In a speech marking the 57th anniversary of the 228 Incident yesterday, President Chen Shui-bian (
He highlighted the strengths shown by Taiwan's people in the years since the bloody uprising and subsequent suppression in 1947, stressed the common travails and destiny of all Taiwan's ethnic groups and declared that now was the time for all groups to "affirm their sovereignty" over the island.
"The people alone are sovereigns of this piece of land," Chen said. "Taiwan must always be its own sovereign."
The president made his remarks at a ceremony commemorating the nation's 2-28 Memorial Day on Hoping (peace) Island in Keelung City, northern Taiwan, where the former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government landed its troops from China to begin its bloody suppression in 1947.
The 2-28 Incident was triggered after an armed agent of the Taiwan Tobacco and Wine Monopoly Bureau arrested an old woman selling contraband cigarettes on Feb. 27, 1947. Tens of thousands of people went to the streets to protest the KMT government's corruption and the protest finally became a riot. The government launched a military crackdown and thousands of people were killed or imprisoned in the following weeks.
Music played by trumpet and a string quartet began the solemn ceremony. Chen as well as the family members of some of the victims of the suppression observed a moment of silence for those who suffered in the 228 Incident.
Chen then led the family members in laying bouquets of flowers on a temporary monument on the stage in honor of the victims.
Earlier, the president had talked of how the 228 Incident had been a taboo subject for much of the last 57 years, but that he didn't see it as such. He called on people to reflect on the event with love, tolerance and introspection.
"With love for Taiwan, this nation and its people; with tolerance for history and each other; with introspection about the mistakes of the past and about ourselves; this should be our basic attitude toward the 228 Incident," he said.
Stressing ethnic harmony, Chen said that all the peoples of the island had suffered together, worked hard together and supported each other "under the same sun."
"Since we have come this far together, it should be said that the people of Taiwan are not forgetful, stupid or numb. Rather they are unrivaled in tolerance and courage," he said.
He reminded the audience that "for over 300 years, Taiwan was not a sovereign state and that the people of Taiwan were not the masters of their own household."
Nothing that Taiwan now enjoys, he said, was a gift from heaven or some occupying power, but the fruits of hard work on the part of the Taiwanese people.
Chen also paid tribute to China's role in Taiwan's culture and development, saying that affirming Taiwan's sovereignty did not mean "de-Sinicization."
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