Sun, Mar 01, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Ma met with protests at 228 memorial events

NOT AS PLANNED: Some protesters displayed banners promoting independence, while a knot symbolizing disharmony among groups remained stubbornly tied

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

A protester holds a sign reading “Taiwan independence, give me justice” as President Ma Ying-jeou delivers a speech during a memorial service marking the 228 Incident in Kaohsiung yesterday.

PHOTO: AP

Amid tight security and waves of protests, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) attended the central memorial ceremony of the 228 Incident in Kaohsiung yesterday, pledging to seek ethnic reconciliation by finding the truth behind the incident.

Speaking in Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese) to address the ceremony held by the 228 Incident Memorial Foundation, Ma promised to listen to the voices of the 228 victims and their families with humility, unfreeze the budget for the 228 Memorial Foundation and continue to seek the truth for the sake of the families.

DISTURBANCE

Several protesters stood up on their chairs in the seating area and unfurled protest banners that read “Formosa Independence” and chanted protest slogans while Ma was giving the speech. A group of protesters also shouted “Ma Ying-jeou, step down” outside the site.

Continuing his speech amid the loud protest, Ma said he understood the disapproval of some families of 228 victims and said he had been consistent with efforts to reveal the truth about the incident and see it through the eyes of the victims’ families.

“No apologies or compensation can bring back the lives of the victims ... The government should be compassionate because our power comes from the people, and we must listen to the people’s voices with humility,” Ma said at the ceremony held at the Kaohsiung Museum of History.

Ma pledged to defend democracy in Taiwan and promised to carry out his election campaign promise of establishing a national 228 Memorial Museum and supporting the operation of the 228 Memorial Foundation despite the legislature’s move to cancel its NT$300 million (US$8.6 million) budget this year. Ma said he would establish a regulation to push for the establishment of the museum and allocate an annual budget of NT$300 million to continue funding the foundation.

HISTORY

The 228 Incident refers to a massacre that began on Feb. 27, 1947, when Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) troops suppressed an anti-government uprising, leaving tens of thousands dead, missing or imprisoned. The event was a precursor to the White Terror era in Taiwan.

Democratic Progressive Party Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) also attended the ceremony, but did not interact with Ma.

APOLOGY

Chen Chin-huang (陳錦煌), the head of the foundation, later apologized for failing to prevent disturbances during the ceremony.

“We had planned to hold the ceremony in a peaceful and introspective atmosphere,” he said. “The protest disturbed the activity and was not respectful to the 228 victims.”

Ma encountered another smaller protest later in the afternoon while attending another 228 Incident memorial ceremony hosted by the Taipei City Government at the Taipei 228 Memorial Park. He ignored the protesting voices throughout the whole event.

“A priest told me that although I do not carry the original sin for the incident, I am responsible for finding out the truth ... I will focus all my efforts to look into the truth and give the justice that the families deserve,” Ma said.

The president later joined Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) and several members of victims’ families to untie a large white knot above the stage in a gesture of reconciliation among different groups. The guests, however, were unable to untie the knot, creating an awkward moment at the end of the ceremony.

This story has been viewed 4111 times.

Comments will be moderated. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned.

TOP top