanese all over the nation were holding various events to commemorate and reflect on the 228 Incident last month, former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) insisted that the massacre was nothing more than an unfortunate instance of public resistance to government oppression.

Not only does Ma's inability to see the forest for the trees demonstrate a complete lack of reflection, but it is also a mark of incredible arrogance on the part of the man who would be the president of the nation.

If the 228 Incident can be explained by simply reducing it to an act of public resistance to government oppression, then almost all the other political conflicts, protests and battles fought throughout the world during that time would neatly fit in this category as well.

Accepting this generalization would mean that we can easily discard theories and research made by political scientists and sociologists on the issue of poltical repression.

Consequently, the Wushe Incident, in which the Japanese military brutally put down an Atayal uprising in 1930, would also, as the then KMT-led education system would have had us believe, was merely public resistance instead of resistance to Japanese colonialism. And the US Revolutionary War would be nothing more than a North American colony revolting against high British taxes on tea.

There would be no need to discuss the complexities of social and economic factors during colonial times, nor to visit other high concepts and values such as freedom, equality and human rights.

Ma's characterization of the 228 Incident simplifies it to a fuse lighting a powder keg. But his comment conceals the more complex and systemic social, economic, cultural and ethnic issues that ultimately led to the event.

This simplification exemplifies why we cannot discard many of the theories from political scientists and sociologists and why they can help us analyze the past and learn from it.

Ma's attitude toward 228 only demonstrates his unwillingness to honestly face and reflect on this important event in the nation's history.

As a beneficiary of the regime that oppressed Taiwanese before, during and after the 228 Incident, Ma has once again showcased his haughtiness and his blatant detachment from ordinary Taiwanese.

His verbal style and choice of words imply that the 228 Incident was caused by "bad officials," of whom the main culprit was punished by execution. Such a suggestion denies any connection between these officials and the regime.

Ma's strategy is to destroy any link between the 228 Incident and the KMT as a political entity.

Once again,"Mr Teflon" gets away with it.

The 228 Incident was the result of a long-term conflict between local economic, social and cultural practices and the cultural chauvinism of a foreign regime imposed upon Taiwanese, its dictatorial political suppression, an arbitrary economic system and the collapse of the KMT in China.

All of us, particularly those who benefited from the KMT, must be prepared to understand and own up to this incident by understanding these diverse and complex reasons rather than turn to the quick, reductionist and haughty explanation that it was a matter of public resistance to government suppression.

Only then will the wound truly heal.

Chi Chun-chieh is a professor at National Dong-Hwa University's Institute of Ethnic Relations and Culture.

Translated by Marc Langer