Tue, Feb 29, 2000 - Page 1 News List

Tears flow for 228

REMEMBRANCEIt was an emotional day across Taiwan yesterday, but nowhere more so than at the memorial park in Taipei where victims recounted their horror stories of the event that transformed the nation 53 years ago

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Mourners pay homage at the 228 Memorial in Taipei's Peace Park yesterday as part of the national holiday's schedule of events commemorating the 228 Incident.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Relatives of victims of the 228 Incident and social critics yesterday panned the government for not doing enough to reveal the truth about the tragic events of 1947.

Thousands of people yesterday flocked to Taipei's 228 Memorial Park to attend a series of activities held to commemorate the brutal suppression of civil unrest in 1947 which left up to 30,000 dead.

Commemorative events included an art exhibition at the museum with works collected from relatives of the victims of the massacre, the chanting of Buddhist sutras and paper lily folding.

But while events in remembrance of the massacre have grown rapidly in number in recent years, along with Feb. 28 being declared a national holiday by the government, for some, commemoration is not enough. They want more facts.

"Fifty years after my father died, I still don't know when or how he was killed. The mystery of his death has left a painful scar in my heart," said Juan Mei-shu (阮美姝) yesterday.

"During the past decades, I have sought comfort in music and art. But my greatest hope is that one day evidence will be gathered to explain my father's death," she said.

Juan said her father Juan Chao-jih (阮朝日), then general manager of a newspaper, left his house to meet officials around noon on March 12, 1947, and she never saw him again.

Juan's father was just one of the estimated tens of thousands of Taiwanese civilians killed in a massive military crackdown that followed islandwide protests against the KMT's corrupt administration of the island following the transfer of control from Japan at the end of WWII.

Taiwanese disgust with the lawless rapacity of the administration of Chen Yi (陳儀), the governor of Taiwan appointed by Chiang Kai-shek (蔣介石), sparked an incident on the night of Feb. 27, 1947, when Lin Chiang-mai (林江邁), a woman selling smuggled cigarettes in Taipei, was beaten on the head by an agent from the Taiwan Monopoly Bureau with his pistol.

Lin was left bloody and unconscious on the ground. An angry crowd gathered and turned on the agents, who fired their guns wildly to escape, killing a man named Chen Wen-hsi (陳文溪). When monopoly agents were discovered pistol-whipping two children for a similar offense the following day, an angry crowd beat the agents to death. The incident then sparked island-wide anti-KMT protests and riots.

KMT troops were rushed from China in early March to quell the disturbances and tens of thousands of Taiwanese were killed.

For years, talk of the incident was taboo while Taiwan was under martial law from 1949 to 1987.

Starting from 1987, Taiwanese intellectuals such as Cheng Nan-jung (鄭南榕) and Chen Jung-hsing (陳永興) initiated the 228 Public Benefit Peace Movement to call for uncovering the truth of the 1947 events. But it was not until 1993 that the first official report -- "A Research Report on the 228 Incident" (二二八事件研究報告) -- was issued. It is estimated that up to 28,000 people were killed in the tragedy.

And it was not until 1995 that President Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) made a public apology to victims' families.

On the 53rd anniversary of the tragedy yesterday, people around the island chose different ways to commemorate the traumas of the past.

Juan Mei-shu chose to display her art to remember her father and others who were killed, while hundreds of relatives of the victims gathered in front of the monument in the 228 Memorial Park to chant Buddhist sutras to remember their loved ones.

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