Fri, Feb 22, 2019 - Page 13 News List

Highways and Byways: The scars of 228 in Chiayi

Some of the most notorious events connected to the 228 Incident occurred in Chiayi City, where the most famous victim was artist and politician Chen Cheng-po

By Steven Crook  /  Contributing reporter

The 228 Memorial plaque is pictured in Chiayi last year in commemoration of the 228 Incident.

Photo: Ting Wei-chieh, Taipei Times

Next Wednesday will be the 72nd anniversary of a confrontation that snowballed into a large-scale uprising against the regime that ruled Taiwan after World War II.

On Feb. 27, 1947, bystanders intervened when they saw agents of the Taiwan Province Monopoly Bureau (臺灣省專賣局) beat a middle-aged widow on what is now Lane 185, Nanjing West Road in Taipei. By itself, the functionaries’ treatment of the woman — who had been caught selling contraband cigarettes — might not have provoked such a reaction. But, after 16 months of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) misrule, many Taiwanese were seething with anger. When a civilian was shot dead, things soon boiled over.

228 INCIDENT

As news of the disturbance spread, there were riots throughout Taipei. The following day, protesters attacked government officers, which is why the uprising is known as the 228 Incident (二二八事件). Police fired on demonstrators, while Taiwanese mobs murdered those who had just escaped from China, also known as waishengren (外省人, Mainlander). After KMT reinforcements began arriving from China on March 8, the regime massacred thousands of people, many of whom had played no role in the uprising.

The spark that ignited the 228 Incident occurred in Taipei, and in the capital the episode is commemorated at the 228 Peace Memorial Park (二二八和平紀念公園), and by a plaque on Nanjing West Road (南京西路). But some of the most notorious events connected with the incident occurred more than 200km away in Chiayi City, where the most famous victim was Chen Cheng-po (陳澄波).

Born in Chiayi in 1895, Chen is remembered as the first Taiwanese painter to have a work displayed at the Imperial Art Exhibition, a prestigious art exhibition in Japan at the time; his oil painting, Street of Chiayi, was featured in the 1926 event. After 1946, he was a member of Chiayi City Council. He joined the KMT around this time, but that didn’t protect him during the 228 Incident.

In the first week of March, KMT units based at what’s now Chiayi Airport (嘉義航空站), 5km southwest of the city center, began looting residential neighborhoods. Locals fought back, and in Lioucuo neighborhood (劉厝) more than a dozen civilians were massacred on March 10. Throughout the city, it’s thought that at least 300 people died during three weeks of violence.

Chen and other worthies established an ad hoc committee to mediate between the military and the population. Yet as soon as they approached the KMT forces encamped around the airport on March 11, they were detained. Two members of the committee were freed, but a fortnight later, Chen and the other three were taken to the plaza in front of Chiayi Railway Station. All four were executed without trial.

Few English-language accounts include the names of the three who died alongside Chen. They were: Pan Mu-chih (潘木枝), a Japanese-educated doctor and city councilor; dentist Lu Ping-chin (盧炳欽); and Ko Lin (柯麟), the owner of a movie theater.

Surprisingly, nothing — not even a small plaque — marks the spot where the men were killed. However, for several years until 2017 a small, privately-run museum nearby celebrated Chen’s life and work, and told the story of his untimely death.

The Chen Cheng-po Cultural and 228 Museum (陳澄波/二二八文化館) was located at 228-12 Guohua Street (嘉義市西區國華街228-12號). Did its founders go out of their way to find a building numbered 228, or was it an appropriate coincidence?

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